Difficulty IV-V(V+) at this flow (IV-V normally)
Length 5.3 Miles
Gauge BIG SANDY CREEK AT ROCKVILLE, WV
Flow Range 5.00 - 7.30 FT
Flow Rate as of: 48 minutes ago 7.5 [FT] ℹ️
Reach Info Last Updated 05/09/2019 6:24 pm

River Description


For a Go Pro helmet cam video of Wonder Falls, Zoom Flume, Little Splat, and Big Splat, go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nRcwW2Bs-rU

Logistics:

For those coming from the West, there is now a better road that goes South to Rockville from Morgantown Road. Turn under I-68 at Laurel Run and follow to the NEW put-in parking lot. See the Keel-haulers' map.

From the East or South, you can still 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. To reach the takeout, head back up to Hudson Road and continue 2.3 miles west down to the Cheat River at Jenkinsburg.

Charlie Walbridge pointed out on 2005-05-04:
"Mountain Streams and Trails, the new owner of the Jenkinsburg Access, asks that private paddlers running the Cheat and Big Sandy use the Upper Parking Lot during Cheat Fest Weekend. The Lower Parking Lot must be kept clear for outfitter trucks and buses. Vehicles parked there make maneuvering these big rigs difficult or impossible. (This is good advice for any high-traffic weekend.)
"So please park right and give a big THANK YOU to any MS&T employees you see on or off the river!"
Another option if you don't want to torture your car's suspension is to call Glenn Miller (304-379-3404), whose shuttle service is reasonably priced and very convenient. Show up on time, and whatever you do, don't stand him up! Glenn is a famously nice guy, and he and his service deserve respect.

Run Description

The Big Sandy is becoming more popular every year as the jewel of the Cheat River watershed, the largest undammed watershed east of the Mississippi. The run includes two waterfalls--Wonder Falls and the more challenging Big Splat--along with several technical class IV rapids. Big Splat is an AW Standard Rated Rapid with a difficulty of 5.1 when the Rockville Gauge reads 6.1.

At higher water levels (> 6' at Rockville), it's often fun to run the Upper Big Sandy or the Little Sandy before the Lower. This gives a longer run including good play and scenery, and it gives those who don't want to tackle the Lower a good opportunity to enjoy the Sandy without fear. You'll find a nice surfing wave at the Rockville putin, and a great view of the beautiful Sovern Run Falls.

Keel Hauler Rating - 31

The mileages given for the rapids, described below, are pretty much guesswork. We'll nail that down with a GPS thingie...someday.

Here's Bob Gedekoh's description of alternate high-water lines on the Sandy:

Here are some "High Water" Sandy Tips

If you are nervous about the approach rapid to the falls it is possible to run it on river right if the river is above 6.3 or so. Scout this line first if you dont know it. At the bottom you will drop over a five- or six-foot ledge. When the river is above 6.8 most folks go this way.

Actually the recycle at the bottom of Wonder Falls can get nasty if you miss the boof at levels greater than 6.6. (Editor's note: some swear that the recycle gets nasty at 6.5.) At 7 feet you really need to be on line and make the boof correctly... or risk a dangerous thrashing in the recycle at the base of the falls. When the river goes above 7.1 or 7.2 there is another completely different way to run the falls on river left... not far from shore. But don't try it any lower than 7.1 or you will piton. Even at 7.2 you need to paddle off the lip fast and keep your nose up to use that river left line. I have run this river left line as high as 8 feet.

Another high-water line opens up at Zoom Flume at 6.5 on river left. It is a slide into and over an eight foot ledge. If you try this make sure you don't get pushed into the pin spot about five feet to your right at the brink of the ledge. The recycle at the bottom of this ledge gets nasty at about 7.3 and will recycle you if you don't clear it. This recycle is hard to escape. So if the Sandy is above 7.4 or so, consider going back to the usual Zoom Flume line (which is explosive), or scout the center and try to find another route.

When the river goes above 6.7 or so it becomes very hard to portage Big Splat on the right because you can't get back into your boat on the launch ledge. An alternate high-water Splat portage is available on river left.

At 7.5 and higher, there is a nasty hole at the bottom of the first rapid below Big Splat. I got caught in it a couple of weeks ago at eight feet and had to abandon ship. The worst part of that experience was that I had to be rescued by the son of a keelhauler. Oh, the shame of it!!!!

