Second Creek (Greenbrier tributary)
February 15, 1998
Boaters (K-1): Turner Sharp, Mike McClanahan, Susan Klimas, Kim Clancy, Hunt Charach, Derek Dagostino
Among those of us who more or less survived this trip intact, it rapidly became known as ÂThe Trip from Hell.Â I want it known up front that the whole thing was TurnerÂs idea. Turner had been wanting to do Second Creek for a while, so with the snow melting from the heavy snowfall in the Southern West Virginia mountains, he figured that it should be up enough to run. The weather was cooperating, with sunshine and high 40 temperatures in the Greenbrier River area.
Kim Clancy was travelling back to West Virginia from Raleigh, North Carolina, and was to meet us at Tamarack at 10:30. The last three trips she was scheduled to go on, she had missed for various reasons, and I had heard from reliable resources that she is navigationally impaired, so I had given her my cell phone number just in case. Soon after we arrived at Tamarack, my phone rang, and yes, it was Kim, an hour behind schedule. She had gotten lost trying to find I-77 (something about getting directions from a drunk in a bar) and ended up heading for the beach before getting turned around the right way. Luckily, Hunt was able to steer her to a shortcut and we agreed to meet at the take-out, which is located on Rt. 219 south of Ronceverte. Kim showed up soon after we did, and we ran the shuttle. Luckily, as it turned out, we set up a car at the end of the run and a second car a mile and a half from the end Âjust in case we want to pull out early.Â We ended up in Hollywood, West Virginia about 1:00 pm. Little did we know what lay in store for us.
Second Creek is a lovely little wilderness stream, totally isolated, with sheer cliff faces, thick hemlock and rhododendron thickets and no trash. The water was moving fairly fast and there were only micro-eddies, if any. Very soon we ran into out first strainer. We portaged. We portaged through rhododendron thickets with several feet of snow still on them. Then, one by one, since there were only tiny little launching places, we slid from the bank into the stream again. A few hundred feet later there was another strainer. We portaged. Several of us got stuck in the rhododendron thickets trying to get back to the stream. Most of the time we had to drag our boats on their sides to fit them through the branches. It was turning into an aerobic kayaking trip. I became really overheated and dehydrated and, having forgotten my water bottle, began eating snow.
About the fourth downed tree, Turner tried to slide under a strainer between two branches that were hanging down and got hung up. He had to let go of his paddle to force his way through the branches. His paddle, pogies attached, disappeared. The rest of us portaged. After extracting the spare breakdown paddle from my boat, we continued (having little choice-this was true wilderness paddling with no signs of any roads or houses). We dodged around the end of some strainers, we slid under some strainers; ducking (or not ducking- I was thankful for my helmet after a couple of very loud thumps from hitting a tree trunk with my head) and we portaged. In all, we estimated that we portaged about 10-15 strainers and dodged or slid under about the same number.
Mike got hung up on a strainer caught between a branch and a rock, his boat on its side. He was pulled off of it but cracked a rib. Kim got hung up on a strainer upright but with a branch across her front holding her in place. She was pulled off of it. Derek, who had prior to this only paddled the Upper New, got caught in a strainer, flipped and swam to shore. His boat had to be pulled off the strainer. At one point, since we were portaging and launching one by one, we lost Mike. We almost sent out a search party into the rhododendron but decided to try around the next bend and there he was waiting.
Most of the creek had fairly easy rapids but there were several decent drops. One was a four-foot straightforward drop. We portaged it because there was a strainer just in front of it and several below it, all of which could have been run but which added just too much danger and riskÂ all things considered. Toward the end of the run, the sun was setting and we were worrying about making it out before dark. We reached the first shuttle vehicle at 6 p.m., a few minutes before dark. We were all whooping and yelling when we saw the bridge and the car. By the time we ran the shuttle and loaded the boats, it was pitch dark and ice had formed on the boats and paddles. We all went to dinner, passed around the ibuprofen bottle, and took stock of aches and pains. Kim had a knot on her head, Mike a cracked rib, I had a bruise on my rib, Turner had scratches on his face, and of course had lost a paddle and pogies. Kim and I faced a three-hour drive home.
As I said, this was a beautiful stream. One of the prettiest that I have paddled. Although there were no really hard rapids, there was little or no flatwater. It felt like true wilderness paddling. I would like to do it again in warmer weather, after the strainers have had a chance to wash away, to really appreciate the beauty. This is not really a good cold weather stream because of the isolation and the extreme difficulty of getting around the rhododendron thickets.
Addendum (Turner Sharp) Â There is a river gauge on river left, immediately upstream of the U. S. Route 219 bridge. Level for this trip was 1.9 feet, which was low with ledges being scrapy. Put-in was at the CR 18 bridge in Hollywood. Take-out was at CR 219/1 in the village of Second Creek Â no one was willing or able to paddle the last 1 1/2 miles to the U. S. 219 bridge in the dark!
Â©1996-2003 West Virginia Wildwater Association
2.0 on the staff gauge upstream of the 219 bridge is probably minimum- lower can be done with a little scraping. Expect braiding/logjams just after the put-in. Afterward the creek goes through a property that has channelized the stream for fishing, and there are a half dozen man-made 3-foot drops here that could get sticky at certain levels. Then look for a cascade coming in on the right and the (natural) ledges begin. They are all fairly small, and at higher levels may not be noticeable as ledges. The first bridge you come to is a short steep takeout with tight parking, but is probably preferable to continuing to 219.
2nd creek revisited. This little creek was described as being a magnet for strainers in a previous post. I ran it on Thanksgiving, 2013, an only had to portage around 1 strainer. It has a lot going for it, pretty scenery, isolated feeling, and virtually no flat water. Seems to take a lot of water for it to go, but would definitely recommend it. Intermediates will enjoy the maneuvering in the many class 2 rapids, and there are a couple of 3's thrown in to spice things up
There is a visual USGS gauge on river left about 20-30 yards upstream of the US 219 bridge. Walk out on the concrete block to see the gauge; it faces the opposite bank. A decent minimum would be 2.0 or above.
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Second Creek drop
Cascade, Second Creek
pretty scenery on 2nd creek
side waterfall on 2nd creek
approach to the drop
biggest ledge on 2nd creek
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