The Lost River Dry Gorge is up only in the winter, spring or after a prolonged wet period. Much of the river literally "sinks" above the gorge, only to reemerge on the other side of the mountain from large springs. Because of this, the riverbed is mostly dry much of the year. A large bridge for the Corridor H project has been built just downstream of the putin bridge, and a long stretch of parking was added along the edge of route 55 .
The first few miles are characterized by closely-spaced Class II-III rapids. Strainers can be a problem. There is a low-water bridge 2/3 of the way through that should be scouted. At favorable levels, one can run hard right or line up with the jet currents flushing through culverts under the bridge to ride the flow out of the hydraulic. Portage and scout on the right.
Landslide is the final and major rapid on the run (Class IV due to undercut rock on the right, part way through the drop) and should be scouted from the river left island. The rapid is a steep chute featuring offset holes, squirrely current and that undercut. Run center left working right to avoid a large boulder at the bottom center. The channel remains choked below, so swimming can be a bruiser.
Portage a second low-water bridge on the right and proceed to the takeout below Wardensville.
There is a popular takeout at the upstream end of Wardenville, but it's hard to find. A county road that turns at mailbox 26905 appears to be a driveway. It leads to a low bridge and a cornfield by the river.
Paddled 5/21/18. Log at Landslide is gone everything was runnable. Visual guage was 2'. Correlation with Cootes store not very accurate this time.
The lower part of Landslide Rapid is very dangerous. There is a log extending 3/4 of the way across the river forcing the paddler to go to far river right. (See photo.) One eddy can easily be caught, but the course down the right side is very rocky pushing the paddler into more rocks. There may be a submerged log on the river right in this channel adding to the difficulty. Paddling through the meat of the rapid is the easy part.
We ran this at minimum flow, 0" at the put-in bridge, 3.1 Brandywine and 3.5 Great Cacapon. Enjoyable class II run, with maybe one easy III, without scraping too much, although there are a number of long pools. Our run was just a few days after the comment below; you can see a member of our group ducking under the strainer in the photos. Certainly a concern if the water is higher.
On the Lost 8 May @ 1 foot on the rt55 bridge gage. About 1.5 miles into the trip you enter a long rocky rapid that curves left. Not until you are well down into it can you see a log pinned between boulders at chest height, blocking ALL of the main channel. There is a small slot on extreme right that can be got thru. So long as this log remains, it presents a high hazard.
Paddled this on 12Mar2011 at 3.78ft (994cfs) on the Po-Brandywine gauge. Most rocks were covered, most of the rapids were bouncy wave trains with holes & pourovers interspersed for fun, some ledges here and there to mix it up. There were a few strainers lurking, and at this levels some midstream submerged trees. Most rapids were class II+/III at this level, until the rapid with the undercut (that runs on the right of an island). The undercut is definitely one to respect, a few of us ran the rapid without incidence, and a few of us portaged without incidence. This stream is definitely worth catching when it's up!
We ran this section on 13Mar10. SF SB of the Potomac @ Brandywine gauge was at 5.6-5.96 Ft. Painted bridge gauge at 259/55 put-in read 6 Ft. High water from very large snowmelt and subsequent rain. Most rapids did not have visible rocks but rather large wave trains and rebounding waves off the banks -- the river was bankful. The first big rapid ("Ledges" by the AW page) looked quite difficult but a straight run down the main tongue got all through without incidence. The second big rapid ("Landslide") had huge waves and moderately sticky hydraulics; it was best run on center right. Three of us did not run the best line and got flipped bow to stern by the top giant wave/hole. One party member got sucked back in, flushed, and swam after several failed rolls in highly turbulent water. Another also swam after failing rolls in the midst of the rapid. All gear and people were recovered without major incidents. A huge log blocked the river about 3/4 down but we all passed over it as from upstream it just looked like a big wave; from downstream it was just above the water level. The low water bridges were all passable without portaging due to the immense amount of water flowing over them. Very fun overall but definitely class IV.
2 years ago
by Tony Allred Jr
A virtual gauge has been developed for the Lost based on the Brandywine gauge on the South Fork, South Branch Potomac and Cootes Store gauge on the North Fork Shenandoah all in cfs. The ranges are 355 - 1,500 cfs at Brandywine, 570 - 2,600 cfs at Cootes Store and 370 - 1,450 cfs for the Lost River virtual gauge. The painted bridge gauge (in feet) correlates to the virtual gauge (in cfs) as follows" 0' = 370 cfs; 1' = 452 cfs. The great Cacapon gauge is too far downstream to be at all useful for the Lost and the Moorefield gauge on the South Fork of the South Branch of the Potomac is best ignored for this run.
Because the river flows underground through here much of the year, it takes a lot of water for the Dry Gorge to run.
There is a painted gauge on the Route 55 bridge, west side abutment. A level of 1 to 3 feet is good, though it can be run down to zero. Construction of the Corridor H highway may ultimately change this gauge. Report observations here.
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