Potomac, S. Branch - 5. Big Bend Campground to US220 bridge South of Petersburg

Potomac, S. Branch, West Virginia, US


5. Big Bend Campground to US220 bridge South of Petersburg (Lower Smokehole Canyon)

Usual Difficulty I-II(III) (for normal flows)
Length 16 Miles

Smokehole Canyon

Smokehole Canyon
Photo of Clare Anderson by Mark Anderson taken 06/15/01

Gauge Information

Name Range Difficulty Updated Level
usgs-01605500 2.50 - 5.50 ft I-II(III) 00h13m 2.2 ft (too low)

River Description

Most of the rapids are straightforward gentle drops over gravel and cobble bars. The most vigorous drop is called Landslide (III-) and is usually run right or right of center. The rapid was formed when part of the canyon wall on river left fell into the river. The old scar is visible high on the mountain for a considerable distance upstream.

It is a beautiful river, with steep canyons walls, usually remarkably clear water, great vistas, and fun shoals and riffles. It is often done as an overnight trip When there's enough water, this section is suitable for canoers and beginning kayakers who have competent eddy turns in their bag of tricks.

The remains of the old Royal Glen Dam is below the confluence of the North Fork. It is easily runnable in breaches far left (easiest) and center.

The earliest take-out is shortly below here on river left and is accessible from WV 28/55 (turn-off near state road maintenance garage) via River Road (CR 28/1).

Below here there is also a public boat ramp site on river right accessible from US 220 via CR 220/2.

Lat/longitude coords are approximate, from TopoZone.

StreamTeam Status: Not Verified
Last Updated: 2018-02-27 18:49:40


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.
May 27 2018 (197 days ago)
DCHooks (159993)
This section is a great open boat run. The rapids require some maneuvering but are straightforward.
At 3.5' @ the Franklin gauge, the only area we came close to swamping our loaded tandem canoe (no
bags) was at the Royal Glen dam. Run this to the left and then ferry over to the left bank to dump
and you'll be fine.
August 6 2013 (1952 days ago)
GREGG (151434)
get out and look at royal glen dam before you run it. It has changed alot, high water exposed alot
of rei-bar.
May 21 2009 (3490 days ago)
x (1)
Robert Farmer---When I said I paddled it at 3.5, that was at Franklin. The Petersburg gauge is not
really appropriate for this section.
December 12 2008 (3650 days ago)
x (1)
The Petersburg gauge is reading nearly 2 feet higher than reality. This is a real inconvenience and
is why the Petersburg to Old Fields bridge run is showing runnable even in a drought...
May 19 2006 (4588 days ago)
Andy DickDetails
A good Petersburg take-out is about 100 yards downstream of the US 220 Bridge, on river left, at a
Sanctioned WVDNR Access Site. There is no overnight parking, park in the City Park parking lot
(west side of 220, before crossing the bridge, adjacent to the DNR Access Drive). Caution, upstream
from the US 220 bridge is a class II+ to III- (depending on water level) approx. 150 yard long
rapid, Haystacks, consisting of several river wide ledges with hydraulics. At higher water levels,
the waves here can easily swamp an unbagged, open canoe.
September 8 2004 (5206 days ago)
Bruce FleckensteinDetails
Something happened to the gauge at Petersburg. It is reading much higher than it used to. I'm
guessing about 2 foot. Does anyone know what changed?

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