Little Stony Creek - Cascades to USFS Parking Area (GILES County)

Little Stony Creek, Virginia, US


Cascades to USFS Parking Area (GILES County)

Usual Difficulty IV-V(V+) (for normal flows)
Length 1.6 Miles
Avg. Gradient 350 fpm
Max Gradient 600 fpm


Photo of N/A by Alex Zendel taken 05/17/04 @ Way low

River Description

This creek, not to be confused with Little Stony Creek of Scott County, is reminiscent of Upper Big Creek in the Smokies and the North Fork of the Tye, VA, but slightly lower in volume. If you?ve driven to the area to catch Bottom Creek (which I haven?t had the chance to catch myself) and it?s running too high, this creek will probably be a good contingency plan. Just over two inches of rain had fallen at iFlows gauges #1008,1011, and 1012 (see below) in the previous 24 hours before I started the rather short and well worth it hike up this creek on May 18, 2003. The leaves were out, but there was more than a sufficient amount of water. As you start the hike, watch the creek. The series of drops just upstream of the parking lot will give you a good idea of what the upper stretches of your hike will reveal. There was a single log in the bottom drop of this series that made it very sketchy to run any part of the series - the micro-eddies that existed didn’t seem easy to catch; it’s one long, Colorado-style rapid.

When you reach the first bridge, cross the creek - this route will give you a better scout than the river right trail. From the bridge, the view of the upstream reaches may make you reconsider hiking the next 1.5 miles. That view is deceiving; it’s a good glimpse at the boogey water that you’ll find between the rapids that resemble the one you had just passed. About 1/2 mile upstream of the bridge, you’ll reach the second series of notable class V drops. Another 200 yards of hiking will lead you to what's probably the biggest rapid of the run. It's long, complex, gushy and steep with the water pushing into an undercut on the bottom right. Hiking further up the trail, you’ll pass more boogey water and then the trail will lead away from the creek. When you see the creek again, you’ll reach some more of the bigger rapids. But soon you’ll find fun looking rapids that are not as scary, but very long. When you reach the third bridge, the site of the creek will make you’re heart stop. The cataract found there looks like a creeky version of the lower drop of the Big Sandy’s Big Splat with no clean line at all. I call this drop Darwin. Make sure you start portaging well above this drop, as there are few eddies above it. Above this madness is another class V boulder garden and hiking a short distance above this will lead you to “The Cascades” a 50-foot(?) multi-tiered unrunnable but picturesque drop. The topo map makes it look like there’s more steep, possibly-virgin booty above the Cascades.

When I was on my way down the creek, I’d frequently get out of my boat to scout and would have to bush-whack for about 10-15 minutes before I found an eddy that I was confident that I could catch. When I was back in my boat, it typically took 30-45 seconds to paddle what I had just spent a lot of time scouting. But I found that the fun rapids justified the low on-river to scout-time ratio. If you like tight, continuous, steep and complex creek boating, put your boat on your shoulder and hike up this creek. If we could pull about 4 logs out of this run, it would be entirely runnable from the Cascades to the parking lot, with the exception of Darwin. Personally, I'd never run it without portaging at least two of the really long and steep sequences. Below the parking lot the gradient apparently mellows out and as you drive downstream you can see at least two reaches where the creek splits into two channels that look very boney even when the upper reaches are running. As far as I know, there is no definitive gauge for this creek. If the stretch of the creek just upstream of the parking lot and the section just above the first bridge look runnable, put on your boat on your shoulder. At lower levels, I can see how the boogey water would quickly become boney water. And although there is a good amount of class III-IV boogey water on this run, I think most hair boaters will find it to be a pretty fun creek. Because this run is entirely contained by public USFS land, it’s theoretically legal to run and you shouldn’t encounter any gun-toting locals that are found on other Virginia creeks.

To access the creek take US 460 west out of Blacksburg to the small town of Pembroke (careful about you’re speed here - heavily patrolled). Then take a right onto Route 623 at the sign for “The Cascades” and follow it until it dead-ends at the USFS parking area. There is a parking fee of $2 so make sure you have some small bills. To access the iFlows website, click this link: Then click on VA, then Giles County. As far as I know, there is no nearby, online USGS stream gauge that may have a good correlation to Little Stony. If anybody has any additional information about this creek that they want to share, please feel free to email me I’ll post it here. The lat/long of the put-in is roughly the point where I put-on. The gradient calculations were based on a 1:24,000 scale USGS quad -- it reports that a 490 meter stretch drops 200 feet (my max gradient calculation). But these quads are sometimes inaccurate. There could be more runnable whitewater above ‘The Cascades’.

