Blackwater - below Blackwater Falls to North Fork Confluence


Blackwater, West Virginia, US

Disclaimer

below Blackwater Falls to North Fork Confluence (Upper Blackwater)

Usual Difficulty V (varies with level)
Length 2.4 Miles
Avg. Gradient 241 fpm
Max Gradient 296 fpm

Gauge Information

Name Range Difficulty Updated Level
BLACKWATER RIVER AT DAVIS, WV
usgs-03066000 250 - 550 cfs V 00h31m 228 cfs (too low)


River Description

Attention Blackwater River Paddlers

All Blackwater Paddlers:

DO NOT PUT IN AT THE BRIDGE!!!! Blackwater Falls is off-limits.

3 paddlers have died on the Upper B as of 2012

The State Park has made it MANDATORY to sign in at the state park lodge past the put in. They will be writing tickets to all kayakers who do not sign in at the state park lodge. You can call  304-259-5216 to sign out.
Further considerations are that the community, Tucker County, is considering passing legislation so that any persons requiring the assistance of S&R response will be responsible for the cost of the effort. The state park reportedly would have to resort to "drastic actions," if faced with more fatal incidents and extractions in the future. There have been several, and most were from out of state
The state park is  receiving pressure from local government, S&R, and other organizations to eliminate access to the canyon. They consider this river a liability. Don't even joke about running the falls. Be on your best behavior at the Put in! No drinking!


All paddlers utilizing the Upper Blackwater River in West Virginia should make sure to register with the Blackwater Falls State Park before decending into the gorge. You can sign in for multiple laps. Currently boaters should register at the Lodge.  Please take the few minutes it takes to register so that the Park has a record of river users and can better respond to emergencies. PLEASE provide an emergency contact (boaters OK) and working phone numbers.
In addition, paddlers should alert the Park staff to any situations that they witness or take part in on the river that could cause concern among park staff or visitors. Examples include significant accidents, lost boats, injuries, and paddlers hiking out of the gorge. Once, a pinned boat was abandoned so that it could be recovered during safer low-water conditions. The boat was dislodged and was reported to the Park by visitors who saw the upside down boat floating down the river far below. These reports triggered a needless rescue squad response. Please help prevent similar situations in the future.
Blackwater Falls State Park is supportive of whitewater recreationists using the Blackwater River, and paddlers certainly appreciate it. Let's show our appreciation by meeting these very reasonable requests from the park. Do not run the Falls. It will jeopardize access and you'll get your ass kicked by the rest of us if you survive.
If you have any questions, please call Blackwater Falls State Park @ 304-259-5216.

Gradient, mile-by-mile: 280, 200, and 80 in the last 0.4 mi.

Original description by Bobby Miller: updated by Geoff Calhoun in 2012

The Upper Blackwater is one of the most challenging and dangerous runs in northern West Virginia. There are no huge drops but it is constant maneuvering over 2-8-foot ledges and around big boulders with ugly sieves. The rapids stay consistently difficult the whole way to the end so be prepared to bring your "A" Game when you venture into the canyon. This Description will not help you run the river safely. There are far too many rapids to name, or describe. The only safe way to run the river is with a competent team of experts who know the river.

DO NOT put in at the Bridge!!!  And please don't put in via the boardwalk on river right. After working your way down the steep trail to the putin on river left, make sure you take a look at the first rapid, Phil's or 100 Yard Dash. You'll probably gaze upstream at some point to see the off-limits 60' Blackwater Falls, a burly slide called Rollin' The Bones, and just above the put in - a horrendous looking drop on the river right side called Puke. Here the river falls off an 8-10-foot ledge into a sieve. The sieve is not quite large to fit the whole flow of the river, so some water bubbles up and over the sieve rock (which creates an extra 3-foot drop). It has been run (including by the ZoneDogg and Diablito) but it is not recommended. At higher flows, the river left side of this rapid goes through a very difficult and tight but slightly less heinous drop than Puke called the Notch. again, not recommended.


