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Difficulty V+
Length 7.2 Miles
Flow Range 600 - 2000 CFS
Flow Rate as of: 1 hour ago 63.7 [CFS]
Reach Info Last Updated 05/16/2013 8:25 pm

River Description

For a low water video of Red Creek featuring the ZoneDogg and most of the named rapids, check out this link.

Red Creek is one of the prettiest and most remote runs in West Virginia. The gradient is very steep and there are several slides, cascades, and falls. The riverbed is unstable and loose so the run changes often after high water. There have been several changes since the hurricane of 2003, most for the better. However, a lot of new trees have fallen due to the storms of 2012 as well. Be on the lookout, there are strainers everywhere! The 2 mile hike at the start and the length of the run causes endurance to come into play. Those who are in shape and possess the skills to do the run are going to have a spectacular time!

There are two ways to access the creek via the Blackbird Knob Trail. The most popular is from Red Creek campground in the Dolly Sods. This puts you on Alder Run, a small tributary. Hike along this creek for a mile or so (paddling through the forest can be fun but generally more trouble than its worth) Eventually you reach the confluence with the main branch of Red Creek. This is when you get an idea of the flow. Local judge the level based off some of the rocks on the beach here. The first 2 miles of Red Creek are relatively easy, flowing over continuous small rapids and slides, but it is junky and there are some surprises, including the 'Pincushin' rapid. As you approach the steep section, the slides will get longer and then you will see a major tributary come in on the right. This is the Left Fork, and if you hiked in from Timberline this is where you join the main fork of the creek. This is also where the good stuff starts.

1st big Slide- Not far below the confluence, after a warm up slide you come to a large horizon line. Here the creek cascades 20-30 feet over a smooth slide lasting about 100 yards. Be prepared to get some major speed coming down this one!<br />

The Clapper- around the corner after the 1st big slide, there is a 12-15 foot falls onto a shelf with two lines. The right line is popular but its very scrapy and lots of people miss their boof and piton.  Running the clapper line on the left is fun but also jarring. set up in the main current left of center and make sure you take a boof stroke. I recommend pointing a little towards the left wall.  The impact is going to be major and it is better to take it on the hull rather than the nose of your boat!

Double Clapper- Immediately after the Clapper, there is a 15 foot cascade onto a slide. The best line is to run down the middle or slightly right of center and try to boof onto the slide. too far either direction can be a jarring hit. boat scout from the left. There is an undercut wall on the left that collects wood and needs to be avoided. below here is a maze like bouldery section that needs to be run with caution due to wood.

Red Creek  Falls- After some boat scoutable boulder drops, and you'll come to a horizon line above an easy 12 foot waterfall. There is not much of an eddy above, but most people don't scout anyways. This should be run left of center into a fairly shallow pool. The scrapy approach makes it difficult to get speed but its good to go.

SuperSlide - immediately below the falls is an -8 foot falls onto a 200+ yard  banking superslide that probably should be scouted as there are few eddies and several blind corners. This is the classic rapid on the creek, and it dovelops some big holes at higher water. At the bottom, you'll come to the pool above what used to be The Sieve. The creek used to neck down to the left with a boulder is perched right over top of the flow, creating a nasty sieve. However, the high water brought about by the hurricane in the fall of 2003 washed away all of the boulders.

The NEW Boulder Rapids - The boulders have dammed up the creek below the slide. The flow is split into several channels. The far left is an easy slide into a 6 foot boof. don't try any other lines, they are nasty. If you had a swim upstream, this is probably where your equiptment will wind up

Sieve #2 NO MORE! - About 100 yards downstream, there used to be another bad sieve that needed to be portaged. The flow has been rerouted to the left where it lines up for a sweet 6-8 foot  Mini- big Splat boof with a boulder right below. This leads into a slide that ends in a 5 foot ledge that is best run on the right and has a large hole at high water.

The Limbo NO MORE! - After some junky rapids, you will come to a slide that used to run down the left, causing you to need to duck a tree. However, the water has been rerouted to the right down an easy slide.

That Hammer Factor Drop- More boulder drops and slides take you to the top of this rapid, which is remarkably similar to Hammer Factor on the Green Narrows. Watch out for an undercut wall on the left at the top of the rapid. Start in the middle and point left. Turn back to the right slightly to punch the hole formed by a sloping, diagonal 8 foot ledge. Be careful to not drive too hard through the hole because there is an ugly undercut boulder at the bottom right.

A long slide ending in a steep diagonal double drop ledge of about 10 feet is next. At the present, there is an ugly tree below the drop with some nasty branches hanging into the water. Be careful. This puts you above the bouldery approach to Mood Ring

Mood Ring- This is probably the biggest rapid on the creek. The optional entrance drop is a boulder slot on river right that collects wood. Get out on the right here and scout. Below, is a 75 yard long twisty slide into a 15 foot falls with a shallow shelf and nasty hole at the bottom. Go off the falls right of center and make sure you take a good left boof stroke to jump the hole. There is also a far left line. Portage on the right if in doubt.

