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Difficulty III+(IV)
Length 3 Miles
Flow Range 350 - 1200 CFS
Flow Rate as of: 31 minutes ago 332 [CFS]
Reach Info Last Updated 02/16/2014 6:47 am

River Description

This is the "afternoon adrenaline fix" for local boaters. The run has several good rapids in its three miles.

The first notable drop is just downstream of the put in, near the town of Appalachia VA. It is called Railroad Ledge. The drop can usually be ran on the left or right side depending on water level. The right side line is the way to go down to the low end of the water.

Next up, about 1 mile downstream is Big Ledge. This is a very straightforward drop that is recognized from the water by the large slab of rock on river right. Locals in the community refer to this as Washington Rock. (Bearing resemblance to George Washington's bust on the quarter). Boof the drop slightly right of center and avoid the pile of rocks at the bottom.

Now is where the fun begins. After some fun warmup rapids, you round the bend and notice a small creek dropping into the river on RR. This signals the beginning of Roaring Branch rapid. This rapid is split up into two sections, the upper starting with an entry move on RR. Be aware of the pin rock on RR when running this drop. It doesn't hurt to have a little left angle going toward the small roostertail in the middle of the ledge. From here you can run the drop in a zig zag from L to R. OR you can run a small slot in the middle of the river down into the bottom half of the rapid and finish out on RR.

Be sure to get RR after you pass under the old bridge to make the U-Turn move at the next immediate rapid downstream. If you are running this drop anywhere other than the u-turn move, be sure to hit the hole hard with a good stroke before the end.

By now you begin to feel the push of the 130fpm gradient in the small streambed. From here, you have a few options on where to take your lines. Below the u-turn move is a fairly sticky ledge hole on the left of the river. You can boof this hole hard or run an "S" move on the right against the current.

From here you can run middle or make the tight move on RL just upstream of Table Rock. This can be ran at various levels and is a pretty straight forward slot move. From here you are just upstream of Table Rock. This is easily recognized by the large slab of rock on RR, if you can't easily identify this rock chances are the water is over 1200 cfs and you better hang on for the ride at the end!

The Table can be ran in a fast chute on RL or a tight boof on RR. Be aware of the undercut on the back side of Table Rock if running the RR boof. From here the river gets tighter and proceeds to plunge into the last major drop of the run, Slam Dunk. You can run this drop down the throat through all of the froth and then either go left, right, or over the big pourover rock at the bottom. From here the river braids around a series of islands into the section known as Three Forks. The best line is the first fork immediately downstream of Slam Dunk, the middle fork is the next option and the third fork is not adviseable at this time due to a lot of trashy boulders and wood in play. Lots of action here and it makes for a good after-work run for those that live in the area. If you are in the woods and happen across the Powell, take a short trip along "old" US 23 between Big Stone Gap and Appalachia, make the scout on the way up from the road, pick your landmarks and get in, hang on, and have a great time!

Rapid Descriptions

Railroad Ledge

Class - N/A Mile - 0
Rapid Thumbnail Missing


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Michael Egan
2 weeks ago

I ran this at about 480 cfs. It is a fun little run if you are driving area, but it is not worth it to make a special trip here. The first mile and third mile is basically flat water and a little bit of boogie water. The only mile with real rapids, mile 2, is a lot of fun and full of drop and pool class 3+ rapids. This mile is very similar to Big Laurel, though I recommend going to Big Laurel because Big Laurel has many more rapids. This is a nice first creek run, and it is very forgiving. Also, water quality is great. PS the AW gauge is right and boating beta is wrong.

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Nathan Hinckley
5 years ago

Here's a video: Nathan Hinckley 865-216-1820

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8 years ago

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Gage Descriptions

Gauge located on RR bridge abutment in Big Stone Gap. Should read anywhere between 350cfs - 1200cfs for a good run. The lower end being a technical rock garden and the higher end being a large "flush" style run.

Also there is a gauge on the Powell St bridge, river right abutment. -3" is minimum (equal to about 350 cfs on BSG gauge) -0- is a good padded flow (equal to about 480 cfs on BSG gauge) and the high end 18" (equal to 1250 cfson BSG gauge).

AFWS gauge to pay attention to for rainfall data in  this watershed is Divide Ridge.

Directions Description

Put-In: After entering the town of Appalachia, you can put in on the river just above the Railroadge Ledge drop.

Take-Out: In the town of Big Stone Gap, take a turn at the traffic light located at New People's Bank. Follow this down to the intersection of 3rd Avenue. Take this down to Bullit Park, pullout on the right once at the park and take a look at the river for reference.

No Accident Reports



article main photo

Attention Virginia Boaters!

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.



Paul Martzen


Matt Muir


Revision #Revision DateAuthorComment
1201102 03/03/12 MtnFork1
1201114 03/08/12 MtnFork1
1201116 03/09/12 MtnFork1
1203075 02/16/14 Paul Martzen Changed put in
1203076 02/16/14 Paul Martzen Added Railroad Bridge rapid & changed put in
1198620 11/09/10 Matt Muir Changed title for ordering; added lynx.
1201085 02/28/12 MtnFork1
1201090 02/28/12 MtnFork1
1191783 02/01/07 MtnFork1 n/a