Back to Phil's, A 3 part rapid begins with a sloping 6-foot ledge into a roostertail pushing into the right wall and pouring off a 3-foot ledge. Some people catch the 1st eddy on the right at the bottom of the first sloping ledge and ferry out in front of the wall. This works, except that it is tricky to peel out of the eddy due to a submerged rock. You can also run it direct down the first ledge over the roostertail, then drag your left blade. Either way, you don't want to go straight down the middle of the first drop and piton, or get worked in the first hole. From here, fight the boils and continue over a juicy diagonal 4-foot ledge. stay leftish, or, I boof right into a swirly eddy.  Immediately it narrows and goes through a fast slot that is best run center with right angle to avoid an undercut on the left. The next 50 yards are fast and technical with small ledges and moves leading into the Upper Blackwater Rodeo Hole. This hole is at the very bottom of the rapid and would probably be a great hole in a rodeo boat (it can get a creek boat vertical). But, rodeo sucks anyways, you're here to run the shit. If this dosen't seem fun to you, and you're asking about the portage route...then put your boat on your shoulder and hike back up to the road.


The river widens out briefly below here and for the next quarter-half mile the run goes through delightful class 4 ledges and boulder drops that are mostly boat-scoutable, (beware of trees) and finishes with "The Bowling Alley"

Soon, you will reach Z Falls, which is recognized by a pool above a good horizon line. Go to the left of the triangle rock at the top and boof off a 6-8-foot ledge. After landing, I zig zag around some small drops with grabby holes in the center. Some are boofable, but generally your looking for green tongues.

The rapids remain bouldery with lots of cool boofs for the next 1/4 mile. Soon after Z-Falls is 3 Boofs Right. Starts with a manky lead in to Sik Slot on river right, then stay right because there is a gigantic sieve on river left. Soon after are more classic class 4+ boogie rapids like Diving Board 

After a particularly fun split rapid that requires dodging offset holes comes Goldilocks. This rapid kinda resembles Pincushion on the Green Narrows. A 1-foot ledge leads into a junky drop. The move is to boof and turn your boat 90 degrees to the left in the air, then immediately angle back to the right to avoid Chopper's undercuts. When you see a sizeable horizon line around  the next corner, you will know that you have reached Tomko Falls, which marks the start of the steepest and hardest stretch of the Upper B. Did you miss the eddy? Ooops. sorry about that...

Tomko is the steepest rapid on the Upper Blackwater and definitely one of the most fun. It is 3 drops with multiple lines. The top ledge can be run right or left of center. te 2nd drop is a choice of 3 slots, and the bottom drop is the largest and most dangerous.  The best line is to boof off the top 7-foot ledge and then use the center slot to catch a big eddy on the right. The 'race line' is to boof the left side of this drop and hit the direct line through the slot on the extreme left  but this tends to filter you towards an inconveniently placed boulder right above the bottom drop. Running the right slot seems like the obvious choice but it also can push you into the inconvenient boulder, or off the UGLY right side of the bottom drop.

From the eddy on river right, the standard line is paddle upstream and ferry out in front of the inconvenient boulder and into a micro eddy on the left. The second part of this rapid is another 8-foot boof located left of center behind the boulder. From the micro eddy I head downstream with right angle towards the boof and, at the last second, take a wicked boof stroke to launch. As you fall, there will be spray flying up underneath you, but I have never landed on any rock coming off this boof so I don't worry about the spray. A fast runout carries you into an eddy on the left which you should NOT miss.  At higher levels; its difficult to ferry upstream of the boulder to the normal line, but there is also a Center line (the Big Splat line) that can be done with hard left angle to avoid catastrophe, and also, at high water, a narrow slot move far far right out of the eddy that tends to collect wood. wherever you land, eddy out left and don't go left into the next drop.

The next rapid is run on the right - a fast slope into a ledge hole, leading into Shock to the System. Here, the river necks down and ramps down into a 6-8-foot ledge with a vicious hole at the bottom. You may pay a severe penalty if you fail to boof. At most flows, the best idea is to start in the river right eddy and run middle to left, pointed to the left, boofing the left side of the hole with a late right stroke. This is a finesse move (isn't everything??) but it will prevent a nasty beatdown in the hole, which you should not swim out of, as the pool moves quickly into the next rapid...

