Blackwater, North Fork - Rt. 219 to confluence with Blackwater River


Blackwater, North Fork, West Virginia, US

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Rt. 219 to confluence with Blackwater River

Usual Difficulty V+ (for normal flows)
Length 3.9 Miles
Avg. Gradient 154 fpm
Max Gradient 390 fpm

NF Blackwater


NF Blackwater
Photo by Dave Woten

Gauge Information

Name Range Difficulty Updated Level
BLACKWATER RIVER AT DAVIS, WV
usgs-03066000 500 - 2000 cfs V+ 00h44m 22 cfs (too low)


River Description

Gradients:
1st 0.9 mi: 35 ft
2nd mi: 75 ft
3rd mi: 100 ft
4th mi: 390 ft

For a helmet-cam video view of the entire run, check out http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9-YpxnaA-Bc

The following description courtesy of "Blackwater Bobby" Miller. For another great description, check out The NFB Page (with lotsa pictures).

Starting below the dam at Thomas, the North Fork flows lazily towards the edge of the mountain. The run for the next 3 miles is made up of mostly continuous Class 2 rapids. There is a 6-8 foot ledge underneath a railroad bridge shortly after leaving Thomas that should be scouted. About 2.5 miles below the putin, lies Barber Shop Falls, named for an old barbershop that used to overlook the area. This is a slide into an 8-10 foot falls that should be run on the right. Soon, Long Run (a sizeable tributary) comes in on the right and you should be looking to get out soon. Not long after Long Run, the North Fork drops off the face of the Earth.

The steep section begins with a slide into a 40-foot waterfall. Most of the water lands on rocks except on the right where it falls into a shallow pool. Portage on the right. This falls has been run only once and many excellent creek boaters have passed on it. Rumor has it that the ZoneDogg has had his eye on this falls for some time now. I hear that he plans to run it at the next good rainfall.

 

Extra! Extra! ZoneDogg Drops Douglas Falls (Second Descent)!!

Below the falls lies the meat of the North Fork. It is one steep mile that drops around 400 feet. This section is very demanding and should only be attempted if you possess the skills that make runs like the Upper Yough and drops like Big Splat on the Big Sandy easy. I would also recommend going with a guide or be prepared to spend the entire day scouting the drops on this section. There are 14 major drops in this one mile with other challenging rapids in between. The action is continuous and unforgiving so be prepared.

The first rapid below the falls is probably the most complex on the run. It can be entered in the center or on the left with the center being the more challenging line. It starts with a series of closely spaced small ledges that lead into an 8-foot drop over a boulder. This bottom drop is best run on the left at low water (below 1.5), launching a boof off a rock sticking out from the bank. At levels of 1.5 or higher, a nasty whirlpool develops on the left side and it is better to run on the right. This requires you to boof off a 2 foot drop and land on a slope that will carry you down into the hole at the bottom. The creek then continues quickly into another 8-foot ledge that is best boofed far left. Scout this rapid before you putin.

After a small drop, the North Fork heads down a slide that is best entered on the right. The slide gets steep and, at the bottom, goes off an 8-foot ledge onto rocks. The softest landing is usually on the right.

The next rapid is a small rock garden run down the left that leads right into another 8-foot ledge. This ledge is best boofed far left. After a small pool, there is a 5-foot sloping ledge that leads into an 8-foot boof. Begin in the center and be headed right down the slope. Hit the bottom ledge right of center angled right. The nice boof lip here will provide a schweeeet launch.

The next several hundred yards are made up of small rock gardens that provide lots of technical maneuvering. These lead into the approach to Gluteal Mash which is a technical rock garden that leads into a slide. This rock garden should be run down the right side. Near the top of the slide, there is an eddy that you will want to catch. The slide continues on for another 100 feet before falling off of 30-foot Gluteal Mash!

Gluteal Mash is a big falls that can be a lot of fun but also very dangerous. The pool at the bottom is not very deep and there have been several broken ankles as a result of penciling in. The water at the bottom of the falls is not especially aerated, which has caused several injured vertebrae from landing too flat. It is tricky to find the happy medium here, but let's not get ahead of ourselves--there is the approach slide to deal with first.

