Little Stony Creek, Virginia, US
|Usual Difficulty||IV-V(V+) (for normal flows)|
|Avg. Gradient||350 fpm|
|Max Gradient||600 fpm|
When you reach the first bridge, cross the creek - this route will give you a better scout than the river right trail. From the bridge, the view of the upstream reaches may make you reconsider hiking the next 1.5 miles. That view is deceiving; itÃ¢ÂÂs a good glimpse at the boogey water that youÃ¢ÂÂll find between the rapids that resemble the one you had just passed. About 1/2 mile upstream of the bridge, youÃ¢ÂÂll reach the second series of notable class V drops. Another 200 yards of hiking will lead you to what's probably the biggest rapid of the run. It's long, complex, gushy and steep with the water pushing into an undercut on the bottom right. Hiking further up the trail, youÃ¢ÂÂll pass more boogey water and then the trail will lead away from the creek. When you see the creek again, youÃ¢ÂÂll reach some more of the bigger rapids. But soon youÃ¢ÂÂll find fun looking rapids that are not as scary, but very long. When you reach the third bridge, the site of the creek will make youÃ¢ÂÂre heart stop. The cataract found there looks like a creeky version of the lower drop of the Big SandyÃ¢ÂÂs Big Splat with no clean line at all. I call this drop Darwin. Make sure you start portaging well above this drop, as there are few eddies above it. Above this madness is another class V boulder garden and hiking a short distance above this will lead you to Ã¢ÂÂThe CascadesÃ¢ÂÂ a 50-foot(?) multi-tiered unrunnable but picturesque drop. The topo map makes it look like thereÃ¢ÂÂs more steep, possibly-virgin booty above the Cascades.
When I was on my way down the creek, IÃ¢ÂÂd frequently get out of my boat to scout and would have to bush-whack for about 10-15 minutes before I found an eddy that I was confident that I could catch. When I was back in my boat, it typically took 30-45 seconds to paddle what I had just spent a lot of time scouting. But I found that the fun rapids justified the low on-river to scout-time ratio. If you like tight, continuous, steep and complex creek boating, put your boat on your shoulder and hike up this creek. If we could pull about 4 logs out of this run, it would be entirely runnable from the Cascades to the parking lot, with the exception of Darwin. Personally, I'd never run it without portaging at least two of the really long and steep sequences. Below the parking lot the gradient apparently mellows out and as you drive downstream you can see at least two reaches where the creek splits into two channels that look very boney even when the upper reaches are running. As far as I know, there is no definitive gauge for this creek. If the stretch of the creek just upstream of the parking lot and the section just above the first bridge look runnable, put on your boat on your shoulder. At lower levels, I can see how the boogey water would quickly become boney water. And although there is a good amount of class III-IV boogey water on this run, I think most hair boaters will find it to be a pretty fun creek. Because this run is entirely contained by public USFS land, itÃ¢ÂÂs theoretically legal to run and you shouldnÃ¢ÂÂt encounter any gun-toting locals that are found on other Virginia creeks.
To access the creek take US 460 west out of Blacksburg to the small town of Pembroke (careful about youÃ¢ÂÂre speed here - heavily patrolled). Then take a right onto Route 623 at the sign for Ã¢ÂÂThe CascadesÃ¢ÂÂ and follow it until it dead-ends at the USFS parking area. There is a parking fee of $2 so make sure you have some small bills. To access the iFlows website, click this link: www.afws.net. Then click on VA, then Giles County. As far as I know, there is no nearby, online USGS stream gauge that may have a good correlation to Little Stony. If anybody has any additional information about this creek that they want to share, please feel free to email me IÃ¢ÂÂll post it here. The lat/long of the put-in is roughly the point where I put-on. The gradient calculations were based on a 1:24,000 scale USGS quad -- it reports that a 490 meter stretch drops 200 feet (my max gradient calculation). But these quads are sometimes inaccurate. There could be more runnable whitewater above Ã¢ÂÂThe CascadesÃ¢ÂÂ.
UPDATE - LOTS OF NEW WOOD. We ran this strech just after Tropical Storm Bill brought some summer creeking to the Southeast in June 2003. We found a good amount of new wood, making about three or four more of the good drops unrunnable. As my paddling partner for the day put it, "It's almost not worth the effort" of hiking your boat up to the put in - we carried our boats up the creek and then carried them a lot of the way back down. I still had fun.
UPDATE Ã¢ÂÂ MOST OF THE WOOD IS GONE! I hiked this creek with my parents on May 18, 2004 and most of the wood has apparently washed out! Somebody (the forest service?) removed one log that could only be removed with the power of chainsaw Ã¢ÂÂ one of the best uses of my tax dollars IÃ¢ÂÂve seen in a while.