Now you've reached Sticky Fingers, one of the most dangerous rapids on the river. Below Shock, run the sloping ledge on the right into an eddy and get out on the right and have a look. Most paddlers walk this rapid and with good reason. This was the location of the first fatality on the Upper B. The absolute worst thing you could do is to drift through the slot in the center right next to the big triangle rock. This is called "A Matter of Time". It drops you out above a massive sieve than can swallow a boat and paddler whole. An easy way to sneak at decent flow is to gorilla walk yourself through the far far river right slot at the top of the rapid with a little bit of left angle, then drop your bow sharply to the right. You will land right next to the outflow of the seive. Or, portage on the right. If you decide to run this rapid, the best line is to ferry out to an eddy against the left bank. From here, peel out and boof an irregular shaped hole, being sure not to get pushed right. You boof through a small powerful slot in the center very close to a large toilet bowl sieve. The far left is also pretty junky, but its better than the alternative. At high water the experts run this direct down the left instead of ferrying. Be aware there is gigantic sieve on the right below here too.  This is a very scary rapid!!


The next rapid, Pinball, is a steep, trashy rock pile. Its a good idea to scout it while you are portaging Sticky Fingers. Sitting in the river right eddy below Sticky Fingers, You are just upstream of a giant sieve ledge on river right. You don't want to go here. The simplest way to run this rapid is to ferry over and run far left and stay all the way left through the slots. Avoid any temptation to take any of the slots in the middle (they are rather pinny). However some paddlers avoid the pinball slots by catching a micro  eddy on river left and ferrying over to the right in front of a nasty looking pin rock. you will come out below the aforementioned sieve. Done well - this is the cleanest line. Immediately and with no break, there is another horizon line. This can be run down a double drop on the left or a 5 foot boof in the center.

Now  the river pools up behind a pile of boulders. This is Angle Left or Piton, or Kerplunge.  Here, the river narrows and drops off a sloped 6-foot ledge into a stiff hole with an overhanging boulder. At high water, there is a sneak on the far right through a very narrow slot. Take this if you have any doubts, it sets you up for a safe approach to Flatliner. Or, you can portage both drops on the left. The Main line is to get in the main current, angle slightly left of the giant square boulder and take a strong late boof down the sloper. This should launch you out clear of the hole. If your too far left at the top you will scrape over a shelf lose your speed. If you blow it, you might get backendered or surfed but do not swim. there are some funky boils and micro eddies in the run out. work your way over to the big eddy on river right above Flatliner


The river winds to the right quickly through some small holes that lead to Flatliner Falls. Two paddlers have died here 18 months apart. This is a simple ledge that should be run in the center, not on the left. Most of the water is channelized towards a powerful seam on the left, where it falls onto a shallow clam shell pin rock under the ledge. there have been numerous close calls here and 2 fatalities, despite the fact that this is the most notorious pin spot on the river. Don't go left.  Starting from the river right eddy is probably best. Stay in the center, on top of the thin current flowing over the smooth slab. point straight downstream.  Go off the tip of the center of the convex shaped ledge. There will be a square boulder on the right next to where you should land.
Click here for a description and some photos, courtesy of JB Seay.

The Blackwater chills out somewhat for most of the next mile. The river has some wide shallow stretches of  fun mank separating more steep, challenging boulder drops that are very fun and complex but beware some can sneak up on you. 200 yards below Flatliner, Shay's Run enters via a cascade on river left, and the long junky rapid that follows has one of the best boofs on the run. 1/4 mile later, Pendleton Run comes in on the right, coming off the mountain in a beautiful (unrunnable) cascade. This section is sometimes called "No Man's Land" as there are few named rapids, and the river widens, making the lines less obvious.