The Big Sandy above seven feet can be fun, but it is serious business. If you attempt it, make sure you are with a strong group.

Rapid Descriptions

Wonder Falls

Class - IV Mile - 1.17
After a mile of mostly Class-3 ledgy stuff, with some good play, the paddler comes to Wonder Falls. This 18-footer, which follows a mildly complex set of offset diagonal holes, is one of the more photogenic rapids around, and it's easier than most falls of its height. Warning: at higher water, 6.5' or so, it sneers viciously at the off-line paddler, with a hydraulic that will multiply recirculate the unfortunate swimmer. Those who want to run it a second, third, or seventh time carry back up on river left, a short hike through the omnipresent rhododendrons. One paddling friend found a can of beer there once, which made the foot attainment doubly worthwhile!
Lat/Longitude coords for this and subsequent rapids are verified by GPS, helpfully provided by Charlie Walbridge.

Undercut Rock

Class - II+ Mile - 1.42
Rapid Thumbnail Missing
Wonder Falls is followed by rapids that are typical of the character of the Sandy: continuous Class-3 boogie water. About a half mile along comes Undercut Rock, which lives up to its name only for those who choose to run it on the right. That line requires a strong punch of the hole that surfs the paddler into the rock. However, it's an easy ledge-drop for those who run it to the left of the rock.

Zoom Flume

Class - IV Mile - 1.52
Undercut Rock is the lead-in to the most intense section of the Sandy, beginning with Zoom Flume. Though this rapid can be run on the left, as AW safety guru Charlie Walbridge does, most boaters choose to take on a complex series of holes and diagonal waves just above a cheese-grater slide. This is where people tend to break paddles just out of the shrinkwrap, or put a grapefruit-sized hole in the shoulder of the article of clothing formerly known as "drysuit." Those who flip in Zoom Flume tend to favor one shoulder or elbow when they go to work the following Monday. Don't ask me how I know. See another good Zoom Flume pic by clicking here.

Little Splat

Class - IV+ Mile - 1.61
A short pool is abruptly punctuated by Little Splat. Not as notorious as its big brother, Little Splat can still pack a punch for the unwary. It's a long, technical rapid with a bad pinning rock at the end. My line begins at the far, far left, avoiding a ledge-hole that's grabbier than it looks. I then head for an eddy in the middle left before working my way to the far left again. Whatever you do, be sure to end up left of the pinning rock at the bottom (just to the river right of the paddler in the picture).

Big Splatt!

Class - 5.1 Mile - 1.76
One short pool beyond Little Splat is the Biggie. There's no shame in walking Big Splat, a 15-footer in which all of the flow wants you to land on a bad piton rock. The line at the main drop is tough to read from water level. As if that weren't enough, the approach is gnarly, with undercuts and a bad keeper hole. This reporter once found himself upside-down through the horseshoe hole in the approach and barely rolled up in time for the main drop, an experience I never wish to repeat! Splat certainly lives up to its 5.1 AW rating. The portage is on river right, where a rope is attached to help you get down the ledgy drop.
Some first-timers walk around the gnarly approach to Splat and simply run the final drop.
Whether you walk or run Splat, it's a good idea to turn around and look back upstream. The view of the rocks, trees, and the travertine green water is something to treasure. It's part of why so many of us have fallen in love with the Big Sandy.

First Island

Class - IV Mile - 4.44
Rapid Thumbnail Missing

After Big Splat is some more of the Class-3 boogie water that makes the Sandy such a joy. The paddler has to keep his eyes open, as there are pinning spots to avoid (especially at low water) and some play holes to enjoy, but for the most part, it's a fun slalom adventure. About a mile downstream, soon after a good play hole, comes First Island. This is a pair of narrow slots separated by a narrow, deceptively short and fast "pool." The second slot requires a solid right boof against the flow that tries to land the paddler into a very unpleasant rock.

Coordinates from Jeff Macklin (verified by GPS). The coordinates of the end of this rapid are 39.60871, -79.73970.

Bridge Pier Rapid

Class - III+ Mile - 4.66
Rapid Thumbnail Missing

Soon after First Island, when you see a rectangular concrete wall on River Left, you've come to this rapid, which has a big-ol' ledge-hole at higher levels.

Thanks to Jeff Macklin for the GPS coordinates for this rapid!

