Sovern Run - Co. Rd. 14-3 to Rockville

Sovern Run, West Virginia, US


Co. Rd. 14-3 to Rockville

Usual Difficulty IV-V (for normal flows)
Length 0.82 Miles
Avg. Gradient 325 fpm
Max Gradient 500 fpm

Sovern Falls

Sovern Falls
Photo of Jim Warlick by Matt Muir (KHCC) taken 02/04/01 @ low

Gauge Information

Name Range Difficulty Updated Level
usgs-03070500 8.00 - 12.00 ft IV-V 00h31m 7.01 ft (too low)

River Description

This small Big Sandy tributary has, as well as the ubiquitous downed logs every ten feet, a history of Acid Mine Drainage. Click here to read of Friends of the Cheat's successful project to improve Sovern Run! (Clicking will open a new browser window.)

From a post to

Creekin' Sovern Run Style!
November 26, 1999
Craig and Dave

Sovern Run begins on the hill high above Rockville, West Virginia, by meandering through a farm and cow pasture before making its approximate 200+ foot-per-mile descent to the Big Sandy. The cow pasture explains the bad taste of the creek but does it have anything to do with the class V rating! If you don't like 'em steep, narrow, slot filled, and hard to scout, go no further than reading this description or maybe driving beside it on the way to Rockville.

Craig and I scouted most of the run before deciding if we could/should run it. Starting at the bottom and working up river, nothing appeared too difficult until we reached the first rapid. Long and steep with 3 linked moves and no way to stop between them. A missed line could result in anything from a pin to a major loss of skin or emergency room visit. The line was complicated and not runnable, due to an unavoidable log sticking in the crux of the second move. Well, at least that was the case until "Hercu-Craig" was able to move the log. The pending reality of running this rapid made my heart start to pound. It's one of those times when you know you are good enough but also know you can get hurt if you make a mistake. Few words were spoken as we dressed, a sure sign that we were undertaking something serious. After putting on, you have no warm-up. 50 feet and 2 micro-eddies later, you sit at the point of commitment. "You going?, I'll go, You going?." I reviewed the line in my head. Over a ledge, close to an undercut, don't get shoved under the bank, down a slide missing the log, duck under the vines before going over the final ledge. After watching me survive the rapid, Craig ran a much cleaner line.

The drops continued as a mix of sliding boofs, small ledges, cascades, and long slides. Some of the more memorable rapids include one starting with a fifty-foot bolder dodging section then you had to crank hard towards the left shore. Now at the shoreline, you had to do a sliding boof down a sloped rock to miss a piton. Another section I called the "Bobsled" constricted the creek to 4' wide. Here the creek bed was smooth and contained no boulders. Sweet ride! Towards the bottom there was a drop that contained a double boof. Boof of the ledge, then boof again half way down. Miss the second boof and you will piton!

After paddling with a person for a while you develop your own communication system. In addition to our own, we do utilize the universal river signals, such as a paddle held straight up means all clear and go straight down the center. Sitting at the top of a very steep section I saw the “vertical paddle.” Cool, I peeled out and committed to my line. Half way through the drop I spotted Craig pinned at the bottom using that “vertical paddle” for stability. Ooops! I guess that wasn't the “all clear” sign. "Are you pinned?!#?" I screamed while heading for him like a missile. Just then, my days of watching Tarzan came to our rescue. There was a vine hanging across the river just upstream of Craig. Next thing I knew, I was swinging from the vine in the middle of a drop to avoid the “bow-to-sternum pin extraction technique”. You can usually only apply that technique 1 time between hospital visits. Fortunately, the misinterpreted all-clear sign was enough to free Craig.

Our trip continued: scout. Paddle. Scout. Paddle. We took turns leading down the drops and numerous slides. Three drops from the end there was a ledge that we decided to carry. We were disappointed but safe. The left line had an unavoidable piton and the right line was full of logs. At higher water you could probably boof the logs in the right slot.

After a series of boat-grinding slides and about 2 hours and 50 minutes into our 1-mile trip (remember scouting is hard!), Craig was feeling tired. I scouted the next horizon line as he stayed in his boat. After picking a line I came back to relay what I had seen. "Cross the horizon 1/3 in from the left shore with a little right hand angle". Having a previous good experience following a line based on verbal description only, he trusted my description and went first before I got on my skirt. Cresting the lip of the drop, and finding himself ½ of the way in (not 1/3), he began to curse me under his breath. I had underestimated the height of the drop. Not the 6' or 8' I had thought but rather 12' or 14' (he still argues more) onto rock. He described it as going off Wonder Falls knowing that you are going to land on rock. "This is going to hurt", he told himself while being launched airborne off a ramp on the right side. Still not knowing my error, I approached but got redirected from below. "This sure looks big" I thought. Finally in the pool below, I looked up to see the cabin signaling an end to our personal first descent.

Join us on another Creekin' adventure following the next big rain!

We have compiled this list of tips to assist you in case you decide to attempt Sovern Run in the future.

1) Don't drink the water unless you don't mind using cow chips as tea bags
2) Running your predetermined line doesn't always make it a good line
3) Coat your boat in a Teflon wrapper or better yet, borrow a friend’s
4) No more than 3 people per group
5) Look before you leap, wood, vines, and pitons are always a danger
6) Always boof even if you don't think you need to

Please don't swim in the creek!
Dave Woten

StreamKeeper Note: 4/14/2005 - the rock at the bottom of Sovern Falls has now moved clear of the runout. The pinning log in the Triple Slot drop is still there. The wood situation is better than average.

StreamTeam Status: Verified
Last Updated: 2005-05-24 11:33:11


Rapid Descriptions

icon of message No rapids entered. If you know names, and locations of the rapids please contact and advise the StreamTeam member for this run.

User Comments

Users can submit comments.
April 21 2011 (2832 days ago)
Rich YesterDetails
Broke my boat on this one last weekend, but I'm not mad at it. Here is some video from several
years ago.!/video/video.php?v=1249760961450&comments&set=t.1152243703&type=1 And one
from this year from a friend.