Normally White Oak has virtually no water in it (less than 20 cfs) as it is not spring fed. However, after a heavy rainfall it can jump to over 10,000 cfs in just a few hours. The next day it could (and often does) drop below the minimum recommended boatable level of 1000 cfs!
The smooth slate sloping bottom allows the water to build up to high speeds during big flows, kicking up NICE waves - a playboater's paradise without having to travel hours away to the "real" whitewater in Tennessee or West Virginia.
At 1000 - 1200 cfs, the creek is doable, but scrapey. Drops are small and obstacles are few. Eddies are well-defined and there are small play features for timid intermediates to work on. This would probably be considered a typical class II.
As the level increases it becomes less welcoming to the uncertain and more fun to the skilled.
Somewhere around 2500 cfs, White Oak approaches class 3 difficulty. The waves become bigger and holes become playable. The eddies become less well defined, but still there. The water becomes swift and swimmers may not get to shore right away.
The optimum level for skilled play is probably around the 2500 to 8000 cfs range. After the creek gets above 10,000 cfs most everything is washed out and you get some HUGE waves. (Think New River over 10ft). It is worth going down because I bet you will never throw bigger wavewheels or kickflips. At this level, the creek could be considered in flood and flood rules should apply - i.e., avoid swimming at all costs, watch for strainers and logs - not just "static" ones against the shore or obstacle, but ones floating down river (wooden paddling buddies). It will be crucial to be familiar with flood river dynamics in general. While technically not more difficult than Class 3, the flood conditions make this run more dangerous.
At higher levels, more daring and skills are required. Debris floating downstream becomes quite dangerous. Swimming is not an option, as trees and shrubs in the swift current will confuse approaches to the shore. Class IV due mainly to the danger factors and advanced flood skills required.
One final thing to remember about levels - a 1000 cfs intermediate trip can quickly turn into a 9000 cfs+ flush if attention isn't paid to weather conditions. Please be aware that the water can rise quickly and can drop just as fast, to a level too low to run. Always keep a close eye on the gauge and be very aware of the weather.
The run description below is based on common names used by most paddlers today. Some "Old Schoolers" may disagree with the names but I will use all names that most people know. This creek changes almost every year. Some new rapids and features have appeared and some have completely disappeared (like Supershelf).
Below are some of the highlights of the run. There are countless catch on the fly waves that are not listed. So keep you eyes open and have fun!
There is a water quality issue. I have no data to support it, but you are in farm country and the water smells more and more every year of cow poop! We strongly advise against drinking the water.
This was once one of the best waves on the run, but times have changed. The wave seldom gets above a foot and is usually good for little more than a front surf if you work at it.
(NOTE: This is different from the photo of the "Put-in Falls", which is actually on Unity Creek, which flows into this run immediately upstream of the listed put-in. Those looking to start their run with a big bang may wish to check to see if there is sufficient water to run that drop.)
After the put in wave there will be a short slack water section. The creek will make a dogleg leading into the first rapid. Start far left to miss the hole. At one time you could play this hole, but as time has gone by it has gotten more nasty -- best to avoid it. After the hole, work to the center and play the waves below.
After the first rapid move to the left to catch an on-the-fly wave. Good for front surfing and quick spins. When you are done surfing or get blown off, work back to center for some great waves.
Welcome to the flat water! There will be current so you don't have to paddle hard if you don't want to. (Pass the time by perfecting flat water moves.)
Around the 2 mile mark there will be an old bridge pillar. At higher water a NASTY whirlpool forms behind it. The left wall is also undercut. It should be easy to avoid trouble here, but could get very interesting (BAD!) if you don't!
A good portion of this dam has washed out. You may wish to take out above the dam site to look at it and decide about running it.
Below is a GoogleMaps view of the washed out dam.
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A fine sequence of photos of runs of this at high flows is available on Flickr (our thanks, to Doug Elick).
Take out downstream on the left bank and walk back up the hill.
Ran on 7/23/16 around 1,000 cfs. S-turn rapid has significantly changed. The bottom section has widened, resulting in the rapid being less pushy and more shallow. The rapid was much smaller and easier to run. At 1,000 cfs, there weren't holes at the top of the rapid, just a small wave train.
Did this run for the first time just a few weeks ago. Wasn't sure how the new gauge was reading since the dam had blown out. There was a painted ft. gauge on highway 125 it read just below 3ft however the gauge was reading right at 12ft. At this level really now good whitewater just some small ledges but a good level for if you are unfamiliar with creek and wanting to come back when its running higher.
Found out that the bridge on White Oak Valley Road is offically closed. We got permission from the construction guys to park near their work site, out of the way. Otherwise, you'll need to head back into Hammersville for an alternate route to the put-in parking spot until the new bridge is finished. The alternate route is only 3 minutes more drive time, but is 3 miles longer (just check google maps for directions). If you go during the weekend, I doubt that parking at the construction site is an issue because the construction crew won't be there.
the dam at the take out has blown out and has created some new rapids upstream of the dam!
Run this creek often,it is definately worth running.
I have uploaded video to youtube. www.youtube.com/whiteoakkayak. I will more video as I go.
Ran this the other day (Jun 15) was low running around 500-900cfs. Was a nice run for a newbie.
Was at the takeout dam yesterday at low water and confirmed something that I have had a hunch about. The dam recently has started to really crumble on the left hand side. I will be getting pics Monday.
With all the big rain some features in the rapids have changed, like a new hidden hole in Bridge Rapid. Lots of strainers. Keep you eyes pealed!
Warning to all! There is a new problem with the run. No it is not on the water but off, THEIFT! I was out yesterday (May 10th) with a buch of people and when we got to the Gerogetown Dam and walked back up the the cars, I found my back window busted out and about $800 bucks of backpacking gear gone! Take care to hide all valuables and if you are going to leave boats down there make sure they are locked! (luckily I had my Micro on top but I did have it locked to my rack)
Runnable only after heavy rains. Runnable levels: 1000 cfs to ? cfs. I have never seen the creek to high.
Permits are not required for this reach.
We have no additional detail on this route.
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Put in falls bridge
put in falls
Put in falls
Clean Spin at Methadone Clinic
low water at s turn
White Oak Put-in Wave
White Oak Spill Dam
Running the dam at the take-out for WhiteOak Creek
Mark B on White Oak Creek
Put in Falls
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