This section of the Cranberry is known by local paddlers as the Middle Cranberry. Some paddlers who have not paddled the section above this call it the Upper Cranberry.
This is classic creek boating in a beautiful wilderness setting. It is almost continuous class III+ ledges and boulder gardens. Probably the biggest and most difficult rapid is S-Turn (class IV at moderate levels). It is located about 2 miles downstream from the altermate putin (or about 3 miles above the takeout). It is a good idea to road scout this rapid on your way to the putin and shore scout it again on you way down the river. After this the river mellows out just a bit the rest of the way to the takeout.
FS 76 follows the river closely for the entire run, offering numerous options for putting on or taking out. In addition to Big Rock and Cranberry campgrounds there are about a dozen individual campsites right along the river, immediately off the road. Facilities are limited to fire rings and picnic tables, but there are vault toilets located at a few spots along the road. As of 9/16 these sites are just $5 per night.Putin: Cranberry Campground on FS 76Alternate Putin: Picnic area (about 2 miles downstream)Takeout: First pulloff on the right upstream of where FS 76 crosses the river.
As of 9/13/18 this run was free enough from wood to go down the whole thing without portaging in a 12' raft. The flow was 4.45. Here's a video about it https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_6pCgCcAAXM
4/24/06 (sorry: edit didn't preserve original post date) It seems as though there is always at least one log on this river. I would call this section Class 4+(5), not Class 3-4, especially considering the logs that are always there. I ran S-turn, and it was clear, but could always change.
Ran this at about 4.6-4.7 (800ish cfs). Agree with the other comments, this is a solid IV run that could be considered IV+ in a spot or two. Several blind drops that were tough to see the line, and some wood in inconvenient places. Also, there are a LOT of sieves. Most of them aren't in the main lines, but, swimming would be especially dangerous.
The one log of note was a branch that stuck out into the current in one of the early rapids. It sticks out just enough that it can catch your edge and spin you (as one of my river mates found out)
There's a weird cave/sieve on the bottom left of S-turn as well. A swimmer would likely flush through, a boat would not. It'd probably be in play at higher flows (1000+), as the current does push there.
To credit the last post on stuff changing....I did the run my first time at 4.9 on the scale, this last July on a freak rain...i would have put that last big drop in cl V range, very tough ferry lines and hole dodging...granted we didnt know the lines. Other hard rapids too with dangers above cl IV but solid cl IV maybe IV+-V moves. We had clean lines, but definately lots of places you did not want to be. The wood was not a problem at 4.9 but it was there as described.
Having boated the Cranberry for at least 15 years, all I can say is that there must've been one helluva flood this winter. Stuff has moved around, there are more cobble rocks in places you'd least expect it, cracks in ledges are appearing in the worst places, and there is timber not seen in years adding danger to some of the usual lines.
"Tres Amigos y un Chingada" [the set of 4 ledges about 1/2 mile below the put in ]
has timber in it in spades. One nasty log in particular sticks into the normal right line in the second ledge.
The bottom ledge of this series shows the normal route turning into the beginning of a depression/fault in the "Chingada" that makes the final drop more difficult. Even if the rock that has historically backed up the hole has twisted so the nasty part of the hole isn't as wide as it was.
The left side of "Full Nelson" is getting much worse as well, as it appears the left side crack in that ledge is making the hole much worse on the left. Run right obviously.
I'd class this stirling white water gem a 3 to 5, but then I'm old school
From the WVWA message Board where it was poste by Brian Rahall on 1/15/2005, 16:16.
Approximately 1/4 mile into the run there is a tree down blocking 2/3 of the drop.. Although not a sugnificant drop the tree is a hazard.. and about 100 yards below the tree is what looks to be a limb from the tree broached on a rock.. Just keep your eye's open everything is pretty obvious.
Everyone please be aware that the last drop just above S-Turn is Full Nelson. There have been several near drownings at this spot.I was involved in a rescue at this spot recently and the paddler did not come out of the hole at Full Nelson until he had blacked out.(level-4.1) Two near drownings I know of already in 04. This appears to be just a 4-5ft. pourover on river left,but it is a very sticky hole with no exits on the ends. Scout from river left and set safety always here. Portage on river left also. Please be careful at this spot. Jim B.
The following info was provided by Matt McMillion:
We paddled the middle Cranberry at about 4 1/2 feet Wed. March 3rd. The "push" seems less, the water is more spread out through the riverbed. The drops used to be clear at the bottom for the most part. Now almost all the drops have rocks at the bottom, this is really only a big deal if you are upside-down or out of the boat. Just be aware after you punch a hole you will more than likely have to keep your bow up and keep your eyes open.
S-turn is now open to the left or right of the big rock in the middle. If you go right it is not nearly as easy to get back left. the water wants to go through the rocks at the center right of the drop. Eddy hopping may be the way to go. The main thing to keep in mind is the rapid has changed and some sieves are way easier to get into. S-turn is not what it used to be. It should be considered a first decent and scouted, every thing else can be boat scouted.
Also, we did notice what we think was the big tree in the first major drop downsteam about 200 yds on the left. There is (was) no wood in the run itself.
The following was posted on BoaterTalk by Matt McMillion on 12/30/03...
Paddlers need to be aware of some changes on the Cranberry (middle) River. The very large tree that was in the first drop is gone. I did not see it further down stream.
Many of the drops have changed, the stream bed seems to be more cluttered.
I WOULD SUGGEST THAT ALL PADDLERS LOOK AT "S-TURN" TO DECIDE HOW THEY WANT TO RUN IT OR WALK IT. THE MAIN LINE IS NOW SIEVED OUT AND FEEDS IT AN UNDERCUT THAT HAS A HUGE FLAT ROCK AGAINST IT LIKE A LEAN-TO. IT LOOKS VERY BAD. IT CAN BE RUN EXTREME RIGHT. BUT I WOULD LOOK AT IT.
Some of the more drastic changes are more apparent after s turn with some rocks moved around. Nothing major.
If you know some one that paddles the Middle Cranberry tell them to scout s turn and be aware of changes in streambed. Running s turn as normal could be very dangerous!
The level today was 3.9 (low)
Seems like this run may be overrated. I remember it as a class 3/4 run. It might approach class 5 at really high flows.
3 years ago
by Jay Young
by Matt Muir
10 years ago
11 years ago
The USGS gauge is at the bridge on FS 76.
The recommended minimum of 3.5 feet is approximately 260 cfs and the recommended maximum of 5.5 feet is approximately 1400 cfs.
Permits are not required for this reach.
We have no additional detail on this route.
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Packrafting the Cranberry
Bernie Dawson Boofing
Jackie Blackwood Boofing
Brian H boof 4.9'
Running it live
Bottom of S-Turn at 4.2
Top part of S-Turn at 4.2
Tree in Middle Cranberry, WV
S-Turn from below
How not to run Full Nelson
Cranberry Sundae 3
Cranberry Sundae 2
Cranberry Sundae 1
S-Turn on Middle Cranberry
Big Rapid on the Cranberry
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