Tygart Valley - 5. Above Arden to Big Cove Run

Tygart Valley, West Virginia, US


5. Above Arden to Big Cove Run (Arden)

Usual Difficulty III-V (for normal flows)
Length 8 Miles
Avg. Gradient 35 fpm
Max Gradient 50 fpm

Moats Falls

Moats Falls
Photo of Erik Jenkins by Tom Uhlman

Gauge Information

Name Range Difficulty Updated Level
usgs-03054500 800 - 10000 cfs III-V 00h49m 538 cfs (too low)

River Description

The first 5 miles are roadside with multiple access/egress points, excellent inter to advanced training grounds and play. The lower 3 miles include 1-mile lake paddle out when at summer pool level. At winter pool, rapids extend to the take-out on right at Cove Run (very muddy take-out in wet conditions). Cove Run take-out is reached by driving up Teter Creek to bridge, across bridge and left, cross mountain and left along Cove Run down to a public-access boat ramp. The lower section is isolated with emergency take-out on the trail that runs along river right. Wells Falls can munch the foolish above 6 ft Philippi!!

The rapids descriptions and class ratings are given from the perspective of an advanced but somewhat conservative kayaker with river levels between 1500 cfs and 3000 cfs USGS Philippi.
StreamTeam Status: Verified
Last Updated: 2003-10-02 02:39:47

Rapid Summary

Mile Rapid Name Class Features (Legend)
0.0Arden GardenIIIPutin
0.5The LedgeIII
1.0Galloway BeachIIIPlayspot
2.0Laurel Creek Rapid
4.0Moats FallsIII+Waterfall
6.0Rough Run RodeoIIIPlayspot
6.5Two Rights and a WrongII+
7.0Well’s Falls5.0
7.5Another Little Nasty HoleIIIPlayspot
8.0Cove Run RapidIIITakeout

Rapid Descriptions

Arden Garden (Class III)
The run at Arden starts at the blue bridge in Arden proper, though a 2-mile novice run can be accessed upstream by starting at what locals call “Lovers’ Lane.” Just upstream of the bridge put-in there's a sweet, 30-ft wide, warm-up ledge-hole. Sliding under the bridge commences a run through Arden Garden (Cl III) , a straightforward slalom course with several chutes to choose from. Halfway down on the left lies a good ledge-hole with auto-return eddy. Surf away. The course runs out via an easy wave train and the only hazard is a large slab pourover 15 ft downstream of the left side play hole. Shortly down from Arden Garden the boater will find another 30-ft wide vertical ledge hole just right of center. This hole is nice and sticky until it washes over and the left edge provides some interesting squirt possibilities.

The Ledge (Class III, Mile 0.5)
Things pick up a notch with The Ledge, a 2-part rapid that starts out with easy class II waves split by a boulder left of center. Run either side and eddy out behind this boulder to set up a fun little glassy wave surf just below. From here a strong wave train is bordered on the right by a slab pourover squeezing the river over to the left and into a large pool above the 2nd part, which names the rapid. The Ledge (CL III) is a slide into a 4-ft drop and hole on the right or a steeper, bit of gnarl into a set of narrow holes and then a 2-ft ledge and hole on the left. The routes are split by a 25-ft wide and sweet hole at the top. Run the right over a curl wave. Be careful where you go over the bottom left at higher levels as this ledge drop is more vertical in nature and recirc is possible.

Galloway Beach (Class III, Mile 1.0)
Next up is a no-name class-II rapid with a good "creek" route on the right and an easy, open route on left. In the pool below this drop look downstream for a large, egg-shaped rock that marks the entrance to Galloway Beach Rapid (CL III). A solid 3/4 of the river flows to the left of this egg, picks up speed and drives right into first Harry's Hole and , 12 ft later, Hubbard's Hole. Harry's is deep and 6 ft wide. Dynamic surfs are waiting here for those skilled enough to avoid washing out either edge. A river-left bank eddy allows easy inspection. Hubbards is wide and rodeo quality with fine eddies on both sides (the Morgantown boys are gonna kill me for lettin their secret out). Spins, wheels, pick yer poison. From here, the runout provides several other play opportunities. Two inline rocks at the bottom split the flow with both routes uncluttered.

Laurel Creek Rapid
The Tygart now bends left and Laurel Creek enters from the right giving the next rapid its name. Laurel Creek Rapid (CL III) is a long, open tumbledown with many routes available to the adventurous. Several pourovers lie 1/2 way down and create catch-on-the-fly pops and squirts at certain levels. The pool below this rapid contains an easy takeout for those not prepared for class-IV water.

