Cheat, Shavers Fork, West Virginia, US
|Usual Difficulty||III-V (for normal flows)|
|SHAVERS FORK AT BEMIS, WV|
|usgs-03068000||3.30 - 4.50 ft||III-V||ft|
Upper Shaver's Fork is a classic remote WVA run requiring a full day of shuttling and paddling to access and enjoy. The first few miles are easy Class II-III. High Falls of the Cheat, a 15-20 ft riverwide ledge falls, marks the beginning of a Class IV section that is followed by several more miles of Class III-IV.
The run begins at McGee Run, which is located near railroad marker 61. At railroad marker 53, the river constricts and gorges up, marking the beginning of a mile of class 3 rapids above High Falls. The first of these rapids comes on a sharp right-hand bend and consists of 3 different series of 3 foot ledges. Through this section the river continually drops over a number of moderate-sized bedrock slides composed of varying types of rock.
When you see a distinct horizon line, a wooden observation deck, and a primitive campsite, get out on river right to scout or portage High Falls. The cleanest line over the falls is right of center, just to the left of a rock promontory that can be jumped off of in low water. There is also a potential line on river right; however, this side of the falls is backed up by one of the biggest boils I have ever seen- it most definitely did not look friendly if you screwed up.
Below the falls, the river drops through several tough class 4 rapids. The first of these is a series of broken, boulder-strewn ledges with a tricky, technical line down the right or a narrow sneak down river left. The second drop below the falls consists of a long series of boulder drops which funneled the river towards an ugly pillowed boulder near river left. Below the boulder, which should be avoided at all costs, the rapid squeezes to the right over a drop which is partially blocked by a nasty strainer. Anyone with doubts about their ability to negotiate the technical approach to and the narrow gap through the strainer should portage along river left. A difficult to reach eddy on river left just above the strainer can also be used to bypass the hazard. After several more miles of class 3-4 ledge drops and boulder gardens, a high concrete railroad bridge crosses the river.
Below here, the river bends to the right and plunges over a nasty class 5 drop just above a second railroad bridge. At 3.7 ft, this rapid consists of a constricted horseshoe drop of 6 feet into a nasty hole. To complicate matters, the majority of the flow drops over the right-hand side of the horseshoe and slams against an ugly pinning rock along the left side of the chute, forming a nasty hole with definite pinning potential. The drop opens up at higher levels, but the hole at the base of the ledge becomes very sticky. The best scouting and portage route can be found on river right.
Below here the river travels over continuous class 3 ledge drops until you come to a second
distinct horizon line. This is Mule Hole, a strong class 4 rapid which drops over a series of
large ledges terminating in a 5 foot drop into a frothy swimming hole (at low levels). The
easiest line at Mule Hole is down the right side, making a left turn to punch the final hole. An
interesting hero line can be run down the middle, which requires the paddler to surf a beefy
ledge hole just above the final drop over to the far right. Another mile of class 3 rapids brings
the paddler to Bemis.
THE SHUTTLE: One of the biggest problems with this run is the shuttle- it takes awhile to get to Bemis, and even longer to get to McGee run (provided you don't get lost- which is a MAJOR possibility). Since this shuttle is so long and complex, I thought I would go into some detail about it here.
TO BEMIS: From Route 33/55 heading west towards Elkins, turn left at Alpena (at the Alpine Motel) onto CR 27, following it to Glady. At Glady, bear right onto CR 22, which heads over the hill and down to Bemis. At Bemis, park along the right side of the road directly across the bridge over the Shaver's Fork (ask permission at the house on the right, the owner was very friendly and didn't mind us parking there at all- let's keep it that way).
FROM BEMIS TO MCGEE RUN: Continue following CR 22 through Bemis and up the mountain- the road quickly turns to dirt/gravel, becoming very rough and muddy (4x4 might help but is not necessary). Resist the urge to take any of the many roads which branch off CR 22 as you climb up and over the mountain, particularly a lefthand private road which leads to nowhere (just continue following the main road to the right up the mountain and you should be fine). Eventually, CR 22 ends at a 3 way T intersection with an unmarked dirt road, which is CR 30 (Left Fork Files Creek Road). Take a left onto this road; you will know you are on the right one if you immediately pass a red farm gate on your right. This road soon becomes paved again, passing a couple side roads and several homes. Eventually it ends at a 3 way intersection with a stop sign. Turn left here onto CR 37/8 (Files Creek Road)- landmarks on this road include a gas refinery station on the immediate left after making the turn, an Izaak Walton League building on the left a little farther up, and the Tygart Valley Muzzleloaders shooting range on the left where the road turns into gravel. Continue following this road (resist the urge to take a right and cross a small bridge over a stream, continue left instead) until you come to Forest Service Route 92, which branches off to the left and is marked by a brown sign on a post which says "92". Follow FR 92 for several miles, keeping your eyes open for FR 210 (McGee Run Road), which will branch off FR 92 to the left and is marked with a large brown sign marked "210". Take this road to the putin at the Shavers Fork catch and release area (which has 3 primitive campsites). This part of the shuttle (Bemis to McGee Run) takes about an hour.
ANOTHER NOTE ON SHUTTLE: To reduce driving time at the end of the run, instead of backtracking
from McGee Run to Bemis, a shorter route can be taken by going back up FR 210, taking a right
onto FR 92, and taking a right back onto CR 37/8. Instead of turning right onto CR 30 (Left Fork
Files Creek Road) at the gas plant to go back to Bemis, continue down CR 37/8 a couple more
miles. When you see CR 24 (King Run Road) on your right, turn onto it, following this road all
the way to its end at a stopsign at Route 219. Taking a right from here will take you into
downtown Elkins, where one can access route 33/55 east to head back towards Alpena.
GAUGE INFO: Levels between 5.5-6.5 ft at Cheat Bridge or 3.3-4.4 ft at Bemis are recommended the guidebooks. For larger boats such as rafts, the higher end of this range is preferable due to the shallowness of some of the early cobble rapids. Some paddlers also use a bridge gauge located on the old route 33 bridge on CR 33/8- acceptable levels on this gauge are between 2.0-3.0 ft.