More on the strainer alert:
The strainer that Mike Mullins referred to is still there. We were on the run for the first time and did not know how soon the Three Falls section was coming up. As mentioned, the strainer looks completely passable on the left side. But what looks like water going over the top of the strainer, actually seems to be water pillowing up on a root ball where it looks passable. Three very competent paddlers in our group wound up going under this strainer because they thought the route was open, and two of them wound up swimming. It was possible at that water level (1150cfs Elk R below Webster Springs) to limbo under the far right side of the strainer, but if the water had been any higher, that option would not have been there. As mentioned, the portage is easy.
Also- if you put on at Sugar Creek, there is another strainer to contend with shortly after the 8-10 foot ledge on the creek. There is a fallen tree extending across the river from the river right bank, and another fallen tree just behind it, extending from the river left bank. At the level listed above, it is possible to eddy out to the left of the first strainer and ferry between the two, but it is a tight move. Might be a good idea to portage this, too, if the level is any higher.
A group of 6 of us ran this on May 1 2002. GAUGE INFO We ran it at 5.8 and falling slowly on the Webster Springs gauge. The book says 5.8 is minimum and we agree. We did it at that level and had a lot of fun. But I would NOT do it at 5.7 or 5.8 and falling fast. I also ran it in the past at 6.1 and found that level to be a lot of fun also. So the guidebook suggestion of 5.8 to 6.2 I agree with on the low side...on the upper end...well that's up to you.
PUTIN. If Sugar Creek is high enough...put in on Sugar Creek. Otherwise turn around on CR 22 and go back up the hill a short distance until you quickly come to the SECOND dirt road heading downstream in reference to Sugar Creek. The first dirt road is at creek level and only goes a short distance down Sugar Creek. The second dirt road will have A BLACK MAILBOX on it. It is not a driveway. You can even see it on any WV Atlas and Gazetteer. Take it and after about 1/2-3/4 mile, you will come to the Back Fork. We drove downstream about 100-200 yards and parked in a wide spot on the road just before a church. No sweat!!
THE RIVER. Delightful to the max!! The guidebook talks about three falls (indeed the section is known as the "three falls" section. Well, they are all runnable and we ran all 8 of the 3 that we found!! We won't tell you more than that because part of our delight was coming to them and figuring out how to run them. We took at at the the Big Sycamore on river right after parking in the parking area by the footbridge to the Big Sycamore. Unfortunately as of May 2002, the Big Sycamore looks Big Sickandmore.
Robert Farmer---We ran this April 5, 2009 at 5.75/1500 at Webster Springs,and our party of 12 (mixed skill levels) passed the aforementioned strainer easily---we limboed under it. This level was quite good---low, but without much scraping, and still great fun. Every rapid was run, but the fourth ledge had no easy routes at this level (except for the hike-and-seal-launch---still fun!); more water makes this one easier. The shuttle can be run up Old Sycamore road. It's shorter, but I don't know whether it's faster---probably is faster for professional rally drivers. From Bergoo Road, take Old Sycamore Road up the hill; when you come to a T, turn Right. At a Y intersection with a church up on the hill, go Left. Go over the hill and down the other side to a little valley with a funky intersection at a paved road. Just go straight, up the dirt road. Later, take a Right at a Y intersection. Soon you come to the paved road that goes to Sugar Creek. (I think the house number is 460.) Turn Right. No high ground clearance required. My DeLorme's Atlas shows this route, albeit in tiny little red lines. I hadn't done this river for about 12 years or so, and it really is an enjoyable section. I remembered that it went by pretty quickly when I soloed it, but taking my time and doing multiple runs of some of the drops with some good people really made a nice day. The drops really are very nice, classic, even great! They can all be run multiple times, except for the third one; although, technically, someone did, with help from above, climb back up the cliff for another run, I think that risking a broken back in a fall from wet, slimy, and probably loose rocks offers a very questionable cost/benefit ratio. As for the shuttle, maybe some "local" can compare the two shuttle routes and decide which is better/faster; please post the results here.
its been about four years since i have run this sect. but if you haven't run it it is a very beautiful paddle with views around every bend. I would highly suggest paddling this sect and and it is a very easy paddle by the way.
Copied from WVWA Message Board
Strainer alert--Backfork of Elk
Posted by Mike Mullins on 3/10/2003
Approximately 200 yards b/4 first drop on "Three Falls Section of Back Fork" there is a river wide strainer. It looks like it has been there for a while, but the river left side appears to have picked up several limbs in the recent storms. Because river left side is just at water surface, at higher water, river left may be hidden and/or look passable. Its not, and probably won't be anytime soon.
There is an easy portage on river left.
6 years ago
by Chris Preperato
7 years ago
by Charles and Nancy Brabec
The Webster Springs gauge is located
27 river miles downstream of the put-in
on the mainstem of the Elk. Thus this
gauge can only be used as an
indicator. You can still have a fun time
down to levels of 5.8' but the run tends
to get better above 6.2'.
Permits are not required for this reach.
We have no additional detail on this route.
Use the map below to calculate how
to arrive to the main town from your zipcode.
Watch for wood!
Sugar Creek Ledge
3rd or 4th ledge
Ledge on Elk Back Fork
Ledge before bridge
Ledge on Sugar Creek
Last Big Ledge
Back Fork Elk
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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