Deception (Class III+, Mile 2.5)
From here the Tygart ramps up thru the next 5 rapids and things can get serious at high flows. The fun starts with Deception (Cl III+), so named for the powerful pair of offset holes hidden below a placid horizon line. Multiple routes exist but most paddlers elect to catch the left eddy just above the 1st hole and ferry to the right below the 1st and above the 2nd. The 1st hole is not only powerful, but also bordered by rock on the right and turned upstream on the left. If you drop into this hole be sure to write "what the f&%!" on the rock as yer gettin shaded. The 2nd hole is somewhat more forgiving. The 1st hole can be boofed to the right of the rock for those so inclined. Downstream from here you'll notice how the wavetrain run-outs are getting some pop to them. Watch out for the fat pourover hole right of center.

Undercut (Class IV, Mile 3.0)
Undercut Rapid (CL IV) lurks below to punish the overconfident and reward the skilled. Just off the right bank a large, rounded boulder marks the entrance to this exercise in heavy water. Passing this rock will reveal: 1-two successive riverwide1 ft ledges with holes that are anywhere from nicely surfable at reasonable flows to "honey where did the bus go" at high water. 2-A third, higher ledge with a powerful hole not to be messed with at any strong flow. 3-A center route to the to the right of said hole and through a break in said ledge or 4-A sweeping right route into another ledge drop and hole. All this sets you up for the finale, getting past the undercut rock at the bottom. This rock is undercut parallel to the rivers flow and thus does not trap debris or boats. Ending up under this rock may be humbling but it's not deadly. Severely complicating this endeavor is the major, chute wide hole just above the rock itself. Fortunately there is a sweet tongue on the right 5 ft of the drop that is easily lined up by staying on the right edge of the main flow and curving into the drop to avoid getting "shot" into the undercut. When the river’s flow covers this last ledge all across the riverbed, paddlers may want to scout and run the left-tongue ferry below the hole and above the rock. It looks scary but it's really one of those "just drift with the right angle" kind of moves. The whirlpool run-out created by the 2 routes provides major squirt fun.

Premonition (Class IV+, Mile 3.8)
Following is a 350-yd-long pool bisected by a class I rapid and ending at Premonition (Cl III/IV), so named because it warns of Moats Falls 100 yds below. Run Premonition close to the right bank and into, or just slipping by, the old "hard-left diagonal bouncing off a rock" routine. The wide dropout in the middle of the main flow creates the most dangerous recirc on this section and can be deadly at higher levels.

Moats Falls (Class III+, Mile 4.0)
Moats Falls is truly photo-quality stuff. A massive rock formation sits out in the main flow with a natural rock bridge enabling the local crowd to walk right out to party stage center. Paddling under this rock bridge to run the undercut right side falls route is possible only at low flows when enough clearance exists to duck under the bridge. This bridge is right at the top of a 5 ft tumble with powerful current underneath. Don't let it catch you by surprise unless you love gettin yer face peeled. For those dedicated to stiff creek routes it's possible to get out on the party rock, carry over to a seal launch back into the pool above the gnarly, undercut fandango run down the right. Very few boaters are interested in doing this much above 1000 cfs but hey, it's your head--right?! The far left side tumble down the falls has been done once that I'm aware of, resulting in a separated shoulder. The left-side major slide into a right curler and over a heavy 10-ft drop is now being done by Great Falls DC types with serious hair on their backsides. Missing the line here could be disastrous as the middle of the drop harbors a fat pinning rock 2 ft off the fall. Big air is a necessity wherever you launch or the hole will bleach yer bones. All that leaves us with the easiest route, right over the center of the falls in a 14-ft clean drop. As you enter the easy wave train slide to the drop, look for a roostertail created by a crack in the falls and go right of the rooster. Just to the right makes the launch straight vertical while slipping farther to the right puts the boater in more of a slight slide over the drop. A class-V photo opportunity in a class-III drop. Big fun.

Aperitif (Class III, Mile 4.5)
Immediately below the falls is Aperitif (Cl III), a 4-ft tumbledown with 4 distinct routes. The far left is a fine ferry down into strong cross-currents, stay high on the tongue to avoid the pinning rock on bottom right. The center route is open and straightforward. The line next over to the right harbors a log which has broken glass boats and trapped a kayaker between it and a rock shelf that’s exposed at lower levels. Beware!! The far right route is generally available only to those who have run the right side gnarl line mentioned at Moats Falls.

Classic (Class III+, Mile 5.0)
Following a short pool an unnamed class II/III rapid is split by a river center rock. Both lines around the rock are clean and the eddy behind it slips out into a short green chute piling down into a strong but shallow hole. The horizon line ahead belongs to Classic (Cl III/IV), a very aptly named maelstrom. Most of the river’s flow shifts left of center then pounds downhill into waves that seemingly break in every direction. Classic is one of those strange rapids that actually get easier as the volume increases. At low flows it’s a tight and technical scramble around and/or over rocks humped up all over the place, class IV and no place for roll practice. At high flows it’s actually less vertical and becomes a massive train of breaking waves, class III and good to go. This rapid is easily runnable at levels that turn the drops upstream into nightmares. A couple words of caution for low-water runs: the left bank is undercut, though I’ve never seen anyone end up over there. Right of the described line the river drops into a very mean hole bordered by downstream rock. Far over on the right bank is what looks like an easy sneak chute which, naturally, holds the obligatory pinning rock just below the surface. More than one boater has discovered how unsafe this “sneak” really is. Whereas many of the rapids in this run offer various routes, Classic really offers only one. Just go with the flow and keep yer braces handy. Most boaters take out below Classic and avoid the next 2 miles of easy rapids and flat pools unless they are planning on doing the entire run to the Cove Run takeout on Tygart Lake.