Second Island

Class - III Mile - 5.39
Rapid Thumbnail Missing

Another mile below First Island is...Second Island. Not normally counted among the Big Sandy "Biggies," this one is a fun, straightforward Class-3+ boulder hop--unless you go left! If you go left, it's a blind, screaming drop with only a couple of feet of leeway. Call it a Class 5; this is a good rapid for elbow pads, as even a good line can give the paddler an unwelcome shot.

Just a few short yards below Second Island is the takeout, the confluence with the Cheat Canyon, and the beginning of the scariest experience of the day: the shuttle out!

Lat/longitude coordinates, verified by GPS, are courtesy of Jeff Macklin. Coords of the endo this rapid: 39.59684, -79.74444.

Comments

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Blake Huber
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2 years ago

It appears the guy in the white house with the repeat offender white Pittbull has moved. As of last week it looked like new people were moving in. No dogs seen. Run/bike safe, I still recommend a big stick or can of pepper spray for this shuttle by foot.

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Robert Farmer
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9 years ago

Rob F----Hey, so I noticed some people have finally caught on to the northern approach to the put-in from the Morgantown-Bruceton Mills road; you have to turn south at Laurel Run (unmarked), near the bridge that you drive over. This approach is good only if you have a high-clearance vehicle to run the shuttle. People with low-clearance vehicles should maybe park on the south side at the top of the hill and walk the 1/2 mile or so down to the put-in. The problem is that many of us can't drive up the hill alongside Sovern Run, the short, direct shuttle route. Running the shuttle via the north side adds about 40 minutes each way. (Please don't drive like maniacs---it's bad PR, you know!) P.S. That tree at Graveyard Rock (downstream of "First Island") is still quite potentially hazardous at low water, despite the fact that the streamkeeper keeps deleting my warning!

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Robert Farmer
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12 years ago

The directions above don't seem to make any sense to me. Here are some better directions: 1) Starting at Bruceton Mills, go south on 26 about 5 miles or so (estimate) until you come to Little Sandy Creek (unmarked). 2) Immediately south of the creek, turn right on Little Sandy Creek Rd, drive through a small community and past a large-ish church. 3) Follow this road. After a mile or so, stay right at an unmarked fork near the crest of a hill. 4) Shortly after you crest a very steep hill, turn right (downhill) on Sovern Run Rd. (unmarked). If you cross the one-lane bridge over Sovern Run, you've gone too far. Drive down Sovern Run to Rockville (i.e. the put-in bridge, unmarked). 5) Takeout: Drive up Sovern Run Rd. Turn right at the top. Cross the one-lane bridge. 6) The road basically comes to a T. Turn left. Continue to the Mt. Nebo Church. 7) At a funky, four-way intersection at the church, stay right, and go up the hill. Follow this road to the bridge across the Cheat (Jenkinsburg).

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Robert Farmer
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13 years ago

I don't know anyone who calls Big Splat 5.1, at least, not anyone who actually runs it, but maybe I'm not cool enough to sandbag people. (Streamkeeper note: This is not my rating but it is AW's rating, see link: http://www.americanwhitewater.org/content/Wiki/safety:class5benchmarkrapids for a list.) I and my friends call it Class 6, at moderate levels and above. Certainly, even at ideal levels it's no easier than 5+. This includes the upper part.
-Don't confuse running the approach rapid to the (Big Sandy/Wonder) Falls with running the Falls. I have stood on rocks at the base of the Falls that are only one foot below water level, right in the middle of the right-side chute. To run that side is to risk a serious piton injury.
-And I enjoy the Sandy down to 4.7.
-Oh, and, probably, portaging Big Splat on the left is a good idea at or above 6.0, due to the eddy fence on the right, at the must-make eddy. Sneak left well-upstream to increase your longevity. FYI.

I noticed that someone rated Undercut Rock Class 2+. This is ridiculous and very dangerous! The left side is Class 3, while the Undercut Rock itself is Class 5-6!!! The description implies that the right side might be Class 2+, and that could get someone killed!!!
-And it is too harder than the Upper Yough and the Watauga!

Also, for you hard-core boaters out there, please note that the second ledge in Big Splat is changing. Where there used to be a flat, smooth slab, much of the slab has broken off and is tilting perilously. This creates piton spots on the formerly-smooth bench above the U-hole. Note that the water pushes more to the right, now. This slab is undoubtedly the next Big Splat Rock, waiting for a big flood to move it farther downstream.

