High-Adventure Week: Go whitewater rafting at the Summit Bechtel Reserve

One of the more thrilling high-adventure activities that Scouts love is whitewater rafting. That activity is available for you as a part of all six high-adventure experiences at the Paul R. Christen National High Adventure Base at the Summit Bechtel Reserve in West Virginia.

Scouts can choose from five different experiences, where they can try exciting action sports or explore the West Virginia wilderness, including the magnificent New River Gorge National Park. There’s also a shooting sports experience specifically tailored for Venturers.

You can also enjoy the Scouts BSA resident camp, James C. Justice National Scout Camp and add on a whitewater rafting trip to take your summer camp experience to the next level.

Summit registration 

The most popular high-adventure experiences at the Summit fill up quickly, like the Polaris ATV and New River experiences, but the Summit just added extra availability for the New River Experience in 2024.  2025 summer registration opens Jan. 18, 2024. There is also availability at the James C. Justice National Scout Camp for both 2024 and 2025.

Some experiences fill up fast, so Be Prepared for when registration opens.

You can sign up for updates via the BSA’s high-adventure page. To Be Prepared for the best possible experience on registration day, make sure your My.Scouting account is up to date.

Summit experiences

The Paul R. Christen National High Adventure experiences include:

  • New River Experience: This is a 50-mile paddle trek on the New River. Scouts will navigate the upper portion of the river in inflatable kayaks through Class I to III rapids. The final whitewater day in the Lower Canyon is a rafting experience and includes Class III to IV rapids. Crews camp along the river through the New River Gorge in America’s newest national park.
  • Polaris ATV Experience: This is 60-plus miles with five days of travel on ATVs. Stops along the way include epic vistas, exciting side programs and natural STEM education moments. Everyone will especially love the mudhole training. 2024 treks are full.
  • Bikepacking Experience: This is 50-plus miles of backpacking-style travel on bikes, “bikepacking.” Trails will include a mixture of single track, double track and a small amount of gravel or paved road. Vertical climbs are mostly 600 feet or less with two challenging climbs of around 1,000 vertical feet. Stops along the way, such as the town of Thurmond, provide an opportunity to delve into the history of the New River Gorge.
  • Pack ’N’ Paddle Experience: This experience is a great option for those who like backpacking. The 40-plus mile backpacking trek takes you through small mining communities and forgotten rail beds. You will learn the history of the area and enjoy an exciting day of whitewater rafting.
  • Summit Experience: Not sure which activity best suits you? Try them all with the Summit Experience program. It is the only program that lets you try all the Summit’s high-adventure activities: BMX, skateboarding, mountain biking, zip lines, canopy tours, challenge courses, climbing and more in one setting. Your Scouts can be as young as 13 to attend this experience.
  • Marksman: This experience is for Venturers only. They will experience four jam-packed days of shooting. Your group will shoot: 5 stand shotgun, Sporting clays, .22 pistol, 9mm pistol, .22 rifle, .223 rifle, .308 rifle, and .224 Valkyrie on a 1,000-yard gun range. There are also archery programs, which feature static archery, Olympic archery, 3D, sporting arrows and crossbow.
  • James C. Justice National Scout Camp
    • The Justice Scout Camp is a weeklong resident camp for Scout troops and Venturing crews that are looking for challenging advancement opportunities, activity exploration and Scouting traditions. This program is intended to build upon and supplement unit and local resident camp experiences, and includes merit badge/ranger elective classes, open activity time, training courses and camp-wide events.

Other Paul R. Christen news you need

  • The New River Gorge treks — on bike or boat — qualify participants for the coveted 50-Miler Award and give participants a chance to explore America’s newest national park.
  • These are the closest airports to SBR:
    • Charleston, W.Va.: 1 hour
    • Charlotte, N.C., and Pittsburgh: About 4 hours
    • Washington, D.C.: About 5 hours
  • SBR provides all program equipment and personal protective equipment like helmets, pads, PFDs, etc. SBR provides tents as well as cots. For trek programs, participants should bring a sleeping pad for the trail or river as they don’t use cots while out on the trek. Find more details on equipment and links to a planning guide for each program here.
  • The Summit and the Marksman experiences allow you to earn your hunter’s education certification.
  • Leadership opportunities, such as NYLT, NAYLA and the Leadership Challenge, will be available in 2024 and 2025.

About Michael Freeman 442 Articles
Michael Freeman, an Eagle Scout, is an associate editor of Scout Life and Scouting magazines.