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Difficulty I-III
Length 10.5 Miles
Gauge Elk River at Herold
Flow Range 4 - 6 FT
Flow Rate as of: 2 hours ago 4.08 [FT]
Reach Info Last Updated 04/04/2004 5:06 pm

River Description

An informal gauge is found on the pier of the Herold Bridge. Ideal conditions will show 5 blocks of stone. Current conditions are showing all 6 stone blocks @ June 7, 2001.

This section of river is included in the West Virginia Natural Streams Preservation Act. Although not included in the National Wild & Scenic Rivers Act, this section of Birch was studied in 1982 and met the criteria for induction. Local landowner indifference and lack of public land were the 2 reasons this section of Birch is not in the NWSRA. It has also been overlooked by the NRI. Currently, that situation is in the process of being remedied. Look at the website for additional information.

A take-out may be made at the bridge above Herold at 6.1 river miles.

Another take-out may be made downstream of the Herold bridge on river left. Parking is (limited) near cliff face when road starts going uphill and away from river. This makes for 7.4 river miles with some of the better class III rapids included. The take-out at Diatter Run may be made from river right or left depending on how much abuse your four-wheel drive shuttle vehicle is willing to take. If continuing from here it is an additional 6.9 miles of scenic but flat water paddling to the confluence with the Elk River.

Rapid Descriptions


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Anthony Daniel
2 years ago

the current gauge that is linked to this page is way over in webster springs. The usgs currently operates a gauge on the Birch at Herold (the takeout). On the Herold Gauge: 4 ft and below begins to get scrapey, 4.5-5.0 is good for novices, at 6 feet the rapids start to link up with one another and shore eddies become scarce. Keep your eyes open for wood on this run. The access to the river for parking by the cliff is now heavily posted with no trespassing signs. We usually park near the bridge in Herold and take out there without incident.

Gage Descriptions

This is the Webster Springs gauge on the main stem of the Elk River. Since the Birch River joins the Elk River below this gauge it can only be used as an indicator. See Description for an informal "local" gauge.


Directions Description

We have no additional detail on this route. Use the map below to calculate how to arrive to the main town from your zipcode.


No Accident Reports



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Tow Tether Danger Highlighted by Recent Accident

2019-02-25 19:53:07-05
Charlie Walbridge

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)


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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.

Rob Johnson