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Whitewater Wars Tells how the Ocoee and Gauley Were Saved

06/10/2021 - by Charlie Walbridge

From 1980 to 1985 David Brown lead successful battles to secure recreational water releases on both the Ocoee and Gauley Rivers. These great victories are the subject of his new book "Whitewater Wars." Dave was hired by outfitters on both rivers, and his efforts took him from the edge of the river to the halls of congress. On the Gauley a small cadre of private paddlers - Pete Skinner, Mac Thornton, Pope Barrow, Steve Taylor, and Charlie Walbridge - played important roles and later became the nucleus of an American Whitewater board that guided the organization towards it's current position as a national leader in river access and conservation. Dave ran the first Gauleyfest to help build support for protecting the river, and was excited to get 500 attendees! After the Gauley was declared a National Recreation Area the festival was passed over to AW. And the rest is history! It's a great read!

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How to Enjoy the Upcoming Savage River Release (MD)

05/24/2021 - by Kevin Colburn

The Savage River releases are on the calendar for 2021 with some changes in how to enjoy them. Commercial shuttles are now a thing of the past on the Savage, and with that comes new responsibilities for paddlers. It is vitally important that paddlers visit the Savage River responsibly so these releases can continue. Enjoy!

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New Virginia River Access Fee Program Delayed Until 2022

02/11/2021 - by Kevin Colburn

The media is reporting that the new fee program affecting river access areas owned and managed by Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources river access areas has been delayed one year, from starting in July of 2021, to instead starting in July of 2022. The delay is to allow for additional input and reconsideration of how the program should be implemented, apparently specifically to reduce impacts on outfitters. A committee will review the new law and make recommendations on possible improvements. American Whitewater encourages Virginia paddlers to get involved through their state legislators, through club participation in the committee, and through any public comment opportunity.

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Dam Repairs to Affect Flows in New River Gorge and Dries (WV)

01/21/2021 - by Kevin Colburn

The Bluestone Dam blocks the New River not far upstream of the popular New River Gorge and New River Dries, and is currently undergoing significant repairs. These repairs will keep 9 of the 16 gates out of service until 2027, allowing for total releases of around only 12,000cfs. This management will dampen high flows, resulting in longer and more moderate flows than naturally occur in the river. Intriguingly, these releases will regularly overwhelm the 10,000cfs maximum diversion of the Hawks Nest Hydroelectric Project, and result in more frequent and predictable spill releases into the New River Dries.

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Comments Can Help Shape Summersville Lake Management (WV)

01/19/2021 - by Kevin Colburn

A new Draft Master Plan for Summersville Lake, which provides releases on the Gauley River, is open for public comment until February 16, 2021. The Draft Plan covers the significant public land surrounding the reservoir, including Battle Run Campground, several trails, numerous rock climbing areas, and boat ramps. Unfortunately the Plan does not cover water releases, which the Agency states are covered by a seperate plan. Paddlers that use these lands are encouraged to review and comment on the Draft Plan. 

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New Fee Program Comes to Some Virginia Access Areas

01/15/2021 - by Kevin Colburn

Last year the Virginia Legislature passed a new law into effect that requires the public to pay a fee to use river access areas that are managed by the Department of Wildlife Resources. The new fees kicked in January 1, 2021, and the program is outlined in news articles as well as on the Department's website. If you do not have a fishing license, the fees are $23 for an annual pass or $4 per day for a day-pass. The legislation seems to have passed with little discussion or public outreach, and caught many paddlers off guard. American Whitewater conducted a mapping analysis of the effects of this new fee program, and found that it applies new fees to at least 67 public access areas located on whitewater runs. Paddlers are encouraged to let their state legislators know they feel about the newly legislated fee system. 

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Changes to Upper Yough Permit Yield April Saturday Releases (MD)

11/09/2020 - by Kevin Colburn

The State of Maryland issued a new permit for the Deep Creek Hydroelectric Project earlier this fall that offered the river and its visitors some incremental enhancements to the flow release program. The State hosted several public meetings during 2020 and considered public comments to help shape the new permit, which typically lasts for roughly a decade. The most important change for paddlers is that moving forward, recreational releases in April will be on Saturdays rather than Fridays. Big thanks to paddlers who attended meetings and submitted comments, and to the State of Maryland for keeping the Upper Yough awesome.

