Marsh Fork is considered the Mainstem of the Coal River. Very scenic section, class 2-3+ when low, more class 3-4 at higher water.
Ran this section this spring solo and it was some of the most fun I have ever had on the water. It definitley deserves the class IV rating but it is very forgiving class IV. Strong boaters will never need toget out of their boats. One thing I liked was that there are numerous horizon lines that hide rapids from view but once you are over them lines are straightforward. You get the rush of running rapids semi-blind, but without the consequences. I bank scouted every drop on my first trip down and this would be the safest thing to do because of the possibilty of wood but at lower flows there would probably never be enough force behind the water so as to create a life-threatening pin situation. I ran it at 11.3 and was scraping a bit, I would say 11.6 would be easiest and that at higher flows there would definitley have to be more caution taken. One interesting rapid to note is the one right below the Peachtree Rd bridge. All the water funnels down into a bottleneck and forms a high-energy rooster tail. I got some serious air there. Great fun! Im surprised this section does not see more boater traffic, as its like a VERY forgiving Cranberry. Note: At the time I ran it this run was the hardest I had done, I have since ran the NRG, LG, and UG. The guys I paddle with ran this section and it did not impress them much. I would probably have to agree with them after the harder water that I have seen now, but I would still have to recommend this run if you have never done it.
We paddled this section Friday May 26, 2017 at 6.99 on the Ashford gauge (2990cfs). It was beefy, big waves, big holes, fairly continuous. The water was into the river banks, most rocks covered. Most all read and run. We did scout three or four spots. I would call this closer to Cl IV/very solid Class III skills needed at this level. A swim would have been long. Not for someone with poor water reading skills, more for the expert kayaker. I would recommend scouting the ' Big Drop'(the 'waterfall'). We walked it. It had multiple chewy looking holes in the approach and a huge horseshoe hole below. There may have been a line down the left but we scouted right. No pool below the drop at this level. The river was definately a fun time. I would advise small groups, however, as eddies were not plentiful but seemed to be all in the " crucial" spots. I would think this level would be blast in a raft due to all the big long wave trains. This was the first time we have run this section. Plenty of big surf waves as well. Worth a look if wanting something different or shorter. Enjoy but keep an eye out for strainers. All seemed easily avoidable. Paul
i believe 3.7 on the Ashford guage is too low to run this section... we paddled it at 4.1 and i couldn't imagine running this any lower
Would have to agree. Lowest i have been is 4.1 and it wouldnt be much fun any lower. 4.5 is a good time and at 4.8 you can get 10 foot rafts down. Am looking forward to seeing 5-6 feet for the rubber. Have some falls footage i will try to get up soon.
The Tornado gauge (AW #1444) may also be used. 11.0' Minimum to 14.0 Maximum. The minimum on the ashford ft guage is 4.05
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Typical large wave train at 2990cfs
Rapid somewhere after the 'Big Drop'
Another view of 'The Big Drop' @ 6.99 Ashford
The 'Big Drop' at 6.99@ Ashford
one of the last rapids on this section
eddie above the falls
carson wright running the falls
Troy Fultz on the Marsh Fork
Delbert Carter at the big drop
If someone gets hurt on a river, or you read about a whitewater-related injury, please report it to
American Whitewater. Don't worry about multiple submissions from other witnesses, as our safety
editors will turn multiple witness reports into a single unified accident report.
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)
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.
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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