This section includes the Elk River Dries. In dry periods the river disappears underground in this karst topography.
[Original post date is 4/2009. As noted at the bottom, Robert is describing a longer run than just this section; edits are in brackets] Robert Farmer---Hi, I did this on April 4, 2009. The level was about 6.6/2500 on the telemetric/internet gauge at Webster Springs, which I've been told is 3 feet higher than the visual gauge on the right side of the island in WS. I found it to be mostly Class 2, with perhaps a spot of 3. This is a roadless wilderness section [for about the first 5 miles] that has an old, abandoned railroad on river right. I put in at Slatyfork, about 0.25 mile off of Route 219 immediately upstream of the confluence of Slaty Fork and Old Field Fork, and downhill of a lumber yard. The trip to the first road/trailhead took 1.0 hour exactly. Not having read the description in a while, I was surprised when the large, wide, high-volume river that I was on turned into a small, narrow creek! Quite interesting! After running alongside a road for a little bit, a ledge of about 4 feet appeared, which I scouted on the right. Below here I was pleasantly surprised to find a delightful Class 4 boulder garden that went on for a half-mile or so. A few other rapids are scattered in between easy sections, although the current was always moving nicely; in fact, the water soon started feeling a bit pushy, even though it was usually fairly shallow---odd. Soon, Whitaker Falls appeared, which I had previously scouted while driving up alongside the river, as it is right next to the road. There is an approach ledge that I ran about 1/3 from the left shore through a break, and I ran the final 8-ft-or-so drop tight left, about 20-30 feet from the left bank---Class 4, I'd say. The river here is about 120 feet wide, I'd guess---rather unusual for a whitewater river. You should scout this on your shuttle drive. Beware: the middle part looked like a drowning machine. Although the guidebook recommends the right side, the ledge is pretty irregular over there, and the hole looked somewhat stronger than on the left. I was happy with my decision. Below here is another ledge of about 4-5 feet which I ran on the right, although center would have been good if I had remembered the line there better. Below here the rapids come more slowly, with good rapids every mile or so down to Bergoo, which is where the road makes a 90-degree turn at a one-lane bridge and a fishing shop and small community. The best rapids always seem to be out of sight of the road. A good approach for someone who wanted to cherry-pick the hardest section would be to drive up Bergoo Road (CR 26) from [WV 15, about 4 miles north of] Webster Springs and make the right turn at around the 21 mile point (CR 60) [this puts you on the next section], and put in from the trailhead up that way. This would avoid about 10 miles of Class 2; or, if you want the Class 2 bits only, set your takeout here. (I didn't have time to drive this section of road, as I for-some-reason connected back to Route 15 instead[CR 26 continuing east leaves the Elk and follows a tributary to CR 49, then WV 15].) Then drive down as far as you want, probably somewhere below Whitaker Falls. Upstream of Bergoo, the road is on river right and is very high up for a while. Below Bergoo, the road is on river left for a while before crossing back to the right. In summation, this section was quite enjoyable and better-than-expected. And most of it is roadside, which makes the shuttle and road-scouting a breeze. You should do it sometime. (Final note: I don't know where Elk Springs is [it's about 10 miles from the put in, where CR 26 meets 60 (Elk River Rd on Google Maps)], and ; the guidebook lists only one section from Slatyfork to Bergoo, of about 20 miles, so that is what I described here.)
The Webster Springs gauge is located 51 river miles downstream of the put-in. One major tributary(Back Fork) and many smaller tributaries flow into the Elk between this gauge and the put-in. Thus this gauge can only be used as an indicator.
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If someone gets hurt on a river, or you read about a whitewater-related injury, please report it to
American Whitewater. Don't worry about multiple submissions from other witnesses, as our safety
editors will turn multiple witness reports into a single unified accident report.
Nancy Kell, a very experienced Mid-States kayaker, died on February 24th after flipping in a Class II rapid on West Virginia's Red Creek. There were a number of strainers in the vicinity above and below the water. One of them snagged her tow tether, pulled her out of her boat, and held her under water. She was with a very experienced crew but they could not reach her quickly enough. Equipment snags are a real risk. In the light of this accident I strongly urge anyone using a cowtail, pigtail, or tow tether to recheck your setup, and to consider whether wearing a tow tether makes sense. Be certain that your tether releases cleanly at both ends. Do not attach the front carabiner to a non-releasable point, like a pocket or strap. Ms. Kell did this, and it may have been a contributing factor. Apparently many current rescue PFD designs to not feature a front release point! Do not attach a tether to the rear of your PFD with a non-locking carabiner, as that may inadvertently clip into a rope. The tether should fit very snugly, without sagging, but as the photo shows Ms. Kell did that, and it did not protect her! The harness release should be quick and foolproof. Practice harness releases under pressure before using it on the river. Finally, remember that any additional strap is a potential snag hazard. Ask yourself if the usefulness of a tow tether is worth the risk, especially on small, strainer infrested creeks. Carry it in a PFD pocket or dry bag if necessary. Click for a link to the report in the AW Accident Database. (Jeff Macklin Photo)
Get your groove on baby! This year Gauley Fest is a 60’s themed event to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. To memorialize that historic event we are flashing back to another era for a 60’s throwdown. Started in 1983 to celebrate the derailment of a hydro-electric project that would have disrupted the flows on the Gauley River, Gauley Fest has grown to become the largest paddling festival in the world.
American Whitewater received the following open letter to boaters from the rangers and staff of the Gauley River National Recreation Area. This letter will keep you up to date on important management actions of the National Park Service on the Gauley River. Enjoy your paddling season on this classic whitewater river. As in past years, American Whitewater has leased the field above Masons Branch, also known as the Legg field, for overflow parking.
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