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Midnight Miracle at Kanawha Falls

11/09/2020 - by Charlie Walbridge

A Tennessee kayaker was rescued after spending 8 hours trapped behind the veil of Kanawha Falls, a 15 foot drop located below the confluence of the New and Gauley Rivers in West Virginia. The victim was paddling alone; a fisherman spotted his loose kayak and notified authorities. Top expert kayakers from Fayetteville, WV teamed up with WV-DNR officers and first responders to locate and rescue the man. Read their remarkable first-person accounts in the American Whitewater Accident Database: https://www.americanwhitewater.org/content/Accident/detail/accidentid/112642

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New River Dries to Flow Free This Fall (WV)

07/23/2020 - by Kevin Colburn

The owners of Hawks Nest Dam on the New River Dries is undertaking a thorough inspection of the Hawks Nest Tunnel this fall, something that has not been done since completion of the tunnel over 85 years ago. This work, slated to begin on September 8, 2020 and last for 60 days, will require drawing down the reservoir 20+ feet and will result in 2 months of natural flows in the New River Dries. The drawdown may also expose seldom-seen rapids on the New River beneath the Hawks Nest Reservoir. Enjoy this special fall Dries season!

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Six rivers added to the Virginia Scenic Rivers System

07/06/2020 - by Kevin Colburn

The Virginia Scenic Rivers Program turns 50 this year, and it just received quite the birthday gift - the addition of six rivers to the state scenic system, including the beloved Maury River! This milestone is further evidence that river designations are a broadly supported tool for communities to protect and celebrate the rivers that offer so much in terms of recreation, ecology, clean water, public health, and economic benefits.

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Upper Yough Access Guidelines and Fundraiser

06/30/2020 - by Charlie Walbridge

At Maryland's Upper Yough, one of the country's finest whitewater runs, American Whitewater has been maintaining the Sang Run Access for the past 20 years. With the 4th of July weekend coming up, a quick reminder that we are guests of the Town of Friendsville when we take out. In addition changing clothes discretely ad behaving respectfully, please observe social distancing during the pandemic. Garrett County has a low infection rate, and a mask when patronizing local businesses is the norm. We are also beginning our annual fundraiser to pay the expenses American Whitewater has at Sang Run. Out goal is $1,000, and we have already received $160. The Fee Box at Sang Run is still closed due to vandalism. We suggest $20 for the full season; $5 for one weekend. Please donate on line, or use the donation jar at the Wilderness Voyageurs shop at the takeout. Please go to https://www.americanwhitewater.org/content/Membership/donate/? and put "Upper Yough Access" in the comment box.

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Don Millard - AW Super Upper Yough Access Volunteer!

06/25/2020 - by Charlie and Sandy Walbridge

American Whitewater super-volunteer Don Millard has been taking care of the Sang Run and Friendsville Access Areas on Maryland's Upper Youghioghenny River for the past several years. This bulds on a 2003 agreement between American Whitewater and Maryland State Parks, which owns the property. This year he rebuilt the change house and porta-pot shelter, set AW's sign back up, filled in potholes, and mowed acres of grass. He not only did the work, he donated the materials and machine time! This work givezs AW strong ties to the community (the place is also a fishing access) and local park managers. Also, thanks to him, boaters are not faced with a $5 access fee at both ends! Please remember, the pandemic is still on. Be smart. If you use the porta-pot, wash your hands or use sanitizer!

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2020 New River Dries Releases Scheduled (WV)

02/06/2020 - by Kevin Colburn

Last week, American Whitewater took part in the annual scheduling meeting for the New River Dries releases. Each year these releases will follow the same pattern: a weekend in mid-March, and then 3.5 consecutive weekends starting with the last weekend in June. For 2020, this means the releases are on March 21 & 22, June 27 & 28, and July 4, 5, 11, 12, and 18. Inflows have to be in a very specific range for a release to occur or it will be rescheduled, so double check the gages and the power company website before heading to the river.