Not too far below is another double drop ledge that gets meaty at high flow

Finale Falls- Below Mood Ring, the run slowly starts to mellow out for about a mile. Just when you think that all the good stuff is behind you, you reach the Finale. This is a 12 foot falls that is best run down the middle of the right channel at low and  moderate flows, but a lot of folks opt for the "Wet Willy" sneak slide on the far left at higher flows.   Immediately after, there are two 6 foot ledges run in the middle. A super way to end a spectacular run! The remaining 2-3 miles to the takeout are made up of continuous Class 2-3, where you can finally look around and enjoy the scenery. This section has widened since the hurricane and is more scrapy and junky than before. There have been several nasty strainers in this section so take it slow and scout blind corners.


Rapid Descriptions


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Eric Brooks
5 years ago

On Dec 6, 2014 - did a med level run down Red Creek. Since we were staying at Old Timberline (behind the gate), we were able to hike in via the Valley View trail at the top of the hill (next to Timberline). The hike was easier than coming in the traditional way (via Red Creek Campground) and took us about 35 min of mostly downhill (trail 511 towards Blackbird Knob). We put on the Left Branch of Red Creek and were able to paddle the full way down to confluence which (took about 35 mins). The Left Branch was very low and scrappy but never got out of boat and no real wood issue. Once we joined main flow - all was good. Some newer wood in Clapper and some other random spots but most drops clean and fun.

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8 years ago

I'd vtenure that this article has saved me more time than any other.

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Rich Yester
9 years ago

Finally got down Red Creek last weekend. Bobby Miller's video is great, but here are a few links to the video that we managed to get from it. I hope that this helps people aspiring to get on this run, because it is a gem.

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Stewart Caldwell
14 years ago

John Warner and I ran this on June 27th. The strainers in the warmup section are still there. The steep section is pretty clean until you get to the 2nd rapid above Mood Ring (Devil's Cauldron). There is a bad tree coming out from the left bank. With good water it can be avoided on the far right, but it is a sketchy line. We talked to a group who ran it on the 26th at low water and they said there was no way to avoid it at that level. One of the members of the group swam under the tree. In the paddle out there are two staggered trees back to back a little ways below one of the Stonecoal Runs (I'm not sure if it's Big or Little) These have been here for a while and can be run starting far left to miss the first one and driving hard right to miss the second one.

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Robert Miller
16 years ago

Red Creek has changed a lot since the hurricane last year. All the sieves that needed to be portaged are gone, replaced by SIK boulder drops. There are also a lot of new trees in the run. Be careful!

Gage Descriptions

Red creek Rain gauge is the best early indicator. Driving to the take out and evaluating the flow or studying the marks on the downstream river right side of the bridge is another way to see what the creek is doing.  If the Blackwater at Davis is rising towards the 1000 cfs range or if the Dry Fork is running over 3000 cfs, you should have a good level on Red Creek. Red Creek runs almost as much as the North Fork of the Blackwater, but it can get really high then usually drops out really fast, so you need to get in within hours of rain, but don't put on late in the day. Morning after a storm runs are generally low water. Remember, the good section will fun even when the creek is low. The miles of portaging and picky boogy water to get to the good section and at the end of the run will be where you'll scrape and bang. If it looks like it is passable at the takeout, then it should be good to go. if there are waves, its going to be a juicy level. If you can paddle down Alder run, you are also in for a high water. When you reach the confluence of Alder Run and Red Creek, you can gauge the flow from some rocks on the beach. Generally, rocks out of the water is low. rocks covered is high  If you hike in from Timberline, The Left Fork of Red Creek is a really fun warm up if its high enough to paddle, and you drop in right at the good stuff.

Directions Description

 The take out is on Laneville Rd. Coming from Davis on Highway 32 take the sharp left turn as you decend out of Canaan Valley, and follow signs to Dolly Sods. you'll wind around for a while then drive up along the creek until you reach a bridge. Local paddlers have a guage on the downstream river right bridge abutment. Park  accross the bridge or in the parking lot by the cabins. The road, now called the Dolly Sods Road, turns to dirt and heads up the hill along the South Fork. After a few miles, the road splits. make a left through the forest service gate and drive a few more fun miles (careful on the curves) until you reach Red Creek Campground,and/or the Blackbird Knob trail.  The trail from the campground is tricky to follow initially, but once your on Blackbird Knob Trail its mostly downhill through a streambed until it crosses Alder run, and eventually reaches the main fork. Most people just hike/scrape along Alder Run to the confluence.

If the gate is closed, you can A) hike from there, or B, drive back past the take out, back up 32 to the Valley, and try to talk your way into the gated community at Timberline. If you can get up to Valley View Drive, hike up over the berm, turn right, then (I think) left and follow the Blackbird Knob Trail  until you reach the Left Fork. A guide is highly recommended, especially if Its snowing.

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article main photo

Cheat Canyon Settlement Reached; Land Set Aside for Endangered Species

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.

Robert Miller


Geoff Calhoun


Revision #Revision DateAuthorComment
1193090 05/23/04 Robert Miller n/a
1198103 08/26/10 Robert Miller Added a video 8/26/10
1199811 04/13/11 Robert Miller added hyperlink for video
1202134 05/14/13 Geoff Calhoun
1202184 05/14/13 Geoff Calhoun updated recommended flows
1202187 05/16/13 Geoff Calhoun
1202185 05/14/13 Geoff Calhoun