UPDATE - LOTS OF NEW WOOD. We ran this strech just after Tropical Storm Bill brought some summer creeking to the Southeast in June 2003. We found a good amount of new wood, making about three or four more of the good drops unrunnable. As my paddling partner for the day put it, "It's almost not worth the effort" of hiking your boat up to the put in - we carried our boats up the creek and then carried them a lot of the way back down. I still had fun.

UPDATE – MOST OF THE WOOD IS GONE! I hiked this creek with my parents on May 18, 2004 and most of the wood has apparently washed out! Somebody (the forest service?) removed one log that could only be removed with the power of chainsaw – one of the best uses of my tax dollars I’ve seen in a while.

StreamTeam Status: Verified
Last Updated: 2004-05-26 21:46:00


Rapid Descriptions

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User Comments

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November 16 2018 (23 days ago)
Eric ChanceDetails
There is a usgs gauge on this run now!,00060,62620,62614
Runnable Range: 3 - 5.5 Good Medium: 4 High runnable if its over: 4.75 It has wood in it but the
wood situation is reasonable now - You can make a run from the falls down with usually only about 2
portages (one is mandatory around an unrunnable drop). There are a few logjams but they are
generally making their way downstream. Just pay attention on the hike up because the wood is always
shifting around. It's comparable to Upper Big Creek in NC/TN.
March 20 2010 (3186 days ago)
danielh1 (151444)
A recent attempt to remove or alter some of the deadlier strainers on Little Stony was brought to a
screeching halt on Friday 19 March 2010. After a chain email advertising the event was sent out to
the VT Kayak Club, some unnamed persons on the club listserve notified Trout Unlimited (TU), Dept.
of Game and Inland Fisheries(DGIF) and the Forest Service(USFS). The sponsors of the event were
contacted personally and threatened with severe police and legal action if the event were to
proceed. Further research found that the vast amounts of the ill-placed and dangerous strainers on
the creek were intentionally dropped into the creek to create larger pools and cover to enhance
trout fishing. Apparently, TU has paid the forest service over thirty-six thousand dollars
($36,000) to 'enhance' this streambed and make long sections of class IV and V virtually unrunnable
and many other sections extremely dangerous to run. TU currently has a grant for one mile of creek
bed and is planning on buying even more of the creek. They have also convinced the USFS that this
particular streamed is not considered a "navigable waterway" in the legal sense of the term. Prompt
action by the boating community MUST be taken by the local and broader boating community to prevent
another Chattooga debacle.
January 8 2009 (3623 days ago)
x (1)
I hiked with a couple friends to the "Upper Cascades" another nice waterfall very high up in the
gorge and near the headwaters. This is more of a cascades then the better known falls at the
bottom. We drove to the top of the mountain, took a dirt forestry road across the mtn tops and
parked at a nature conservancy trail. This is the same trail to reach "Bernie's Wall". On the way
down bear left on the trail instead of going to Bernies Wall and you will be walking down the mtn
on a nice wide ATV trail, which eventually turns to a single track at the bottom where you reach
the stream. From what i understand the trail goes all the way down to the popular cascades. But
where the trail converges with the creek you will find the upper cascades that appears runnable
with sustantial water. There is alot of gradient from here down to the popular cascades and may be
virgin stretch. If you want to find it i suggest a DeLorme and some exploring. If I remember i will
put up some directions to the upper trail and some pictures. John.
January 15 2006 (4711 days ago)
Eli RenDetails
Eric Oconnell and I attempted to run this creek at a decent flow, but we elected not to hike any
further up the trail when we realized how much wood was in the stream bed. Aparently the forest
service had cut down all the trees they concidered a safety hazard... they just happened to lay
them directly in the stream bed, which means mandatory portage fest. To give you an idea of just
how much wood there was, I am a good boater and was able to ramp over and skirt around and under
many logs, and I still spent about as much time walking around truely unpassable strainers as I did
in my boat. If you are desperate for some boating, there is a pretty fun 100yd section adjacent to
the parking lot. Just walk up the creek untill you start seeing strainers, and don't bother walking
any further. I don't even know if it is leagal to cut wood out of this section, but it will take
allot of work untill this section is worth running again. It's a worthy project if anyone is
willing to look into it, but untill then, don't bother.
Peace, Eli

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