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Difficulty III-IV+
Length 9.4 Miles
Flow Range 6.00 - 8.00 FT
Flow Rate as of: 51 minutes ago 3.17 [FT]
Reach Info Last Updated 04/25/2006 10:40 am

River Description

If it rains hard in the Gauley/Elk watersheds, this beauty is well worth checking out. It is a delightful mix of challenging Class IV and easier drops, such as a series of fun low angle slides near the end. The scenery is stunning. Although remote, there is a rail grade on river right for emergency exit. Don't be discouraged by the writeup in the Canoeing & Kayaking WVA guidebook. It has incomplete and inaccurate information about access at both ends of the run, making it sound harder to access than it really is. Still, the run is long and even with the shortcuts described here you can count on a full day of boating. The directions below, while accurate in 2004, might change because of the shifting nature of mining roads in the area. Bring good maps and, frankly, a GPS with a map overlay is a good idea here.


The putin is located north of Erbacon (Err-Bacun) on CR 3/2, a right turn off Laurel Creek Road before crossing Laurel Creek at Erbacon. Turn left at a 3-way to stay near the creek. A good putin is at a small road pullout where the road closely follows the creek. The creek is flat here, so it's hard to judge the level. To see if the creek is running: Beyond this pullout is a left turn onto a small dirt road that runs along the creek. Drive down the dirt road a bit to a washed out ford at a smaller tributary and hike through the woods to look at the first slide rapid. If it is boatable, the rest of the creek will be.

The takeout is located where Laurel Creek runs into Sutton Lake. The guidebook mentions a campground involving 2 miles of lake paddling, but you can easily takeout river left by using a fishing access lot river left and just off Bakers Run Road and close to the Bakers Run/Centralia road intersection. You could also takeout right at the bridge, though the carry is steep and brushy. The fishing access is a small lot just off Bakers Run Rd. There is a trail that leads to the lakeshore. Hike down so you know what the takeout looks like.

To get from the putin to the takeout, you can follow the directions in the WVA book (45 minutes one way). Or, you can try this shortcut: Get back to Erbacon from the putin and head north on Laurel Creek Rd., which climbs steeply and turns to gravel. At a sharp bend in the road, take a small side road on the right that wasn't marked in 2004 but has a stop sign for traffic coming onto Laurel Creek Rd. Stay on the main road, ignoring side roads and veers that seem related to mining in the area. Eventually you will come to Centralia Road. Turn right and head for the lake (25 minutes).


The first rapid is a slide. Down the middle is easiest but might be scrapy. There is a slot move on the right guarded by a hole and undercut shelf. The next rapid is a bouldery, blind slide we ran on the right. After a couple more drops, you'll come to what the book calls Headache. This IV+ is the hardest rapid on the run. The entry is a slide with current pushing left to right. The easier line is to work left against the current and thread a slot on the left. Running down the right involves negotiation among sticky holes and between undercuts. Below here the river alternates between good III-IV action and easier stretches. There are several nice blind drops. At and below a low water bridge there is a series of long low-angle slides where the river runs fast over the bedrock. As with most small streams, be on the lookout for wood, but we only had a couple portages on our run. The gradient listed above is misleading. There are several steeper sections of the run, offset by some short flat stretches early on and a longer one near the end

Enjoy, Mark Anderson

Rapid Descriptions


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Robert Farmer
9 years ago

I just want to emphasize that the low-water bridge should be portaged. The tubes that the water passes through are very small and poorly-placed for aspirant boaters. There are no eddies close to the bridge, so try to eddy out rather far upstream, pretty much as soon as you see it.

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Robert Farmer
13 years ago

I ran this January, 2007. This is a very enjoyable run. I put in at the Post Office, but there were two logs that I needed to squeeze under, so putting in farther downstream might be better, although I felt better safety-wise with my car at the Post Office. The first two ledges are somewhat blind, but I ran them successfully on the right. After a while, you get a feel for the slides and ledges. There are rarely any obstructions at the bottoms of these ledges, but sticking to the main current is best. Usually a small change of direction will be adequate to avoid any surprises. There were two islands that had logs on the left; staying to the right at islands will help to avoid logs. There was one cross-stream log that I was not clever enough to avoid--but it did give me a good chiropractic adjustment when I slammed into it going pretty fast; I didn't even flip, although I had to chase my paddle. Most of the creek is Class 3---which is kind of unusual---but there are two places that most certainly are not. There is a Class 5-ish tree-and-log-jam against a cliff on the right in a steep, narrow section. Best to portage left, although this may not be easy. Also, toward the end of the run, after a long, moderate section, including the aforementioned midstream log, there is a large, 90-degree left turn at a large, dark corner where the creek suddenly starts dropping faster. Around the corner is a narrow slot of about 12 feet that could easily jam with logs. Best to anticipate and scout. I took out at the campground, near the entrance station, after about a half-mile paddle in fast water with nice waves on the Elk, which seemed to be the best alternative, by far, and quite enjoyable. I shuttled using my bike via Camp Creek Road on river right (logistically simple), which goes up to Amos Run upstream of Erbacon. It was 14.5 miles to Erbacon, and should take the average kayaker about a half-hour in a vehicle, depending on how fast you want to drive on dirt; I drove very slowly because my shocks were shot. Oh, and about 3/4 or so through the run, there is a low-water bridge. At low water, it's obvious; at higher levels, maybe not.

Gage Descriptions

This gauge should be viewed as an indicator. Used with knowledge of the rain pattern should yield good results, however. Although Laurel Creek is an Elk trib, the gauge is upstream on the main stem of the Elk. We ran it at 7 ft. on the Webster Springs gauge and had good water.

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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Revision #Revision DateAuthorComment
1193034 04/25/06 n/a n/a