A  rapid of note in this section after Pendleton is the Hanging Gardens. There is a small pool on the left and a big cliff visible downstream on river right. The line is to go just right of a pillow at the top, then either keep working right or eddy out behind a large boulder and use it to ferry over to river right. Punch the stout hole to avoid the undercuts at the bottom.  At higher levels or if there's wood you can run straight down the right the whole way. The next rapid after a big pool is the classic Mogul Field.  It starts off with a sweet 5-foot ear-dip boof, then a series of offset pillows and shelves. After that is "Right Left Right" and "Little West Prong"

As you near the North Fork (you will be able to see the cut in the mountain where the North Fork comes in), you will come to a large congested boulder garden. This is "Landslide" but Blackwater Don Smith called this rapid Mumina Humida.. Wood is often a problem here, and picking the correct channel is crucial, as there are a lot of ugly sieves everywhere. The safe line is to enter through the hallway on river left, stay straight and scrape off a shallow drop, then work right to rejoin the main flow.  The river funnels down a little chute into another boulder garden. The right side lands on a sieve rockpile, but there are SWEET boofs in the center and down the left. These drop you onto a long, shallow, bumpy fun slide, that used to have a big boulder sitting midstream that has rolled away. 

It is at this point that you confront My Nerves Are Shot And I Can't Take It Anymore! This is a long series of bedrock slides starting with the infamous sieve rapid called Turncoat. There is a junky sneak on far river left.  If you stay in the main channel you should catch an eddy on river right. Turncoat appears as a horizon line broken up by boulders. the far far right tunnel slot has been run but it attracts wood. The right of center line is dangerous because much of the water falls into a pothole in the center. The popular line- Bungee Jump is to ferry accross to the far  left and boof left into a shallow pool with only a small eddy before the rest of "Nerves"

Immediately below Turncoat, is a low angle simple and straightforward slide on the right, but this leads directly into a steeper slide with diagonals pushing much of the water off the left side of the shelf into a deep seam. The seam will likely send you out of control into a hole. You also don't want to paddle straight off the end of the shelf because this will land you into a really nasty hole against the right wall. Try to be aware of where you are in the rapid, find the diagonals that drop off the far left corner/shoulder of the shelf and hit the sweet spot, skipping into the eddy.

The 3rd slide looks Intimidating; the current slams into an undercut cliff on the right that is nasty but mostly out of play unless you are swimming. Most people run down the center, boof the hole and ride the huge pillow coming off the cliff. It can also be snuck on the far left. Immediately drive far left and line up a sweet 6 foot boof that is Drop #4 of Nerves. This can be run down a slope in the center at low water too, but it's one of the worst holes on the river. The 5th part is a fun slide that can be run anywhere. At high water these ledges form huge holes, some can be snuck or portaged on the left.

After a big pool, you reach a junky drop.  Avoid the temptation to hit a boof at the top of this rapid on the right. There is a horrible sieve on the right side waiting below you if you blow it and some ugly rocks all around. Run left of center down a jumble, or make an S-turn from center to left.

Afterwards, there is one more noteworthy split channel rapid before the takeout that collects wood. The right line is fairly simple and leads up to a 4 foot boof. The left line requires you to punch a hole and angle right to avoid a big sieve on the left bank. Below there is a simple ledge. Within sight of the take out is another junky drop where there historically was a rapid called Tightness just before the confluence. Instead, you will see an ugly truck-sized boulder perched midstream, reminding you of the shifty nature of this riverbed.

Yuck! Well, that concludes the Upper Blackwater. Eddy out right at the North Fork, hike out and run the Upper again, or continue on down the Lower B to Hendricks.

Shuttle: Take Rte. 32 towards Davis. Turn at the Exxon station (there will be signs for Blackwater Falls State Park). Follow it back for a mile or so until you reach a "Y" in the road. Make a left at the "Y" and cross the Blackwater. Shortly after, there will be an overlook parking lot on your right where the put in trail starts, but the lodge (please sign in) is furthur down the road. You will be able to hear the roar of the river from here. Follow the trail down the side of the canyon until you reach the river. This is the putin. The takeout can be in Hendricks (the Lower B takeout) or at the confluence with the North Fork.

