Rick Gusic’s Cheat River Massacre-ence

May 1st, 2020
Albright, West Virginia
Start Time: 5:30PM

“This year, the Down River Race will be held in celebration of the memory of Rick Gusic. The race, which travels through the Cheat River Canyon, draws hundreds of boaters from throughout the region in what might be the largest mass-start whitewater race this side of the Mississippi. Rick’s father, Tony, had introduced him to whitewater boating when Rick was still in Junior High School. He fell in love with the sport and quickly became a very good kayaker [Understatement!] He also fell in love with the mountains and the valleys and the rocks; the eddies, waves, and the falls and the hydraulics… For Rick it was a love affair with the tumbling water, its beauty and its challenges and he was driven to share it.” – Scott Patton

Race Overview

The Cheat River Festival weekend kicks off with one of the largest, if not the largest, mass start downriver races in the country known as the Cheat River “Massacre-ence”.  The registration and start is about one mile downriver of the town of Albright, West Virginia, at the Cheat Fest South entrance. The race course travels about 10 miles through the Cheat Canyon, dropping at a maximum gradient of 40 feet per mile. All the famous (and infamous) rapids are paddled, including Decision, Big Nasty, High Falls and Coliseum. The front of the pack usually reaches the finish line, Jenkinsburg Bridge, in about 1 hour, depending on water levels while the back of the pack, the slower boats, usually finish up around 1 hour 45 mins.

This section of the Cheat River is Class III – IV, and as a free-flowing river the character of the river, difficulty and risk vary depending on the water level, which can change quickly. Only boaters who are extremely comfortable with this type of paddling should register for the race!   Please be safe! 


Click Here to Register

ONLINE early registration is now open!  You are able to register using an online form and donate using PaypalEarly registration is cheaper ($30), and if you register by April 10th you will receive a t-shirt. Save even more time by printing and filling out your race waiver before you arrive.  Online pre-registration will close on April 27th.

Race Day Registration will cost $35 and be open from 1pm – 4:30pm at the FOC meeting booth at the Cheat Fest South Entrance – same turn as you made in year’s past for the Cheat River festival public parking (marked by a banner across Rt. 26 and a large “Cheat Fest South Entrance” sign).  The booth will be straight ahead as you proceed down the hill.  At registration you will receive a race bib and a t-shirt (if you pre-registered). Friday night festival wristbands will be provided upon return of the race bib. Racers also receive a $5 off coupon for Saturday festival entrance.

All race proceeds benefit Friends of the Cheat, who works to restore, promote and protect the Cheat River Watershed, and its recreation access.

Rick Gusic Dedication T-Shirts

This year the race t-shirt will be a tribute to Rick. If you would like, you can purchase additional race shirts (even if you are not racing) on the Cheat Fest online website for $18. These will go on sale around mid February. Please be sure to place your order by April 10th in order to receive a shirt!

The race registration fee includes the ACA event fee indicated on the waiver.  Please include your ACA membership number if you have one!

Minor ACA Waiver  |  Adult ACA Waiver

Mass Start

The mandatory pre-race meeting and safety talk will start on the bank of the river at 4:40pm. After the meeting, all racers will have 10 minutes to get in the water and set up behind the old railroad trestle.  A 1 minute warning horn will sound.   All  paddlers join in a mass start signified by one long horn around 5:30pm.


Unfortunately, shuttle is NOT provided for racers (See notice from 2013 for details: Attention Cheat Canyon Racers Re Shuttle).  Racers are encouraged to carpool because parking is limited.  Race organizers will help direct parking in the afternoon at Jenkinsburg.  Please use caution while driving on Bull Run Road.  To learn more about FOC effort to improve the road: CLICK HERE .

Rick Gusic Tribute After Party

Cheat Fest is now two nights!  Festival entrance for Friday night will be provided to each racer.  The race after party will now be held in the Cheat Fest grounds on Friday evening after the race and will be a tribute to Rick Gusic with special activities. Even if you are a non racer we would encourage you to attend this party. Prizes and beer will be available at the post-race party at the Cheat Fest Site.   We will NOT be providing disposable cups.  Please bring your own cup or purchase a Cheat Fest steel pint cup for $12.


  • Cheat Fest is again two days!  Festival wristbands will be provided to racers for Friday only; racers will receive a $5 off coupon for Saturday.
  • Because of year’s past t-shirt surplus, we will be ordering less shirts. We will only order shirts for those who registered by April 10th!
  • Registration and race start will be held at the Cheat Fest South entrance. Same turn off of Route 26 as years past, but proceed straight toward the river instead of turning left toward the Laurel Highlands booth.
  • Festival wristbands will be provided upon return of race bibs.
  • As before, shuttle will not be provided.  Please plan ahead and carpool.
  • Prizes and beer will be available at the post-race party at the Cheat Fest Site.  We will NOT be providing disposable cups.  Please bring your own cup or purchase a Cheat Fest steel pint cup for $12.

2020 Wildwater World Cup

The Cheat River is one of the longest undammed watersheds in the Eastern USA, running through the Allegheny Mountains to the confluence with the Monongahela, creating a ribbon of beautiful whitewater in sparsely populated areas. As such, the whitewater sections of the Cheat River became a destination for canoeists and kayakers, and home to a thriving rafting industry over 50 years ago. The river was the birthplace of squirt kayaking, which in turn lead to the development of low volume kayaks now used to race in the Olympics.

In 1994, the T&T Mine flooded the Cheat Canyon with acid mine drainage, ruining the water quality, killing wildlife for many miles and gutting the local rafting industry. Since then, many individuals and a number of organizations including our partners, Friends of the Cheat, have worked tirelessly to clean up the Cheat Canyon and protect it in the years to come. Although some tributaries still add pollution to the Cheat River the water quality has improved dramatically, numerous easements protect natural habitats along the Cheat Canyon, and developments are being made to increase the accessibility of the Cheat River to the public. Therefore, it is time to celebrate the recovery of the Cheat by inviting paddlesports athletes from all over the world to race in 2020.

Wildwater, or Downriver, racing is the simplest form of canoe sport, pitting competitors in single or double canoes or kayaks against the clock on natural whitewater courses of 2 lengths: Sprint (4-800m) and Classic (2-15 miles). The Cheat River has hosted downriver races for over 40 years, but it was the advent of the Cheat Canyon Downriver Race, held on the eve of the annual Cheat Festival, that really introduced racing on the most difficult section of the river, the 12 mile Canyon. The Cheat hosted an international ranking race in 2019, and will host a 4 race World Cup Series in 2020. The last set of multiple World Cups held outside of Europe was in 2009, in Tasmania, Australia, and Wildwater World Cups have not been held in the USA since 2003, and have never been held in the Eastern USA. Therefore, this is a unique opportunity to celebrate the Cheat River and witness some of the best and fastest whitewater paddlers in the world compete locally.


2017 Cheat Race Results  | 2016 Cheat Race Results

 2015 Cheat Race Results   |  2014 Race Recap  |

 2013 Race Recap  |  2012 Race Recap


If you’re interested in supporting the Down River Race please fill out our sponsorship form below. To discuss options, you can reach out to the race coordinator at DownRiverRace@cheat.org. All proceeds support the work of Friends of the Cheat. Thank you!

Sponsor the 2020 Down River Race 

Thanks to Cheat Canyon Adventures for the video!


Thank You to our 2019 Down River Race Sponsors! 

Click here to Sponsor the 2020 Down River Race 

Adam Webster


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