Virginia Whitewater, Roger Corbett
This is a whitewater run through a remote beautiful gorge. Challenges include ledges, sloping ledges and Alder thickets at high water. This river has the unfortunate distinction of being one of the few VA rivers where a paddling fatality has occurred. There is a hiking trail that crosses the river frequently for scouting and rescue. It's a beautiful hike as well.
Ran 2019-02-24 after extensive rainfall when lakes were clearly full. Stokesville gauge 165 cfs when started, 185 cfs after run - painted gauge at campground put-in was on the 1.0' paint mark each check - bottom of paint at start, top of paint after. Great level. Portaged maybe 7 trees (conservative - could have snuck through some of them) and scouted 2-3 additional drops where we could not see the next eddy. Took out at just below girl scout camp. Fun run - just need to be ready to grab an eddy at any time due to trees across the stream.
After some discussion with other boaters, I got curious about relating the USGS gage with minimum runnable level. It so happened I have some detailed topo of the streambed near the USGS gage I did as part of my doctoral dissertation. I used these data to make a digital model of the stream at the gage to see what flow would give a minimum depth.
It pretty much confirms what others have said; zero is probably between 80 and 100 cfs on the USGS gage. An image above shows a plot of the HEC-RAS model of the shallowest part of the USGS gage site reach with a flow of 80 cfs. Note that the maximum depth is a little over one foot. On the principle that you can run the whole reach if you can float a boat at the first rapids at the put-in, this suggests that the river below here is runnable. This isn't just paddlers' lore, it's a principle of geomorphology that the channel is created by the hydrology, so as you move downstream the channel widens, but contributions from tribs keep the depth similar. This all assumes rainfall uniformly covering the watershed, so it's not all coming in one trib. Also it assumes full reservoirs; if Staunton reservoir has been drawn down and the river is flowing into an empty hole there may be no outflow at all.
Water the take-out is at least four hours later than at the USGS gage, so if it's rising or falling rapidly, watch out.
we ran this for the second time at 85 cfs (and steady) on the Stokesville gage, with a light shower the night before our run. I would call this an enjoyable bare minimum. Not much scraping after the first 1/4 mile, and still plenty of fun. About 30% of that flow was coming out of the Little River (the gage is below the confluence), so I am guessing only 60 cfs or so was in the North River. It was -1" on the painted put-in bridge at the campground, so 0" on the painted gage is fairly accurate, and I would guess most people would use this as their minimum. Keep a constant eye for strainers on this run, although we only had to walk around one.
Regrets, but I disagree on the location of the gauge plus the relatively new one which was mentioned is, I believe, the same gauge we've been looking at. The "near Stokesville" part is misleading. The gauge is actually upstream of the two reservoirs which in turn are upstream of the gorge. If both reservoirs are full then I think it's pretty much water in = water out minus municiple consumption.
There's a relatively new gage at http://www.americanwhitewater.org/gauges/id/6817/ . The rumor is that 100 or 150 cfs might be enough to make the North worth the trip.
Ran it today at around 130 cfs on the Stokesville gauge (maybe an inch or two above 0 on the put-in bridge), and there was much more scraping than I anticipated, bit of a let down. If you're coming from a distance, I'd say wait till the 200-300 cfs range as a minimum to make the trip worthwhile. Plenty of strainers on the river, but nothing too extreme. Check the previous comments for the bad one. Always keep an eye downstream, new ones are inevitable. A possible alternate take out would be the left bank at Camp May Flather. You can see the buildings and climbing wall from the river. It'll avoid the last lower mile which has multiple strainer pile-ups. And rapid wise, you won't miss anything. Looking forward to seeing this one with more water.
As of 2009 November there are 6 river wide logs that can't be crossed. None are dangerous to anyone who is comfortable on this river, but it means getting out of your boat six times. I would put minimum at 115-125 cfs, but I realize there are issues with reservoirs. We did it at 108 and it was ok but not a great level.
Paddled it today at about 120cfs, and I can confirm that something in the 110 range would probably be a reasonable minimum, wouldn't want to go much lower than I did.
As for the strainers, at that level, I found I was able to go over the first one (about 1/2 mile into the run), and under or just around a few others. There is a particularly nasty one that occurs about a mile in, the river right channel dams up, the left channel was very shallow and had 2 different logs across it (minor issue), but when the channels met again, they flowed right into a chest high log that had a limb/ice trap covering about half the river. Definitely catch an eddy above that one
there is currently a riverwide strainer a couple hundred yards down from the campground and a log just below the surface in the last bend leading into the ledges there is a suspention bridge with hiking trail (1/4 mile? boat carry to road hike trail to park area above GS camp) for those wanting to make a class 3 trip.
There is a stage gauge at the lake right above that stretch (Elkhorn Lake SG). So, you can use that to see if the lake is full or not. Unfortunately I can only go back 30 days of data, but it appears that a stage of 40.0 is approximately what "full" is for the lake, with anything over that flowing over the dam. So, if the Stokesville gauge is showing 300cfs, but the dam is only at 30ft, chances are its gonna be dry. It may even be more useful to gauge the run based on stage gauge, as anything over 40ft is the river flow. A group paddled it on 10/15 (200cfs @ Stokesville, 41.1ft on SG) and said it felt like canoe zero. So, its possible that the Stokesville gauge has changed as well.
Ran it at ~500cfs on the Stokesville gauge, from North River Campground down to Camp May Flather. The paddlers' gauge on the bridge at the campground read 2ft when I put in, and it was holding at 2ft when I had finished the run. Super fun! Just a lotta wood. There were about 10 river wide strainers that I portaged around.
8 years ago
by Chris Preperato
Gauge is near takeout of run. Top level is a guess. Cootes Store at 5 ft is also a runnable indicator.
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2nd bridge at Camp May Flather
Main drop at high water
Taylor showcases his skills
Joel M. displays his battle wounds
The worm in the Gorge
Stokesville HEC-RAS model
Main drop near the takeout
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