Summary: This is a wilderness headwaters run in the Potomac River watershed that offers the chance to paddle through a near-pristine setting. Though the whitewater is continuous, there are no rapids that exceed Class III at a medium level. The primary risks are strainers - we portaged 12 times in October, 2003 - and low hanging rhodedendron along the banks and in some of the braided channels. Familiarity with small creek running will definitely make for a more enjoyable day, as this run borders on an advanced ranking despite the relative ease of the whitewater.Access: Located primarily in Highland County, Virginia, this creek confluences to form the North Fork in Pendleton County, West Virginia at the community of Hardscrabble. The takeout is at a bridge over the creek at CR 19. The northwest side of the bridge seems to be the best place to park. The putin is 40 minutes away in Virginia above the Laurel Fork Special Management Area. Putin just off CR 642 about 1/4 mile south of a bridge crossing the Laurel Fork at an unposted roadside campsite. For the shuttle route consult your West Virginia and Virginia Gazetteers. The Run: After you put in you will immediately be in fast Class II water, which is standard gear for the creek. It's fun floating, however, with lots of small slides and chutes. The morphology is open, like most of the streams in this area of the watershed. In the first few miles, the creek picks up to mild Class III only occasionally. There are a few braided channels. Generally, you will want to find the biggest channel and get into it, even if that means climbing over a tree. The rhodedendron along the creek are absolutely huge. Though beautiful, they can make a portage a hands-and-knees crawl under the bushes. Occasionally, the skill to grab said rhodedendron comes in handy when you can't find an eddy. About halfway through the run you will encounter the first solid Class III rapid near where Christian Run spills in on river right. This ledge drop with a hard right turn marks the beginning of a mile or so of good fun Class III river running. The last drop is a III+ with a mean hole that requires some boof-skills. After this section, it's back to Class II with the occasionally III. Near the end of the run, we encountered a sketchy channelized section. Pay careful attention here, as we scrambled to stop above one set of strainers in very fast water.
7 years ago
Look for 3.75 ft. or more at the Franklin gauge on the South Branch Potomac. This is a rough correlation, so don't rely on it. Also look for at least 6.75 ft @ Cabins (same watershed but includes flow from Seneca Creek) and 3.25 feet or more at Durbin, on the Greenbrier to the west. Further east, another indicator is the Stokesville gauge on the North River with 80 or more CFS.
Permits are not required for this reach.
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Laurel Fork of The Potomac
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