Cranberry - AB (Middle): Cranberry Recreation Area to Big Rock

Cranberry, West Virginia, US


AB (Middle): Cranberry Recreation Area to Big Rock

Usual Difficulty III-IV (for normal flows)
Length 6.5 Miles
Avg. Gradient 80 fpm
Max Gradient 100 fpm


Photo of Brian Day by Thomas O'Keefe © taken 03/23/02 @ 400 cfs

Gauge Information

Name Range Difficulty Updated Level
usgs-03187500 3.50 - 5.50 ft III-IV 00h47m 2.81 ft (too low)

River Description

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 76

Alternate Putin: Picnic area (about 2 miles downstream)

Takeout: First pulloff on the right upstream of where FS 76 crosses the river.

StreamTeam Status: Not Verified
Last Updated: 2016-09-10 04:35:16

Rapid Descriptions

icon of message No rapids entered. If you know names, and locations of the rapids please contact and advise the StreamTeam member for this run.

User Comments

Users can submit comments.
November 17 2018 (25 days ago)
nprete (157563)
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
September 10 2016 (823 days ago)
JayYoung (155294)
(sorry: edit didn't preserve original post date) On 4/11/2013, I and a partner paddled the Middle
Cranberry at about 4 feet (lower runnable) in a Shredder. John M.'s comment is spot on-probably
thanks to a large, heavy snow last October, there's A LOT of wood in the water. Many logs and
branches were submerged enough to run over. Many more were not. Since so many of the channels and
drops on this section are blind and since neither of us had ever run it before, we scouted probably
11 or 12 times throughout the course of the day. There are several trees blocking 80-90 of the
river, but none blocking 100%. With careful scouting and conservative lines, we did not have to
walk any of the rapids, but we spent much of the day dangerously close to strainers. As always,
paddle at your own risk. Cheers! Jay Young
September 10 2016 (823 days ago)
Robert FarmerDetails
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
September 10 2016 (823 days ago)
Matt MuirDetails
2013 (sorry: edit didn't preserve orignal post date) Since last October (?), there have been tree
trunks fallen into the middle Cranberry River, WV. I couldn't car scout the entire run, so don't
know if any trees require a portage. Some channels are blocked. John O. Mitchell
April 29 2012 (2418 days ago)
Chris PreperatoDetails
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
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.
April 7 2009 (3536 days ago)
x (1)
This one isn't anything new, just something I hadn't noticed before. I ran it Sunday at just over
4.0' USGS. There is an eddy bank-left just above the last little drop of S-turn. I caught this eddy
low and realized I was getting sucked backwards into a tunnel. I was able to paddle away from it
but it surprised me. There is a fair amount of flow through the tunnel at this level which might
get pretty bad when it's higher. I like to catch this eddy to set safety. You might want to catch
this eddy high or skip it. Ken Dubel
May 7 2008 (3871 days ago)
x (1)
At 5.75 this river becomes a much more difficult river. We started this run with 10 boaters and
only four finished the run without walking off. All of the boaters had at least excellent class
III/IV skills, others that walked off have no problem running IV/V rivers. In fact one of the
paddlers who walked off had just run it the previous day without issue. Please know the level
before you put on. If there has been a good steady rain recently be ready for a different river. CK
June 13 2004 (5295 days ago)
Jim BobbittDetails
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.
March 4 2004 (5396 days ago)
Charles and Nancy BrabecDetails
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.
December 30 2004 (5461 days ago)
Charles and Nancy BrabecDetails
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.


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)

Matt McMillion
December 7 2002 (5849 days ago)
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.

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