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
Is there a local bridge or a trestle with a painted gauge for this run?
On 4.20.13 we ran WTL 9 miles from Creek Junction to HWY 91 at Damascus. Easy bike shuttle on the VA Creeper Trail, if you don't mind riding uphill that is. Level was 1420 cfs on the S. Fork Holston AW gauge, and it was a fun minimum level for class 3 boaters. We scouted the Slot (located below the first trestle you paddle under after the high trestle at Creek Junction) and Big Rock Falls (located below the first trestle following the Straight Branch access parking area), but everything else was great read and run 2/3 boogie. At least 5 of the trestles along this run are mostly blocked or completely blocked with wood. There are large plates of steel lying in the streambed , sagging air craft cables, downed pieces of aircraft cable, or some combination of hazards of steel and/or wood and logs around many of the trestles. The best thing about doing a bike shuttle on this run is you can scout the wood/steel situation at each of the numbered trestles and all the major rapids on the run. There was one river-wide strainer, just below the "usual" put in at Creek Junction, in easy water. In at least three sections where the river was split by islands, one or more channels was blocked with wood. Other than the trestles, the river was mostly free of badly placed wood, and the lower 3 mile gorge from Straight Branch access to HWY 91 was completely free of wood blockages. As the description for this run indicates, the lower gorge is pushier with bigger holes than the 6 miles from Creek Junction to Straight Branch. There are also some gravel parking areas along HWY 58 to make this a 7.5 - 8 mile run, and you can paddle 10 miles all the way to the Old Mill in Damascus and take out at the public parking area above the dam. Shuttles may also be available from one of the many local bike rental/shuttle liveries for the VA Creeper Trail. The Upper Gorge, down to Creek Junction access, is a much more demanding class IV stretch of water that can be scouted along the gravel road down to the access parking lot. From Creek Junction down is a beautiful intermediate run, but the hazards with wood and metal, especially around the trestles, definitely upgrade the challenges on this run and require boaters to always be alert.
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9 years ago
Also check here for recent rainfall data,
This is a more reliable method of predicting the flows on Whitetop and other area creeks.
When the stream gauge is 3.0 and rising there is a good chance WTL is running. 3.0 is scrapy but runnable.
Local boaters have created a visual gauge painted on the iron bridge trestle located on route 58 outside of Damascus. Zero is the bare minimum, with all the rapids being runnable including the Slot and Big Rock.
For now, 3.0 on the AFWS gauge is roughly equal to 0 on the visual bridge gauge.
Permits are not required for this reach.
We have no additional detail on this route.
Use the map below to calculate how
to arrive to the main town from your zipcode.
Kevin at Big Rock
Kevin at Big Rock Falls
Jason at Big Rock
Brian at Big Rock
Simon Haviland on the Upper Whitetop Laurel
Big Rock Falls(BR)
Big Rock Falls(JB)
Big Rock Falls(CR)
Above The Slot(BR)
Above The Slot
Big Rock Falls(BC)
Rapid above Slot
Creekin' VA style
The Slot #2 - video capture
The Slot #1- video capture
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