The approach slide is best entered in the center heading to the left. The slide is tilted to the right so the left angle will help counter this and keep you centered. The cleanest lip is in the center. The farther right you go, the more junky the lip is with the extreme right side cascading over rock shelves. This falls should not be attempted below 1.5 on the putin gauge. At levels lower than 1.5, the approach slide is tremendously shallow and it is difficult to maintain any sort of speed coming to the lip. The last thing you want to do is come to a complete stop before the lip and fall straight in. At levels higher than 1.5, the slide carries you with good speed towards the lip and it is easier to get an appropriate launch (as well as adding more aeration). Portage on the right if you have any doubts. Click here for the link to a 288k video of Gluteal Mash. (Scroll down, and click above "Glutial on the North Fork.")

Below Gluteal Mash, there is a good rock garden best run down the left, over a few small drops. Catch the next eddy on the left and get out and scout. The very next rapid is called The World's Ugliest Rapid. It is not super difficult but the whole right bank is undercut (where most of the water is). The idea is to boof far left off a 2-foot ledge, land and immediately boof left off a 4-foot ledge. These two boofs keep you away from the undercuts. If you blow the first boof, the water will want to pull you to the right and make it difficult to avoid the undercuts.

After a slide into a 3-foot ledge, you will reach an impressive horizon line. This is Cow Pissing On a Flat Rock, a 12-foot falls followed by a slide. Launch a schweeeet boof off the right side (making sure not to pencil) and then head down the left side of the runout slide.

The next rapid is called Big Bear Slide and is very fun. The creek starts down a slide that gets split by a rock island. Follow the water going left which cascades down into a 5 foot boof before slamming into the left bank. Make sure you get to the right side of the channel to avoid the undercut rocks on the left bank. This drop leads directly into an 8-foot horseshoe shaped ledge that is best run on the left. This drop develops a nasty hole at higher water.

After this, there is a slide into a 6-foot ledge. You will want to run off this ledge in the center angled hard left to avoid an ugly boulder right below. This drop gets harder to run correctly as the water drops.

After some smaller rock gardens, you reach Eye of the Needle. It is a 6-foot slope that ends in a 4-foot drop. The water slams into an undercut rock in the center. Ride the slope down the center and turn to the left (sideways) as you drop off. You will land on the pillow of the rock which will shoot you cleanly out. Don't be overzealous and head left too early because the water coming off the pillow will slam you into the wall on the left.

After a steep boulder drop run down the right with left angle (good boof at higher water)and a few rocky drops, you will come to a slide. This rapid is called Double Indemnity. You want to ride the slide down the right which will terminate in an eight-foot horseshoe ledge. Have right angle as you slide down the ledge as this will line you up correctly for the 15-foot falls that immediately follows. Try to avoid dropping over the center of the horseshoe approach, as this will create all sorts of problems in running the 15-foot falls correctly. The falls should be run on the right where the creek slopes down to a killer boof lip. The left side is extremely shallow and many boats have been bent or pig nosed here. Once safely in the pool, get out and have a look at the next one, Double Boof.

Double Boof was named for the two sweet 6-foot boofs right after each other that used to exist. However, high water rearranged this rapid to where the first boof lands on a heinous looking rock and the second boof rock is totally dry. The line now is to cut to the right in front of the first boof rock and launch a SIKy off a rock on right bank. From here, ferry out to the left under a wild spray of water coming off the heinous rock and down over a small drop. This leads right into a really cool slide run down the middle.

Several more slides and rocky drops carry you for the last 1/8 of a mile to the Blackwater. After having survived a killer run on the North Fork, you have two options : brave a high water run on the Lower B or carry up and do the North Fork again!

Gauges: The North Fork is usually running when the Davis gauge (on the Blackwater) is running over 500 cfs or 3.7. There is a gauge on the North Fork along the right bank just above a 3-4 foot ledge about 100 yards upstream of the first 40-foot falls. The gauge is broken off at 1.6. A good level for the North Fork is usually in the 1.4-1.6 range. I have run the North Fork as low as 1.1 but it is most fun at 1.3 and above. When the gauge is under, the North Fork starts to become pushy with some of the drops creating some nasty holes. A look at the first rapid below the 40-foot falls will let you know real quick if it is running higher than you want to attempt.

Shuttle: You can putin below the 15-foot dam in Thomas (it is not recommended to run this) right below the Rt. 219 bridge. Most paddlers who just want the best action continue driving downstream through the split in Thomas. After the split, take the first road to the right. This road parallels the North Fork for about 3/4 of a mile. After it crosses the North Fork, make a left on an old gravel railroad bed. Follow this back to where it is gated off. The gate is right at the 40 foot falls, where the steep stuff begins.

