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Difficulty III+(V)
Length 5.3 Miles
Flow Range 180 - 450 CFS
Flow Rate as of: 42 minutes ago 135 [CFS]
Reach Info Last Updated 01/23/2012 5:01 pm

River Description

This creek is small with tight turns and continuous action. The biggest rapids (named Rockpile 1, Rockpile 2, and Rockpile 3) are in the sections where the creek does not run along the road. As you go down the creek try to figure out when you are going through one of these rapids. Watch out for strainers during the whole trip.

The section below the bridge on Saxman Road appears to be several braided channels and it's not clear if any one channel has enough water to make it runnable. If you make it through this section and want to extend the trip another 3 miles you can use Rhododendron Park on the Cherry as an alternate takeout.

When there is enough water to run Laurel Creek, the Cherry is usually running pretty high. It's interesting going from the tight, technical confines of Laurel Creek onto the wider and more open Cherry River.

There was a report on January 22, 2011 of a couple of river wide strainers that the paddlers were able to avoid with alternative channels.

Putin: Where Saxman Road (39-14) crosses Laurel Creek for the second time about 5 miles from Route 39.

Takeout: On river right by the bridge on Saxman Road (CR 39-14) unless you think you can continue down to the confluence with the Cherry. Then you can take out on river left on the Cherry just below the Route 39 bridge.

Rapid Descriptions


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Robert Farmer
12 years ago

Caught this 4/16/07 at a moderate level, I think (14+ and dropping at Craigsville). The descriptions of this that I've read really don't do it justice. This is a 5-star creek! It's certainly one of the best of its size in WV!! It's much better than the N. Cherry, nearby, so definitely catch this if you can! In fact, I would say that, if you have only one day to paddle in WV, and this is running, paddle it! As noted above, you can't see the best (or worst) rapids from the road, so don't get overconfident when you're driving up!! I felt that the crux rapid was not the Rockpiles, but a fast, sliding section that blindly lunged toward some good-sized boulders, 2.6 miles down from the put-in, where the creek turns sharply left-then-right, which I think is below the Rockpiles (?). Because of the blindness, I eddy-hopped down the right, after unfortunately catching a left eddy, which didn't help. I would say that this one and Rockpile #3 might be Class 5-, not for danger, but technicality. Rockpile #1 is best finished on the right; Rockpile #3 is best finished on the left, due to a blind pourover boulder on the right (or I guess you could boof right, but scout first). It's almost non-stop action! You'll probably welcome a break! Cherish the rest spots! Also, there is one 3-foot ledge farther upstream that took me by surprise (probably "Big Ledge Rapid" in the photo section), when you can see the tops of the telephone poles near the road: I didn't expect it, and ran out of scouting room, so went down the middle, pitoned on some submerged rock, slid over, and barely made it slowly through the hydraulic. Going to left or right might have been better. This creek builds up slowly, gets cranking, lets off a bit, and then builds up again. I highly recommend it, especially for Class 4 boaters who are wondering if they're ready for Class 5. I measured a distance of 4.1 miles from the put-in to the takeout bridge. I wouldn't bother running down to the Cherry, as it looks scraggly and bony. Thanks to Cahil for the shuttle!

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Karl Whipp
15 years ago

At medium flows, this creek reminds me of Smokey Mountain boatin on a class III-IV level. There are not a lot of big boulders. Very few, actually. This creek is made up primarily of small boulders just under the surface. It's pretty constant bee-bop with few pools. Although it only comes in at about 85 feet per mile, the gradient is pretty constant. Most everything is read-n-run on the fly, with the exception of the Rock Pile rapids...mainly Rock Pile 3. This one often has wood in it and should be scouted.

This is an excellent introduction to creekin run. It can easily be broken down into an eddy to eddy to eddy run. This also makes it a great "tune-up" run early in the season after a long winter with little boating.

I have not been on it at a level where it goes to class V, but I would certainly like to get on it at some point in the not so far off future.

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Dustin Johnson
11 months ago

Paddled twice in 2018. 250 cfs was on the low side, but cleanly runnable. 380 cfs was a great level. There is a tree in the right channel right after a modular home that is visible on river right. The left channel is clear. At 250 cfs, the entrance to the left channel requires pushing over rocks. No other wood in play.

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Jeff Macklin
5 years ago

We were able to get on Laurel a 3 times in 2013. 200 cfs, on the Fenwick Gauge, was a little scrapy. 250 cfs was OK low runnable. 350 cfs was a great level. Watch for wood. As of 12-7-13, all wood was avoidable.

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9 years ago

Ran this section yesterday after doing the Cherry River at 5 feet and rising (Fenwick). It was awesome and fast. I was expecting a class III+ run so was impressed by how steep and consistent the rapids were. There were pour overs and holes all over. We agreed it was more of a class IV+ for most of the rapids at this level. Fanny Packer

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Joseph Greiner
16 years ago

Ran this on 4/28 at 4.25' on the putin gauge and 4.0' at Fenwick.Craigsville 16-18' Cranberry 7.0 and Webstr Springs 8.5. This is way HIGH level!!

Ran it again on 4/29 2.75 at put in gauge. 2.1 at Fenwick 5.1 Cranberry 8.0 Webstr Spngs and 14.7 Craigsville. This was a class III- to class III+ level and a lot of fun!!

Gage Descriptions

The new USGS gauge (above the putin) is being calibrated with the paddlers gauge on the old bridge piling downstream of the putin. As we get more data, the gauge range will be updated.



Directions Description

We have no additional detail on this route. Use the map below to calculate how to arrive to the main town from your zipcode.


No Accident Reports



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Tow Tether Danger Highlighted by Recent Accident

2019-02-25 19:53:07-05
Charlie Walbridge

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)


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Gauley Fest - September 13-16, 2018 - Summersville, WV

2018-09-04 07:58:00-04
Mark Singleton

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.

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2018 Letter To Gauley Boaters From The NPS (WV)

2018-08-21 10:07:00-04
Mark Singleton

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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Cheat Canyon Settlement Reached; Land Set Aside for Endangered Species

2007-02-13 00:00:00-05
Charles Walbridge

After two years of intense negotiations an agreement reached to protect endangered species in the Cheat River Canyon. Allegheny Wood Products acquired roughly 5,000 acres in the Cheat Canyon below Albright, WV in 2003 for $9.75 million. When they began building roads and cutting trees the following year the government took no steps to enforce the Endangered Species Act. A lawsuit was filed in 2005 by Friends of Blackwater Canyon, the WV Chapter of the Sierra Club, and the Cheat Lake Environmental and Recreational Association. Although American Whitewater was not a party to the litigation we are gratified that an agreement was reached and commend both parties for their efforts.

Charles and Nancy Brabec