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Difficulty III-IV(V+)
Length 0.9 Miles
Flow Range 110 - 5000 CFS
Flow Rate as of: 20 minutes ago 119 [CFS] ℹ️
Reach Info Last Updated 05/11/2005 3:04 pm

River Description

Virginia Whitewater, Roger Corbett
Note: listed gradient is approximate. It's tough to read the topo map in that vicinity.

David Mackintosh, on Boater Talk:
It is possible to get out on river right after the last drop above the canyon (at moderate levels). You really, really wouldn't want to swim out of that one, and the portage on the right is poor. It's a sticky pourover hole with closed ends; the usual line is to boof hard right into the eddy. If not running the canyon, I strongly suggest getting out on the left in the little cove immediately above that drop.
I've run from the 193 bridge down into the river around a dozen times. I always hike up first and scout everything; there's a good chance of new wood since it runs so infrequently. Even so, on one run the level had come up significantly between the time I scouted and when I made it back down to the gorge, and another line would've been better.
There are three class 3+ drops above the gorge section, and a couple of good spots to take out on river left after these. There is a 4' drop on the approach to the gorge that can get very sticky, I've been surfed there once or twice.
The gorge is nasty, and I wouldn't really "recommend" it to anyone. However, I'm not a cutting-edge creeker, and I've made it through about a dozen times. Not always pretty, though. It's more technical than any of the normal Great Falls lines, not really comparable since it's really a creek and Great Falls is much bigger water. Much more difficult than anything you're going to find on the Yough, more comparable to drops on the Upper B or Green Narrows (but uglier than most). I haven't seen anybody get shoved into the cave on the left, but it looks fairly terminal.

Gordon Dalton:
One more thing about "D.R." I've run this creek at several different water levels and the water quality is always heinous! A better name for this stream might be "Dysentery Run." As I make that final boof in the lasy big rapid i'm always clamping my lips and eyes together to try to minimize exposure to this nasty H20! I'd hate to roll in there.

Ed Evangelidi testifies:
For those out for a nice scenic trip on relatively tame water (Cl. 1), try the stretch from Rte. 7 to Rte. 193. This is surprisingly pretty for a semi-urban stream. Due to constant construction in the watershed, the stream occasionally gets log-jammed. There is a trail along the whole way (bring Âriver shoes for stream crossings) & I suggest scouting it days ahead. The creek is usually runnable down to Seneca Creek @ Dawsonville at 2.4 but note that Difficult Run is a south-to-north run and Seneca Creek (to the north) is a north-to-south run. So the rain patterns may differ quite a bit.

Rapid Descriptions

1st Rapid

Class - III Mile - 0.4

There is a long lead in to the first rapid which at normal flows requires a fair amount of manuevering in a boulder garden. The 1st rapid proper can be entered on river left which requires an "S" turn around a large ledge hole, or right down the middle off of a smaller ledge.

2nd Rapid

Class - IV Mile - 0.5

This rapid primarily involves two ledges with some technical lead manuvering required.  Since this photo was taken a few new rocks have appeared at the bottom of the first ledge so it is now best run on the left catching an eddy there to ferry out and run the second ledge (not pictured) on the right.

3rd rapid

Class - IV Mile - 0.6

This is a fairly long technical rapid requiring a series of moves and containing several ledges.  At the end of the rapid is a final ledge (pictured) with most of the water squeezed between two bolders with a significant hole formed inbetween.  After this rapid it is generally best to get out on the left in a medium sized eddy there to scout/portage the next two rapids (the second of which being the Canyon rapid).

4th Rapid (Leap of Faith)

Class - IV Mile - 0.65

This is a great drop of about 6'. This is also the entry into the gorge and the class 5 waterfall just downstream. This drop is also complicated by the undercut boulder at the bottom left of the drop where most of the water is pushing.  Running this rapid commits one to either running the Canyon rapid or at least taking a more difficult rock scrambling carry around it) generally most get out before it to carry around on the  left.

5th rapid (Canyon rapid)

Class - 5.1 Mile - 0.7

This is a technical and fairly scary looking rapid complicated by the cave on the left at the bottom of the final drop and the significant hydrolic at the bottom of this drop as well.  There's something of a sneak available in the approach at higher water on the right.  The main line is starting left and working your way right through a series of ledges which are complicated by rocks in their reception and a strong current pushing left.


This drop is considered a mandatory portage by most.

6th rapid

Class - III Mile - 0.75

This rapid offers a putin pool just above for this portaging/setting safety for the Canyon rapid.  The river left slot has serious pinning potential and the right right slot has a series of shallow rocks that must be avoided.  Best run far left of the river right slot.

7th rapid

Class - III Mile - 0.85

This is a long shallow boulder garden best run on the left of the island (which gets far more water than the right side).


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Mark Anderson
14 years ago

Another viable option is to boof the pourover among the main "gorge" drop and takeout river right. After some customary jawboning about running the V+, one can carefully seal launch below the drop. By carefully I mean avoid submerged rocks that are hard to see in the murky Virginia runoff that is Difficult Run.

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Mark Anderson
14 years ago

Another viable option is to boof the pourover above the main "gorge" drop and takeout river right. After some customary jawboning about running the V+, one can carefully seal launch below the drop. By carefully I mean avoid submerged rocks that are hard to see in the murky Virginia runoff that is Difficult Run.

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15 years ago

The view from the new guy in town. First the good news, there is a nice trail down the whole river left side. Its nicely maintained and goes down to the confluence with the potomac. If it were open you could probably drive a buick down to the confluence on the trail with no problems.

All in all there are about 7 real rapids of varying difficulty, and the nasty looking class 5 drop. The trail on the left makes for easy scouting and relatively easy portaging. The class 5 drop will involve carrying your boat about 100 feet up and around the cliff on the left.

When you see a large rock face/cliff on the left you are right above the big drop. The stream is fairly wide above and split by an island. The last drop is about a 4 foot tall pourover that makes a sticky looking hole, then the class 5 drop. Probably easiest to scout and portage by taking out above the pourover.


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John Alden
13 years ago

I've been paddling Difficult Run for years and it's always been fun, regardless of the level. There's many a good story that took place on this small creek, but I digress. What I recently discovered was how low, in terms of cfs, some of those runs were. These are levels at the gauge with their corresponding cfs:

3.5' 67 cfs
3.8' 104 cfs
4.0' 135 cfs
4.5' 220 cfs
5.0' 340 cfs
5.5' 475 cfs

I once ran DR with Jerry Palushock at 3' on the gauge. It was low, VERY LOW, but it was channelized and still floatable. Enjoy. For good high flow video check out (also includes neighboring Scotts Run):

Summary of Gauge Readings

David Mackintosh (see below):
Below the 193 bridge, look for the gage on river right. I've been all the way down from slightly off the bottom of the gage (less than 4'), to about 8.5'. Some of the intermediate levels are uglier than others.

Gauge NameReadingTimeComment
AW Gauge Info
119 cfs ℹ️ 00h20m n/a

Directions Description

We have no additional detail on this route. Use the map below to calculate how to arrive to the main town from your zipcode.


No Accident Reports



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Attention Virginia Boaters!

2003-04-24 00:00:00-04
Jason Robertson

During the high waters of Spring 2003, there has been a noticeable increase in reported confrontations between boaters and property owners in Virginia. Please remember to be respectful and courteous to property owners; do not trespass; and avoid confrontation in order to preserve access in the future.

Stephen J. Ettinger