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Comments Needed to Support Upper Yough Releases (MD)

11/15/2019 - by Kevin Colburn

The 12-year state permit that governs the releases from Deep Creek Lake into the Upper Youghiogheny is up for renewal, and decision-makers would benefit from hearing from paddlers. Three public meetings and significant discussions have led to broad agreement on some minor changes that are important to the paddling community, and other important issues remain unresolved. Your comment letters could help ensure the Upper Yough is managed in a responsible manner for years to come.

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Upper Yough Hearing To Focus On New Dam Permit

10/04/2019 - by Kevin Colburn

The 2011 state permit that requires and governs the dam releases on the Upper Yough is up for renewal. Unlike most hydropower dams, the Deep Creek Project is not regulated by a Federal license, however the state permit fills a similar role as a Federal license would. The permit renewal creates opportunities to modify the terms of the permit in ways that could benefit or impact whitewater paddling, river ecology, and other values. A hearing is scheduled for October 15th, 2019 at Garrett College that will focus on potential changes in the new permit.

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Russell Fork Release Study Open For Comment (VA/KY)

08/22/2019 - by Kevin Colburn

The Army Corps of Engineers has shared their Environmental Assessment that considered four potential changes to the fall whitewater release program aimed at enhancing whitewater paddling opportunities. The Corps is planning on providing two additional Friday releases this fall as a result of the analysis. The EA is refreshingly succinct, and we encourage paddlers to give it a read and submit a comment if you are inspired to do so. 

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Harpers Ferry Access Study Reveals Need for New Approaches (MD/WV)

08/21/2019 - by Kevin Colburn

The final Weverton Rail Crossing Feasibility Study was released this week, which considered two options for improving the crossing of CSX railroad tracks to provide safer public access to the Potomac River and the C&O Canal National Historical Park, and for use of the Appalachian Trail. The Report reveals insurmountable problems with the two proposed access solutions, but also highlights other possible paths forward. 

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Russell Fork Releases Expanded (KY/VA)

08/05/2019 - by Kevin Colburn

The fall release schedule for the Russell Fork River was recently announced, and it includes two new Friday releases that will offer 3-day weekends of releases. While announced without explanation, the added released are presumably a result of a public process convened by the Army Corp of Engineers last spring to explore the possibility of an expanded release schedule. American Whitewater and many regional paddlers advocated for additional recreational releases throughout the public process. We conducted and shared a survey that indicated significant support for Friday releases. The new releases are listed as "tentative and subject to change," and hopefully if they go well additional releases will be scheduled in future years. Enjoy these new paddling opportunities!

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Upper Yough Access Depends on Everyone

07/16/2019 - by Charlie and Sandy Walbridge

Many thanks those who have contributed to AW's Sang Run Access Fund on line. We raised over $1200 to pay for the porta potty and gravel. Thanks to you, we've maintained this site for the State of Maryland for over 20 years! Let's also give a special shout out to Don Millard, who has cut the grass in both Friendsville and Sang Run for many years to keep our access costs low. If not for him you might see a parking fee of $5 a head at both ends! Jeff Macklin Photo

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Support Improved Potomac River Access at Harpers Ferry (WV/VA/DC)

06/02/2019 - by Kevin Colburn

A local planning agency has championed a study of the Weverton access site just downstream of Harpers Ferry. This site is an important Potomac river put-in/takeout site for Shenandoah and Potomac River paddlers who have few access options in the area. At issue is an informal crossing of the two-track CSX railroad used by almost 27,000 paddlers, Appalachian Trail hikers, and visitors to the C&O Canal National Historical Park last year. The study outlines two options to formalize this access site and improve the safety of crossing the railroad tracks. Either option would be a big improvement, as would a standard road crossing, and paddlers are encouraged to submit a supportive comment by the June 15 deadline. 


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