Whitetop Laurel Creek, Virginia, US
|Usual Difficulty||II-IV (for normal flows)|
|Avg. Gradient||80 fpm|
|S F HOLSTON RIVER NEAR DAMASCUS, VA|
|usgs-03473000||1300 - 4000 cfs||II-IV||00h44m||475 cfs (too low)|
Whitetop Laurel is a great creek for those looking to step up a level with their creek boating.
The creek has several great rapids in the run. Most notable being Whitetop's Upper Gorge. This
section contains several boulder drops and a lowhead dam that should be scouted first. After
Whitetop's Upper Gorge, you have some good rapids down to the "usual" put in at the
Creek Junction access. From here the creek maintains a steady pace with some great moves like the
Slot, which comes about 200yds into the run, after the Creek Junction access. The slot is
recognized from upstream by a jumble of boulders on RL. Get out at the bridge crossing the creek
here and scout this series of rapids leading into the Slot. The move is a fast s-turn from RR to
RL and over a drop of about 6ft.
From here the creek continues down into Taylors Valley with some nice rapids along the way. Whitetop Laurel can be eddy hopped and boat scouted from here into Taylors Valley.
The creek can be broken up into two sections if one doesn't have the time to paddle the entire 12 miles. The first section is from Creek Junction to Taylors Valley and contains the drops mentioned above along with some other good rapids.
The second section is from Taylors Valley to Damascus VA, this section is fairly continuous and has mainly cl II-III rapids. One should note the old "iron bridge" over the creek on the way up Rt. 58 and stop and scout the rapid in this stretch. It can be tricky at various levels. If paddling past the Straight Branch access to the takeout at Iron Bridge, be on the lookout for the approach of Big Rock Falls, a good size (~12') ledge that is usually run on RR. The landmarks that signal the approach are an island just downstream of Straight Branch access and about 1 mile downstream is the next bridge below Straight Branch. The falls are located just below this bridge with an eddy on RR between the bridge and falls
This creek can be combined with Tennessee Laurel creek located along Hwy. 91 heading to Taylors Valley, making for a fun day or weekend of boating.
To reach Creek Junction head out of Damascus VA on Rt. 58 toward Mt. Rogers NRA. You will pass several rec areas along the way to Creek Junction. When you reach Creek Junction, turn right and follow the road down to the put in/parking area.
To reach Taylors Valley, follow Rt. 58 to the intersection with Hwy. 91 and make a right. This will follow Tennessee Laurel creek the entire way to Taylors Valley road. The road into Taylors Valley is just past the TN/VA state line and will be a left turn from Hwy. 91. From here it is a short drive into the valley, once you cross the creek, make a left and park near the red caboose, making sure not to block any access to the area.
If you want to extend your trip a few more miles, another takeout is located downstream at the "Iron bridge" access located along Rt. 58.
You will encounter many users of this creek and trail system. Be courteous and polite to everyone. This is a great run and we wouldn't want to spoil a good thing. If you encounter any fishermen, be sure to paddle on the opposite side of the creek when safely possible.
For more information about the area surrounding the creek and trails, go here: Virginia Creeper Trail