2023 Down River Race


Friday May 5th, 2023

Start Time: 5:30PM

Start location is at Laurel Highlands/Cheat Fest South put in (public parking) in Albright, West Virginia.

Please register using this Google Form.

Race T-shirts are available in-person in limited quantities or online through our store. 




The race, which travels through the Cheat River Canyon, draws hundreds of boaters from throughout the region and is the largest mass-start whitewater race in the US.  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 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 (Public parking area), above the bridge pilings. The race course travels about 10.6 miles through the Cheat Canyon, with an average gradient of 25 fpm. All the famous (and infamous) rapids are paddled, including Decision, Big Nasty, High Falls and Coliseum. Depending on water levels, the front of the pack usually reaches the finish line at Jenkinsburg Bridge in about 1 hour 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! 

American Whitewater section description


Online registration is now open! 

Please use the link below to register and pay the registration fee using Paypal

2022 DRR Registration form

Save even more time by printing and filling out your race waiver before you arrive.

ACA waivers


Race Day Registration will 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 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 to purchase race shirts (even if you are not racing), please visit the Cheat Fest online website. These will be available for order pre and post Fest.

Order Down River Race t-shirts here!


The race registration fee includes the ACA event fee indicated on the waiver.

Please include your ACA membership number if you have one!

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.  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.


  • 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.
  • T-shirts will be available for order online only.
  • 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.

Past race results

 2021 Massacre-ence results

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.

2023 Down River Race Sponsorship

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!

Thanks to Cheat Canyon Adventures for the video!


Thank You to our 2022 Down River Race Sponsors! 






ACW Logo for Cheat Fest 2017 (1)