This is an easier alternative to the Lower Big Sandy. It can be combined with the Lower Big Sandy for those who'd like a longer day, or for groups that have some people who'd like to taste some of the ledgy Big Sandy action without taking on the Big Stuff that the Lower Big Sandy is famous for. A similar run is the Little Sandy.
The character of the run is similar to the Little Sandy: lots of ledges, some of which are blind or semi-blind. It gets more difficult toward the end, with a blind rapid which many paddlers scout. The last rapid before the Rockville bridge is most difficult, giving a taste of what the Lower Big Sandy is about.
Directions: The putin is easy to find; just take the Route 26 exit off of I-68. You can park in the large Little Sandy's parking lot and put in at the back of the parking lot. To the Rockville takeout: Head south from Bruceton Mills (I-68) or north from Albright on WV 26 to Valley Point (just about 6 miles from either direction). Look for the turn-off to Hudson Road (WV 15), take it west for 4.8 miles, and turn right down towards the river. Continue another couple miles (bear left at the next fork) to the bridge across the river. This access ends with a mile of rutty, muddy road to the Rockville Bridge and parking is limited on busy weekends. Those who don't have good 4WD often carry or drag their boats down to the bridge.
See the Lower Big Sandy for directions to the Jenkinsburg takeout, if you're up for the beeeg rapids.
In the first major rapid below Bruceton Mills WATCH OUT for the huge rock in the center which is VERY UNDERCUT. The chutes to each side are DANGEROUS! Two people had close calls here this past weekend; one guy lost his pasddle; the second guy dislodged it the next day. Run far right.
FYI, the last rapid on the upper Big Sandy, just above the bridge at Rockville, is usually run best on the left side. The far right requires a lot of water to avoid the "abusive" label, and I got fairly beaten up just right of center, the other day, too. The left side is definitely easier, unless you just love to slam rocks.
You should ignore Robert Farmer's second comment below (the 4/22/11 one, not the one about the waste dump plan). The statement that the confluence rapid is the very first one is completely inaccurate. There are about a half dozen class II+ rapids on the Big Sandy above the mouth of the Little Sandy, one Class III, and many of lesser difficulty. The "miles of flatwater" statement is also misleading. The flat water section of the Upper Big Sandy is somewhat longer than the flat water section of the Little Sandy, but I'd say it's only about 1.5 times as long, the scenery is pretty once you leave the interstate, and once the rapids start they are quite continuous. The difficulty builds slowly, which makes it nice as a confidence builder for a person with Class II-III skills. I often take Class III paddler friends down the Upper BS who are looking for something lively but not too intimidating. Like Robert, I prefer the Little Sandy to the Upper BS, and I agree that the Little Sandy is a bit more difficult, more interesting, and more fun than the Upper BS, but there is plenty of II+ fun on the Upper BS above the Little Sandy.
Above 7 feet at falkenstein run left for two easy boofs, or right for more complex ledges and holes. After that the only thing to watch for is the tree that is down across the right side. It apparently just changed and split in two, the safest bet is the small channel on far left, you can cut over after passing a little bushy island. The rapid above Rockville bridge is not difficult, just be ready to eddy out at the bottom for your takeout (the surf wave at the bottom can be enticing) Its split into three channels at high water-- go right for easiest, left or center just a little more complex. At lower water go with the center channel heading right.
If you do the Little Sandy, you enter the Upper Big Sandy about 100 feet below the first rapid/ledge, so you miss only one pretty much insignificant rapid, unless you want to carry upstream and do it. (I'm not sure how feasible that is.) This avoids miles of flatwater on the Upper BS. (The Little Sandy is much more exciting/interesting than the upper Upper BS.) But the flatwater is nice, too, sometimes, if you like that sort of thing. . .
There is some great surfing and playing on this run in the 7+ foot range. Awesome waves to be had!!
5 years ago
by Steve Kroser
8 years ago
by Robert Farmer
10 years ago
by tucker deloach
11 years ago
The gage can be viewed below the bridge at the Rockville takeout.
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.
Above Rockville Bridge
Above Rockville bridge
Upper Big Sandy
Falkenstein Falls Ferry
Last Drop on a Side Creek
Spinning in the hole
Punching the Last hole on Triple Drop
If someone gets hurt on a river, or you read about a whitewater-related injury, please report it to
American Whitewater. Don't worry about multiple submissions from other witnesses, as our safety
editors will turn multiple witness reports into a single unified accident report.
Get your groove on baby! This year Gauley Fest is a 60’s themed event to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. To memorialize that historic event we are flashing back to another era for a 60’s throwdown. Started in 1983 to celebrate the derailment of a hydro-electric project that would have disrupted the flows on the Gauley River, Gauley Fest has grown to become the largest paddling festival in the world.
American Whitewater received the following open letter to boaters from the rangers and staff of the Gauley River National Recreation Area. This letter will keep you up to date on important management actions of the National Park Service on the Gauley River. Enjoy your paddling season on this classic whitewater river. As in past years, American Whitewater has leased the field above Masons Branch, also known as the Legg field, for overflow parking.
We are happy to announce that Friends of the Cheat won second place in the Redwood Creek Wine Greater Outdoors Project, winning $10,000. The money will be used to secure land along the Big Sandy and place it in conservation easement. The land will protect public access to the river as well as the river itself. We would like to thank the many paddlers that voted online in support of the project, Friends of the Cheat for writing a great proposal and taking the initiative on this great project, and of course Redwood Creek Wines for making public enjoyment and protection of awesome places a funding priority.
Friends of the Cheat has just received a donation of a four acres of riverside land located just upstream of the Rockville Bridge along Big Sandy Creek in Preston County, WV. The donor, Oklahoma-based Chesapeake Energy Corporation, is the third largest independent producer of natural gas in the U.S. We plan to create parking and river access to accommodate the many whitewater paddlers, hikers, and fishermen who are drawn to this beautiful river every year but will need to raise money to make these improvements happen. Read on to find out how you can help.
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