You can takeout at the Blackwater River. This requires climbing a huge hill (luckily there is a trail) up to the railroad grade. From here it is about a mile back to the gate (and the 40 foot falls). If this doesn't sound like fun, continue down the Lower Blackwater to Hendricks, which should have lots of water in it. Watch out for big holes!

Don't forget to check out the description of the Upper Blackwater, too!

History: The North Fork watershed is filled with historical treasures. The Friends of the Blackwater shared some of this history with AW:

Headquartered between Thomas and Coketon, the Davis Coal and Coke Company reached peak production in 1910. The company controlled 135,000 acres, employed 1,600 to 2,500 men of 16 nationalities, operated two power plants, and worked approximately 1,000 coke ovens and 9 deep mines within one square mile of the central office. Today, the river and railroad grade (which the dirt road follows and overlaps to the put in) run past coke ovens, old company houses and sealed mine openings.

StreamTeam Status: Not Verified
Last Updated: 2011-05-24 16:35:47

Editors


Rapid Summary

Mile Rapid Name Class Features (Legend)
0.3First LedgeIIIWaterfall
2.5Barber Shop FallsIII
3.2Douglas Falls5.2Portage Hazard Waterfall Photo
3.5Gluteal Mash5.1Hazard Waterfall Photo
3.8The World's Ugliest RapidHazard Photo
3.8Cow Pissing On a Flat RockWaterfall Photo
3.9Big Bear Slide
3.9Eye of the NeedlePhoto
4.0Double IndemnityWaterfall Photo
4.1Double Boof

Rapid Descriptions

First Ledge (Class III, Mile 0.3)

The distances for these rapids are a matter of guesswork.

From Bobby Miller:

Starting below the dam at Thomas, the North Fork flows lazily towards the edge of the mountain. The run for the next 3 miles is made up of mostly continuous Class 2 rapids. There is a 6-8 foot ledge underneath a railroad bridge shortly after leaving Thomas that should be scouted.



Barber Shop Falls (Class III, Mile 2.5)

About 2.5 miles below the putin, lies Barber Shop Falls, named for an old barbershop that used to overlook the area. This is a slide into an 8-10 foot falls that should be run on the right. Soon, Long Run (a sizeable tributary) comes in on the right and you should be looking to get out soon. Not long after Long Run, the North Fork drops off the face of the Earth.



Douglas Falls (Class 5.2, Mile 3.2)

Droppin Douglas

Droppin Douglas
Photo of Bobby Miller

The steep section begins with a slide into a 40-foot waterfall. Most of the water lands on rocks except on the right where it falls into a shallow pool. Portage on the right. This falls has been run only once and many excellent creek boaters have passed on it. Rumor has it that the ZoneDogg has had his eye on this falls for some time now. I hear that he plans to run it at the next good rainfall.

(Lat/longitude coords are a rough guess.)



Gluteal Mash (Class 5.1, Mile 3.5)

Gluteal

Gluteal
Photo of Brent Laubaugh by Paul Lang (KHCC) taken 05/10/03 @ 1.6

Gluteal Mash is a big falls that can be a lot of fun but also very dangerous. The pool at the bottom is not very deep and there have been several broken ankles as a result of penciling in. The water at the bottom of the falls is not especially aerated, which has caused several injured vertebrae from landing too flat. It is tricky to find the happy medium here, but let's not get ahead of ourselves--there is the approach slide to deal with first.

The approach slide is best entered in the center heading to the left. The slide is tilted to the right so the left angle will help counter this and keep you centered. The cleanest lip is in the center. The farther right you go, the more junky the lip is with the extreme right side cascading over rock shelves. This falls should not be attempted below 1.5 on the putin gauge. At levels lower than 1.5, the approach slide is tremendously shallow and it is difficult to maintain any sort of speed coming to the lip. The last thing you want to do is come to a complete stop before the lip and fall straight in. At levels higher than 1.5, the slide carries you with good speed towards the lip and it is easier to get an appropriate launch (as well as adding more aeration). Portage on the right if you have any doubts. Click here for the link to a 288k video of Gluteal Mash. (Scroll down, and click above "Glutial on the North Fork.")



The World's Ugliest Rapid

Worlds Ugliest Rapid

Worlds Ugliest Rapid
Photo by Jason Miller taken 03/11/07 @ 1.7

Below Gluteal Mash, there is a good rock garden best run down the left, over a few small drops. Catch the next eddy on the left and get out and scout. The very next rapid is called The World's Ugliest Rapid. It is not super difficult but the whole right bank is undercut (where most of the water is). The idea is to boof far left off a 2-foot ledge, land and immediately boof left off a 4-foot ledge. These two boofs keep you away from the undercuts. If you blow the first boof, the water will want to pull you to the right and make it difficult to avoid the undercuts.