Levels: The gauge is very convenient for this run, being the Davis gauge just upstream of Blackwater Falls. Generally, the Upper Blackwater is run most between 250 cfs and 325 cfs. However, the Upper B is enjoyable on down below 200 cfs. I like to see 150 cfs or higher before I'll drive out (I have done it as low as 80 cfs, very scrapy). Between 150-250 cfs, the river is not pushy and is channelized enough that there is not a lot of scraping. This is a great level to see the run at for your first time. As the water progresses over 300 cfs, there is more padding but also a lot of power. Nasty holes begin to develop and the distance between rapids shrinks. Once it reaches 400, most paddlers will want to head elsewhere. My personal cutoff is at 500 cfs. Of course, there are guys that run it at higher levels than I do--and I wish them the best of luck.

Permit Information

sign in inside the front entrance of Blackwater Falls Lodge up the road from the put in. Call in when your off the water or leaving the park.


StreamTeam Status: Not Verified
Last Updated: 2017-04-07 05:45:54

Editors

Stream team editor

Rapid Summary

Mile Rapid Name Class Features (Legend)
0.0Puke5.2Portage Hazard
0.1Phil's (100 Yard Dash)VPutin Photo Video
0.2BoogieIV
0.4Z FallsIV+
0.63 boofs rightIV+Photo
0.8Goldilocks (Chopper's Undercut)IV+Hazard
0.9Tomko FallsVHazard Waterfall Photo Video
1.0Shock to the SystemVHazard
1.1Sticky Fingers5.1Access Portage Hazard
1.1PinballVHazard
1.2Angle Left or PitonVPortage Hazard
1.2Flatliner Falls5.0Portage Hazard Photo
1.4No Man's LandIV
1.6Hanging Gardens, MogulsIV+Hazard
1.9Landslide (Mumina Humida)VHazard
2.1Turncoat (Nerves)VHazard Waterfall
2.2My Nerves Are Shot And I Can't Take It AnymoreVHazard Photo
2.4NostalgiaVTakeout Hazard

Rapid Descriptions

Puke (Class 5.2)

DO NOT put in at the Bridge!!!  And please don't put in via the Blackwater Falls boardwalk overlook on river right. After working your way down the steep trail to the putin on river left, make sure you take a look at the first rapid, Phil's or 100 Yard Dash. You'll probably gaze upstream at some point to see the off-limits 60' Blackwater Falls, a burly slide called Rollin' The Bones, and just above the put in - a horrendous looking drop on the river right side called Puke. Here the river falls off an 8-10-foot ledge into a sieve. The sieve is not quite large to fit the whole flow of the river, so some water bubbles up and over the sieve rock (which creates an extra 3-foot drop). It has been run (including by the ZoneDogg and Diablito) but it is not recommended. At higher flows, the river left side of this rapid goes through a very difficult and tight but slightly less heinous drop than Puke called the Notch. again, not recommended.



Phil's (100 Yard Dash) (Class V, Mile 0.1)
Click Here For Video

100 Yard Dash

100 Yard Dash
Photo taken 10/10/09

 4 part rapid begins with a sloping 6-foot ledge into a roostertail pushing into the right wall and pouring off a 3-foot ledge. Most people catch the 1st eddy on the right at the bottom of the first sloping ledge and ferry out in front of the wall. This works, except that it is tricky to peel out of the eddy due to a submerged rock. You can also run it direct down the first ledge (just to the right of the roostertail), then drag your left blade. Either way, you don't want to go straight down the middle of the first drop and piton, or get worked in the first hole. From here, fight the boils and continue over a juicy diagonal 4-foot ledge. I boof far right into a swirly eddy.  Immediately it narrows and goes through a narrow drop that is best run left of center with right angle to avoid an undercut on the left. The next 50 yards are fast and technical with small ledges and moves leading into the Upper Blackwater Rodeo Hole. This hole is at the very bottom of the rapid and would probably be a great hole in a rodeo boat (it can get a creek boat vertical). But, rodeo sucks anyways, you're here to run the shit. If this dosen't seem fun to you, then put your boat on your shoulder and hike back up to the road because it dosen't get easier



