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Difficulty III
Length 6.2 Miles
Gauge N F SOUTH BRANCH POTOMAC RIVER AT CABINS, WV
Flow Range 5.75 - 10.00 FT
Flow Rate as of: 31 minutes ago 6.92 [FT]
Reach Info Last Updated 04/25/2006 10:51 am

River Description


This stream has it's beginning at the highest point in West Virginia on Spruce Knob and spills sharply off the Allegheny Front. Unlike the waterfall-chocked and much harder upper section, this lower section offers a continuous Class -II-III slalom ride from start to finish that intermediate and higher paddlers can enjoy. The main hazard on this run is downed trees and two or three portages can be expected.

Putin along the county road 33-3 (a gravel road that turns south off state highway 55/33). There are pullouts along the way and there is a backcountry access at the trailhead where the creek turns away from the road. White Run, a rarely run Class IV adventure, continues along the road. The creek parallels the gravel road for the first 1 1/2 miles and the rapids are fairly continuous Class II to III ledge slides. The eddies are few, both because this is a small and steep stream and because some sections still reflected manmade channelizing following 1985 floods.

When the creek turns East, look for the first strainers in a bend that tends to pick up wood. Just below here you will encounter the first large Class III drop. This double ledge requires a careful line between offset and wide hydraulics. Below here you will encounter several easier ledge slides and hydraulics that give this section a roller coaster fell. As you approach the hamlet of Onego, begin looking for a pool above the biggest rapid on the creek. This Class III should be scouted the first time, as it requires a tight line between two beefy holes. Below here you will encounter additional hydraulics before the creek crosses under Route 55/33.

The rapids now tend toward chute drops with large eddies on the right or left. But things stay busy. When you can see Seneca Rocks in the distance you are in the final stretch of the run. There is an old 2 foot dam about 1 mile from the takeout that was best run on the right in 2001. From here, the water is primarily Class II boogie water.

Takeout either at the Route 28 bridge in Seneca Rocks or just downstream at the Seneca Rocks Recreation Area parking area. In both instances, be careful not to blow by your intended beachead. There is supposed to be a bridge gauge on the Route 28 bridge but this author and several paddling companions never could find it from land or water. It may have been covered by debris. Still, a visual inspection is sufficient for determining flow. Check this out only during extremely wet periods. The Petersburg gauge, as noted above, should be at least 4 feet and should probably be rising or at least steady.

Rapid Descriptions

Comments

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Mike Noud
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7 years ago

Ran it on 02/21/2011. We put in right above the confluence with Whites Run. There was one strainer/portage just around the corner from that, followed quickly by a nuisance strainer that you could brute force through. Other than that no real strainers of consequence and a really fun run. There was the occasional piece of wood to be seen, but all easily avoidable. Exercise caution at higher levels because a few of these were duck-unders at levels around minimum, and could be problems with a lot more water.

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Stephen J. Ettinger
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10 years ago

This is a really terrific paddle, with nice scenery and an interesting variety of rapids. The first ledge is perhaps the trickiest, as you may not see it until it is too late, and there is a boulder right in the middle -- the best route is probably on the right. The second ledge, soon after Roaring Creek enters from the left at Onego, was easiest (altho a bit scrapey) on the left. The final ledge, Junkhouse Rapid, when you are within sight of Seneca Rocks, should also be run on the far left, to avoid a bad hydraulic. (The WV guidebook talks about a channel around this ledge, but that is no longer the case.) For a zero level, look from the downstream side under the bridge at Onego -- the tops of the white calcified marks on the middle pier, which look rather like a broken horizontal line, will be just at the waterline.

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Robert Farmer
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7 years ago

Every so often a huge log jam forms just downstream of White's Run, around the left turn, against the cliff on the right. By the time when you see it, you can't avoid it. Luckily, I found a boat-width slot, that time, when it surprised me. Hike down from the White's Run put-in to have a look before putting in.

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Robert Farmer
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11 years ago

Just to emphasize: there is a double-ledge, double-hole drop behind a boulder where I got stuck and had to swim after coming down the upper section (not really Class 3, so much, at high levels). I've usually run it on the right, but that seems, uh, unsatisfactory. Try left. And the ledge at Onego is truly terrifying at high levels. I snuck it tight right. Stay out of those holes, for sure! Also, the log jam near the top can usually be snuck without portaging if you cut left way-high above the log jam.

Summary of Gauge Readings

The above gauge correlation link is at Cabins on the North Fork of the South Branch and Seneca Creek is only part of the flow picture. Numerous observations suggest, however, that Seneca will be running if this gauge is rising toward 6 feet. You probably need more than 6 ft. on a falling gauge.

Seneca Creek only runs for short periods after heavy rains or big snowmelts. Noting when it last rained and where - the creek drains off the highest mountain in W.Va. and often gets more rain than other areas of the adjacent watershed - will improve the odds of catching Seneca.

The old gauge guidance is 4-8 feet on the Petersburg gauge. This is even rougher than Cabins.

Gauge NameReadingTimeComment
N F SOUTH BRANCH POTOMAC RIVER AT CABINS, WV
AW Gauge Info
6.92 ft 00h31m n/a
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Directions Description


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News

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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.
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Matt Muir