Cow Pissing On a Flat Rock

Cow Pissing on a Flat Rock...

Cow Pissing on a Flat Rock...
Photo of Mike Vanderberg by Jay Ditty taken 2004 @ 1.9'

After a slide into a 3-foot ledge, you will reach an impressive horizon line. This is Cow Pissing On a Flat Rock, a 12-foot falls followed by a slide. Launch a schweeeet boof off the right side (making sure not to pencil) and then head down the left side of the runout slide.



Big Bear Slide

The next rapid is called Big Bear Slide and is very fun. The creek starts down a slide that gets split by a rock island. Follow the water going left which cascades down into a 5-foot boof before slamming into the left bank. Make sure you get to the right side of the channel to avoid the undercut rocks on the left bank. This drop leads directly into an 8-foot horseshoe-shaped ledge that is best run on the left. This drop develops a nasty hole at higher water.

After this, there is a slide into a 6-foot ledge. You will want to run off this ledge in the center angled hard left to avoid an ugly boulder right below. This drop gets harder to run correctly as the water drops.



Eye of the Needle

Bottom part of Eye of the Needle

Bottom part of Eye of the Needle
Photo of Undercut fun by Jason Miller taken 03/11/07 @ 1.7

After some smaller rock gardens, you reach Eye of the Needle. It is a 6-foot slope that ends in a 4-foot drop. The water slams into an undercut rock in the center. Ride the slope down the center and turn to the left (sideways) as you drop off. You will land on the pillow of the rock which will shoot you cleanly out. Don't be overzealous and head left too early because the water coming off the pillow will slam you into the wall on the left.



Double Indemnity

Double Indemnity

Double Indemnity
Photo of Mike Vanderberg by Jay Ditty taken 2004 @ 1.9'

After a steep boulder drop run down the right with left angle (good boof at higher water)and a few rocky drops, you will come to a slide. This rapid is called Double Indemnity. You want to ride the slide down the right which will terminate in an eight-foot horseshoe ledge. Have right angle as you slide down the ledge as this will line you up correctly for the 15-foot falls that immediately follows. Try to avoid dropping over the center of the horseshoe approach, as this will create all sorts of problems in running the 15-foot falls correctly. The falls should be run on the right where the creek slopes down to a killer boof lip. The left side is extremely shallow and many boats have been bent or pig-nosed here. Once safely in the pool, get out and have a look at the next one, Double Boof.



Double Boof

Double Boof was named for the two sweet 6-foot boofs right after each other that used to exist. However, high water rearranged this rapid to where the first boof lands on a heinous-looking rock and the second boof rock is totally dry. The line now is to cut to the right in front of the first boof rock and launch a SIKy off a rock on right bank. From here, ferry out to the left under a wild spray of water coming off the heinous rock and down over a small drop. This leads right into a really cool slide run down the middle.

Several more slides and rocky drops carry you for the last 1/8 of a mile to the Blackwater. After having survived a killer run on the North Fork, you have two options : brave a high water run on the Lower B or carry up and do the North Fork again!




User Comments


2004-04-07 21:42:34 (3796 days ago)
Harris HaynieDetails
4/7/03 -- Be aware of new wood in the put-in rapid. There's a beam that has lodged in the right
hand slot at the bottom that most people run. The beam is bearly covered at 1.4 - 1.5 and wouldn't
be seen above 1.6 or so, but would definitely be in play under the surface. There's also several
trees in the Upper B, but most are easily seen and missed -- the one exception being a tree below
Z-falls, which can be missed at the bottom left, but plan for the move.

2003-08-19 06:59:26 (4028 days ago)
Matt MuirDetails
Changes on the North Fork and Red Run
http://oldbt.boatertalk.com/forum/BoaterTalk/436487
Date: Aug 19 2003, 03:14
From: cdd
The recent heavy rains in the Davis and Thomas area have resulted in some changes on the above
streams.

On the North Fork, the log in "Double Indemnity" is gone; also there is some wood in the
rapid below "Eye of the Needle," some of the branches have been sawed off, but there may
be one underwater in the drop. Also, some rocks have moved around, but nothing dangerous i think.
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