The pools occur at the bottom of a rock garden. On the near side is a nice glob of rock that stands at the top of a great big hole. The rock is about six feet above the water and with plenty of room for a small group. Be forewarned that the Lower Meadow River is perhaps the most dangerous stretch of whitewater in the state. When it’s pumping you can hear the deep grating sound of huge boulders being shoved downstream. Undercuts produce so many powerful holes that one paddler says, “you might be looking back at one of your buddies, then turn around seconds later and he’s gone. Just disappeared underwater.”

Of course those are not swimming conditions. Guides say that optimal paddling on the Lower Meadow is about 750 cfs. Locals say swimming shouldn’t be considered at anything above 400 cfs. In my opinion it’s even lower. Wait until the Mt. Lookout gauge is below 300 cfs or approximately 4.4 feet. Alternately, you can judge safety the low-tech way.

Break a branch off a tree and toss it into the hole. If it washes out the bottom before you can get your clothes oft, you should think twice about getting in.

Bonus Feature: If you’re on a bike and want some more exercise, pedal to the confluence with the Gauley River. There’s a huge sand beach. But it’s a party spot for ATVs.. Not worth a stay, but perhaps a visit. On the way there you pass through a long tunnel. At one point it’s entirely dark, you can’t see the light on either end. Spooky.

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