The Official Website of the State of West Virginia

Rafting pioneer anticipates region's future


THURMOND — Pennsylvania transplant Tom Dragan was one of the pioneers who introduced a groundbreaking new normal for southern West Virginia in the late 1960s.

And he’s stuck around and is witnessing yet another new normal in the region — and beyond — over 50 years later.

Tom was one of three Pennsylvania brothers — he was joined by siblings Jon and Chris and Jon’s wife, Melanie — to launch West Virginia’s first commercial whitewater rafting trips on the Upper New River from Prince to Thurmond in the summer of 1968. 

On the first voyage, Tom Dragan said, “We had Voyager rafts we had borrowed from Wilderness Voyagers up in Pennsylvania, small 10-footers. We were doing Voyagers coming down the Upper in low water. It was so low it took us all day just to get that 15 miles in.” They continued on the Lower New the next day.

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