Boogie (Class IV, Mile 0.2)

The river widens out below Phil's and most people run a small channel on extreme river left that contains some small drops. For the next quarter-half mile the run goes through delightful class 4+ ledges and boulder drops that are mostly boat-scoutable, (beware of trees) and finishes with "The Bowling Alley"



Z Falls (Class IV+, Mile 0.4)

Soon, you will reach Z Falls, which is recognized by a pool above a good horizon line. Go to the left of the triangle rock at the top and boof off a 6-8-foot ledge. After landing, I zig zag around some small drops with grabby holes in the center. Some are boofable, but generally your looking for green tongues. The rapids remain steep with lots of cool boofs and slots for the next 1/4 mile.



3 boofs right (Class IV+, Mile 0.6)

SIK Boof, Upper B

SIK Boof, Upper B
Photo of Zone Doggy Dogg by Dave Woten taken 01/19/12 @ a good level

The rapids remain bouldery with lots of cool boofs for the next 1/4 mile. Soon after Z-Falls is 3 Boofs Right. Starts with Sik Slot on river right, then stay right because there is a gigantic sieve on river left. Soon after are more classic class 4+ boogie rapids like Diving Board



Goldilocks (Chopper's Undercut) (Class IV+, Mile 0.8)

After a particularly fun rapid that requires dodging offset holes comes Goldilocks. this rapid kinda resembles Pin Cushin on the Green Narrows. a 1 foot ledge leads into a junky drop. the move is to boof and turn your boat 90 degrees to the left, then immediately angle back to the right to avoid Chopper's undercut. the following rapid leads directly into Tomko Falls



Tomko Falls (Class V, Mile 0.9)
Click Here For Video

Entrance into Tomko on the UB

Entrance into Tomko on the UB
Photo of Bill S. by Brian Rahall taken 01/21/06 @ ~300cfs


Tomko is the steepest rapid on the Upper Blackwater and definitely one of the most fun. It is broken into two parts. The top ledge can be run right or left of center. The most common line is to boof off the top 8-foot ledge on the right or left and then catch a big eddy on the right. You can also boof the left side of this drop and hit the direct line through a slot on the extreme left  but this tends to filter you towards an inconveniently placed boulder right above the second drop.

From the eddy on river right, paddle upstream and ferry out in front of the inconvenient boulder and into a micro eddy on the left. The second part of this rapid is another 8-foot boof located left of center. From the micro eddy I head downstream with right angle towards the boof and, at the last second, take a wicked boof stroke to get a SIK launch. As you fall, there will be spray flying up underneath you, but I have never landed on any rock coming off this boof so I don't worry about the spray. A junky runout drop carries you into an eddy on the left. Do not bomb over the next horizon line. At higher levels; its difficult to ferry upstream to the normal line, but there is also a Center line (the big splat line) that can be done with hard left angle to avoid catastrophe, and also, at high water, a narrow slot move far far right out of the eddy that tends to collect wood. wherever you land, eddy out and don't go left (huge sieve).



Shock to the System (Class V, Mile 1.0)

The next rapid is run right into a ledge hole, leading into Shock to the System. Here, the river necks down and pours over a slope into a 6-8-foot ledge with a vicious hole at the bottom. At lower flows (below 250 cfs), you can go right down the middle and punch/jump the hole. As the run gets higher, you may pay a severe penalty if you attempt to punch the hole. At most flows, the best idea is to start in the river right eddy and run middle to left, pointed to the left, boofing the left side of the hole with a right stroke. This is a finesse move (isn't everything??) but it will prevent a nasty beatdown in the hole, which you should not swim out of, as the pool moves quickly into the next rapid.



