Potomac, Laurel Fork of North Fork of South Branch, Virginia, US/West Virginia, US
Route 642 to confluence with Straight Fork (Laurel Fork)
||II-III+ (for normal flows)
Laurel Fork of The Potomac
Laurel Fork of The PotomacPhoto of Ron Molinas by Mark Anderson taken 11/03
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.
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.
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.
StreamTeam Status: Not Verified
Last Updated: 2010-11-07 14:06:42