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Charles Walbridge
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14 years ago

You can run the Lower Sandy pretty low. My minimum in a glass boat is 5.3; locals in creek boats go down to 4.8'Rafter like 5.8 or more.

Gage Descriptions

Elf runs down to around 4.3 have been reported.  Some rapids (including Wonder) may have different lines when run this low.

 

USGS Gauge

Directions Description


Logistics:

 

For those coming from the West, there is now a better road that goes South to Rockville from Morgantown Road. Turn under I-68 at Laurel Run and follow to the NEW put-in parking lot. See the Keel-haulers' map.


From the East or South, you can still 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. To reach the takeout, head back up to Hudson Road and continue 2.3 miles west down to the Cheat River at Jenkinsburg.


Charlie Walbridge pointed out on 2005-05-04:
"Mountain Streams and Trails, the new owner of the Jenkinsburg Access, asks that private paddlers running the Cheat and Big Sandy use the Upper Parking Lot during Cheat Fest Weekend. The Lower Parking Lot must be kept clear for outfitter trucks and buses. Vehicles parked there make maneuvering these big rigs difficult or impossible. (This is good advice for any high-traffic weekend.)
"So please park right and give a big THANK YOU to any MS&T employees you see on or off the river!"

Another option if you don't want to torture your car's suspension is to call Glenn Miller (304-379-3404), whose shuttle service is reasonably priced and very convenient. Show up on time, and whatever you do, don't stand him up! Glenn is a famously nice guy, and he and his service deserve respect.

 

Date Flow Result Factor  
2003-04-14 Low Fatality Other Read More

Alerts

               

News

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Big Sandy Gets Boost From Redwood Creek Wines

8/21/2008
Kevin Colburn

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.

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Big Sandy Land Gift Ensures Public River Access

4/11/2007
Charles Walbridge

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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Cheat Canyon Settlement Reached; Land Set Aside for Endangered Species

2/13/2007
Charles Walbridge

After two years of intense negotiations an agreement reached to protect endangered species in the Cheat River Canyon. Allegheny Wood Products acquired roughly 5,000 acres in the Cheat Canyon below Albright, WV in 2003 for $9.75 million. When they began building roads and cutting trees the following year the government took no steps to enforce the Endangered Species Act. A lawsuit was filed in 2005 by Friends of Blackwater Canyon, the WV Chapter of the Sierra Club, and the Cheat Lake Environmental and Recreational Association. Although American Whitewater was not a party to the litigation we are gratified that an agreement was reached and commend both parties for their efforts.
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Cheat Canyon Stewardship Work Continues

10/19/2006
Charles Walbridge

Thanks to support from paddlers and organizations in Northern West Virginia Cheat Canyon stewardship work in Rockville and Jenkinsburg continues. There's a new, bombproof gate at the Jenkisburg takeout and West Virginia University students provided the muscle for cleanup efforts at both sites. Read on to learn more and find out how you can help.
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AW Teams With Outfitter for Cheat Access

3/28/2005
Charles Walbridge

Mountain Streams and Trails, the oldest outfitter iin the Cheat Canyon, recently purchased the takeout for both the Cheat and Big Sandy Rivers just below the High Bridge at Jenkinsburg. This area is known for terrible erosion and industrial strength litter. The company is committed to maintaining river access for paddlers and needs our help. AW has agreed to take responsibility for upgrading and maintaining the upper parking lot, which needs considerable grading and filling. Your donations will make this happen.
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Matt Muir

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Robert Miller

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John Kobak

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Tony Allred Jr

Revisions

Revision #Revision DateAuthorComment
1196228 10/14/09 Matt Muir Added directions using the new road from the North.
1199719 03/28/11 Robert Miller Added a helmet cam video on 3/28/11
1196212 10/13/09 John Kobak
1196214 10/13/09 John Kobak
1196230 10/14/09 Matt Muir Turned on auto-directions.
1196229 10/14/09 Matt Muir Added directions using the new road from the North.
1192125 07/29/08 John Kobak n/a
1197597 04/28/10 Matt Muir Added sig photo.
1196231 10/14/09 Matt Muir Restored length.
1199816 04/13/11 Robert Miller added hyperlink for video
1206448 05/20/16 John Kobak 4-2-2018 - small edit/cleanup
1210554 12/03/18 Tony Allred Jr 11-30-2018 - cleanup length
1212281 05/09/19 Tony Allred Jr updated image position
1210557 12/03/18 Tony Allred Jr 11-30-2018 - cleanup