Sticky Fingers (Class 5.1, Mile 1.1)

Now you've reached Sticky Fingers, one of the most dangerous rapids on the river. Below Shock, run the sloping ledge on the right into an eddy and get out on the right and have a look. Most paddlers walk this rapid and with good reason. This was the location of the first fatality on the Upper B. The absolute worst thing you could do is to drift through the slot in the center right next to the big triangle rock. This is called "A Matter of Time". It drops you out above a massive sieve than can swallow a boat and paddler whole. An easy way to sneak at decent flow is to gorilla walk yourself through the far far river right slot at the top of the rapid with a little bit of left angle, then drop your bow sharply to the right. You will land right next to the outflow of the seive. Or, portage on the right. If you decide to run this rapid, the best line is to ferry out to an eddy against the left bank. From here, peel out and punch an irregular shaped hole, being sure not to get pushed right. You boof through a small narrow slot in the center very close to a large toilet bowl sieve. The far left is also pretty junky, but its better than the alternative. This is a very scary rapid!!



Pinball (Class V, Mile 1.1)

The next rapid, Pinball, is a steep, trashy rock pile. Half of the flow goes far right and drops off into a sieve. You don't want to go here. The best way to run this rapid is to run far left and stay all the way left until the last chute that falls off to the right. Avoid any temptation to take any of the chutes that drop off to the right early (they are rather pinny). However some paddlers avoid the pinball slots by catching an eddy on river left and ferrying over to the right in front of a nasty looking pin rock. Done well - this is the cleanest line and it drops you in an eddy. Sound confusing? Scout it while you are portaging Sticky Fingers.  Immediately and with no break, there is another horizon line. This can be run down a double drop on the left or a 5 foot boof in the center.



Angle Left or Piton (Class V, Mile 1.2)

Now  the river pools up behind a pile of boulders. This is Angle Left or Piton, or Kerplunge.  Here, the river narrows and drops off a sloped 6-foot ledge into a stiff hole with an overhanging boulder. At high water, there is a sneak on the far right through a very narrow slot. Take this if you have any doubts, it sets you up for a safe approach to Flatliner. Or, you can portage both drops on the left. The Main line is to get in the main current, angle slightly left of the giant square boulder and take a strong late boof down the sloper. This should launch you out clear of the hole. If your too far left at the top you will scrape over a shelf lose your speed. If you blow it, you might get backendered or surfed but do not swim. there are some funky boils and micro eddies in the run out. work your way over to the big eddy on river right above Flatliner

 



Flatliner Falls (Class 5.0, Mile 1.2)

Flatliner Falls

Flatliner Falls
Photo taken 10/04/10

The river winds to the right quickly through some small holes that lead to Flatliner Falls. Two paddlers have died here 18 months apart. This is a simple 4 foot ledge that should be run in the center. Not on the left.  Much of the water is channelized on the left, where it falls onto a shallow pin  rock under the ledge. There have been numerous close calls here and 2 fatalities, despite the fact that this is the most notorious pin spot on the river. Starting from the river right eddy is probably best. Stay in the center, on top of the thin current flowing over the smooth slab. Go off the tip of the center of the convex shaped ledge. Most of the water is falling off to the left--to a deadly undercut. Don't be on the left. There will be a square boulder on the bottom right next to where you should land. Don't go left!!!
Click here for a description, with photos, courtesy of JB Seay.



No Man's Land (Class IV, Mile 1.4)

The Blackwater chills out somewhat for most of the next mile. The river has some wide shallow stretches of  fun mank separating more steep, challenging boulder drops that are very fun and complex but beware some can sneak up on you. 200 yards below Flatliner, Shay's Run enters via a cascade on river left, and the long rapid that follows has some of the best boofs on the run. 1/4 mile later, Pendleton Run comes in on the right, coming off the mountain in a beautiful (unrunnable) cascade. This section is sometimes called "No Man's Land" as there are few named rapids



Hanging Gardens, Moguls (Class IV+, Mile 1.6)

A  rapid of note in this section after Pendleton is the Hanging Gardens or 'U-turn'. There is a small pool on the left and a big cliff visible downstream on river right. The line is to go just right of a pillow at the top, then eddy out behind a large boulder and use it to ferry over to river right. Punch the hole to avoid the undercuts at the bottom.  At higher levels or if there's wood you can run straight down the right the whole way. 

