Middle Fork, West Virginia, US
|Usual Difficulty||III-IV (for normal flows)|
|Avg. Gradient||79 fpm|
|MIDDLE FORK RIVER AT AUDRA, WV|
|usgs-03052000||3.20 - 6.00 ft||III-IV||00h55m||2.13 ft (too low)|
Note: the listed mileage includes only three miles on the Middle Fork, and 4 miles on the Tygart. Read on.
The Middle Fork has one of the shortest and easiest shuttles in the state of West Virginia. It's great to have such an easy shuttle for such great whitewater.
The run is located in between the towns of Philippi, Belington, and Buckhannon. The put-in is located at Audra State Park. A camping area (seasonal) and day-use area can be found on the upstream river right side of the bridge. To reach the take-out, cross the MF bridge head west on WV 11 to the right turn at the top of the hill. Carrolton Rd. Follow this road to the covered bridge where you'll find limited parking near the railroad tracks. The total shuttle distance is about 4 miles. Most paddlers take out where the Buckhannon enters the Tygart and hike up 3/4 mile along the railroad tracks (pay attention for trains). Alternative access is reportedly available off Highway 119 about a mile downstream of the Buckhannon confluence, but this is tricky to find from both the road and the river without help from a local.
An outfitter is now running shuttles on weekends. He will pick you up below Hook on the Tygart and bring your group back to Audra. He charges by the shuttle not by individual. Contact - Tygart River Outfitters
Camping is available at Audra State Park
(304-457-1162) or the Middle Fork River Resort (304-457-1162), both of which are open seasonally
from mid-April to mid-October.
(StreamKeeper Paul Herring adds:
Teeter Lake state park has campsites, although I don't know if they are open in the Spring before April 15. If you call 1-800-callwva, they may be able to transfer you to the park super or something.
There is a private campground owned by an Ed Street along Laurel Creek (next creek upstream of Teeter). You get there by turning off the Arden road on the river right side of Laurel Creek. Camping used to be allowed along the Arden road at various riverside primitive sites till the city of Philippi acquired the roadside easements from the absentee railroad owners and started running campers off because of the stupid redneck pet tricks goin on there. They may be allowing responsible people to camp there again. Try calling the Philippi police dept and asking.)
This combination of the Middle Fork and lower half of the Tygart gorge run provides paddlers with an outstanding diversity of whitewater (a total run of 6.6 miles). The first half of the run on the Middle Fork consists of technical boulder garden rapids providing a great class III/IV creek boating experience for the start of your day. Once you reach the confluence with the Tygart the run continues with a big water feel and a number of fun pool-drop rapids. Excellent play spots can be found throughout the run.
After putting in at your campsite or the day-use area in Audra State Park you float under the bridge to the first rapid of the trip. This is Slide Rapid (class III-) and you can check it out from the bridge before you put on. This rapid will also give you an idea of what water levels will be. The run is still good even if you grind a bit going down this first slide, but if it's really bony then you might think about heading someplace else.
The first few rapids are easier, and at moderate flows you'll find good recovery stretches in between the drops. The pace slowly begins to build through the course of the run providing paddlers with plenty of warm up. The first island marks the start of the more challenging drops in the second half of the run. Three significant rapids culminate with the class IV Wall which is run along river left just before the confluence with the Tygart.
Anytime you have water on the Middle Fork, you'll be treated to great flows on the Tygart. You'll be entering the second half of the Tygart Gorge run with nearly 4 miles of great pool-drop bigwater rapids and a host of play spots. After about two miles of threading your way through fun little drops and catching a couple nice play spots the river pools up against a line of boulders marking the start of the first class IV drops at S Turn (possible to boat scout if you're confident in your ability to thread a couple of significant holes). Shoulder Snapper follows a short distance later which you'll likely want to scout along the right to find the chute through. The final significant drop is Hook where the river takes a hard turn to the left requiring paddlers to thread a sequence of offset holes and waves.
Approximately half a mile below Hook you'll arrive at the railroad bridge at the Buckhannon confluence. The total run distance from Audra State Park to the Buckhannon confluence is 6.6 miles (2.8 miles on the Middle Fork and 3.8 miles on the Tygart).