Hemorrhoid (Class II, Mile 5.5)
The next rapid below Classic is Hemorrhoid. This long shoals marks paddling zero for everything between here and the next bridge. Between here and that bridge are 2 fairly long pools split by a class-II rapid.

Rough Run Rodeo (Class III, Mile 6.0)
Teter Creek enters from the right just below the bridge and this puts the paddler at the top of Rough Run Rodeo, named by guides of Rough Run outfitters, the first rafting company to offer commercial trips here. RRO became a casualty of the ’85 WV floods when the owner was bought out by Appalachian Wildwater. RRR (Cl III) offers a very fine glassy wave with just enough break to keep you on. This wave is near the left bank and a sweet auto-return eddy lies close to the remains of an old stone bridge abutment. The curving runout offers more catch-on-the-fly surfing.

Two Rights and a Wrong (Class II+, Mile 6.5)
Following a longish pool another unnamed class-I rapid ends with a microcreek pouring in through rocks on the bottom left. Look up through the clearing to spy a 15-ft waterfall. At the end of another long pool the cliffs on river left mark the entrance to Two Rights and a Wrong (Class II/III). Failing to take the Rights tends to leave the boater in rock jumbles with no easy entry back to the main river. Both drops are through ledges with pourover squirt play on the sides of each chute. After the 2nd Right feeds back to a right curve in the river, look for an excellent, catch-on-the-fly hole river center and still another hole at the bottom left just off a large boulder. The river is fairly spread out here so these holes are only “in” at higher levels. At the bottom of the next pool the river seems to dead-end in rock. Just above this dead end, a trickling sound from the right will reveal a small creek entering through rocks. A short hike up this creek will bring you to a beautiful grotto with a 6-ft waterfalls you can walk behind. Stand in the pool and take a bath if you can handle the cold creek water.

Well’s Falls (Class 5.0, Mile 7.0)
At the aforementioned dead end, the entire river actually makes a 90-degree left turn to enter Well’s Falls, possibly the most amazing rapid in the entire Tygart system. Look for a thick breaking wave just off of a large rock on the right. Eddy out behind this rock to see what you are about to get into, but be aware this eddy ends in a nasty pinning slot and don’t let the scenery distract you. Well’s Falls is named for its abundance of natural potholes or “wells” in the bedrock formation. Sliding past the eddy the entire river necks way down and screams into an awesome diagonal wave before turning 90 degrees back to the right and then pounding down a huge tongue into a megahole big enough to swallow your entire family tree. Hitting this hole at anything above low water is akin to faceplanting a soft brick wall. Backenders are instantaneous and dynamic. Fortunately there is just too much river slamming into this monster for water to recirc more than 4 or 5 seconds and you can actually see it cycle back and forth from “your ass is mine” to “I’m gonna let you blow through this time, suckah.” Most paddlers try to hit the diagonal wave on its raised left edge and track to the left on the tongue to slip to the left of the hole in very funky water. Some make it, some don’t. Those that do end up blasting just to the right of an overhanging aircraft carrier rock and, when the volume is high enough to wash up on that rock, possibly riding down through the curtain pouring off it’s side whilst glimpsing the cavern underneath. SWEEET!!! If you hit the hole, get mucho air before impact as you might be down there for a while.

Another Little Nasty Hole (Class III, Mile 7.5)
At summer pool on Tygart Lake this marks the end of the whitewater and the beginning of a 2/3-mile flatwater paddle to Cove Run takeout. At winter pool however, 3 more rapids fill most of the distance to the take out. The 1st is named Another Little Nasty Hole. This hole might be nasty but it ain’t small. You can beat it to the left or go hit it and see how many ends you can get. Just make sure yer gills are fully functional.

Unnamed (Class III, Mile 7.7)
Below here is a short pool ending in an unnamed Class III rapid with great surfing holes, especially in the bottom-right chute. Enjoy.

Cove Run Rapid (Class III, Mile 8.0)
Lastly the river runs through a winding class-III rapid that leaves ample evidence of the lake’s power to emaciate good whitewater. The banks are now high and muddy. The Cove Run takeout will be either wet and slippery or dry and slippery if these last 2 rapids aren’t buried. The mud is the price extracted for not having to paddle lake water. If you can find a way to scramble up Cove Run Creek to higher ground you might save yourself some grief. Gotta love it!! Rapids descriptions by StreamKeeper Paul Herring.

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