The next rapid after a big pool is the classic Mogul Field.  It starts off with a sweet 5-foot boof, then a series of offset pillows and shelves. After that is "Right Left Right" and "Little West Prong"



Landslide (Mumina Humida) (Class V, Mile 1.9)

As you near the North Fork (you will be able to see the cut in the mountain where the North Fork comes in), you will come to a large congested boulder garden. This is "Landslide" or "Maze" but Blackwater Don Smith called this rapid Mumina Humida.. Wood is often a problem here, and picking the correct channel is crucial, as there are a lot of ugly sieves. The safe line is to enter through the hallway on river left, stay straight and scrape off a shallow drop.  The river funnels down a little chute into another boulder garden. The right side lands on a sieve rockpile, but there are sweet boofs in the center and down the left. These drop you onto a long, shallow, bumpy fun slide, that used to have a big boulder sitting midstream that has rolled away. 



Turncoat (Nerves) (Class V, Mile 2.1)

It is at this point that you confront My Nerves Are Shot And I Can't Take It Anymore! This is a long series of bedrock slides starting with the infamous sieve rapid called Turncoat. There is a sneak on far river left for those who don't like having to make tough choices. If you stay in the main channel you should catch an eddy on river right. Turncoat appears as a horizon line broken up by boulders. the far far right tunnel slot has been run but it attracts wood. the right of center line is dangerous because much of the water falls into a pothole in the center. The popular line- Bungee Jump is to ferry accross to the far  left and boof into a shallow pool with only a small eddy before the rest of "Nerves"



My Nerves Are Shot And I Can't Take It Anymore (Class V, Mile 2.2)

Nerves

Nerves
Photo of Max Blackburn by Jared Seiler taken fall06 @ med

It is at this point that you confront My Nerves Are Shot And I Can't Take It Anymore! This is a long series of bedrock slides starting with the infamous sieve rapid called Turncoat. There is a sneak on far river left for those who don't like having to make tough choices. If you stay in the main channel you should catch an eddy on river right. Turncoat appears as a horizon line broken up by boulders. the far far right tunnel slot has been run but it attracts wood. the right of center line is dangerous because much of the water falls into a pothole in the center. The popular line- Bungee Jump is to ferry accross to the far  left and boof into a shallow pool with only a small eddy before the rest of "Nerves"

Immediately below Turncoat, The first slide of Nerves is simple and straightforward on the right, but this leads directly into the second slide which is the crux. This slide is steeper than the first with diagonals pushing to the left. much of the water falls off the left side of the shelf about halfway down. You don't want to drop off to the left too early because you fall into a seam. You don't want to paddle straight off the end of the shelf because this will land you into a really nasty hole against the right wall. Try to be aware of where you are in the rapid, find the 2nd and 3rd diagonals that drop off the far corner of the shelf and hit the sweet spot, skipping into the eddy.


The third slide looks Intimidating; the current slams into an undercut cliff on the right that is nasty but mostly out of play unless you are swimming. Most people run down the center, boof the hole and ride the huge pillow coming off the cliff. It can also be snuck on the far left. Immediately below- head far left and line up a sweet 6 foot boof that is Drop #4 of Nerves. This could be run down the center at low water too. The 5th part is a simple slide that can be run anywhere. At high water these ledges form huge holes, some can be snuck or portaged on the left.
 



Nostalgia (Class V, Mile 2.4)

After a big pool, you reach a junky drop.  Avoid the temptation to hit a boof at the top of this rapid on the right. There are several horrible sieves on the right side waiting below you if you blow it and some ugly rocks all around the boof rock. Run left of center down a jumble, or make an S-turn from center to left.

Afterwards, there is one more noteworthy rapid that collects wood before the take out. the right line is fairly simple and leads up to a shallow 4 foot boof. The left line requires you to punch a hole and angle right to avoid a big sieve on the left bank. Historically there was another rapid called Tightness just before the confluence. Instead, you will see an ugly truck sized boulder perched midstream reminding you of the shifty nature of this riverbed

Yuck! well that concludes the Upper Blackwater. Eddy out right at the North Fork,  hike out and run the Upper again, or continue on down the Lower B to Hendricks.




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