This photo needs editing.
Difficulty III-IV
Length 1.5 Miles
Gauge N/A
Flow Range
Reach Info Last Updated 11/14/2010 2:53 pm

River Description

Locals have been running this one since the mid to late '90s, but it runs so infrequently that it has remained mostly unknown outside the New River Valley. Many runs in VA are kept secret by those "in the know" to protect access, but since this one is squarely in the Jefferson National Forest I see no reason not to let this one out of the bag.

Dismal Creek is a small creek with its headwaters forming along the Appalachian Trail as it heads down Sugar Run Mountain. The run is short, only 1.5 miles of worthwhile rapids. Multiple easy access points from the (unnamed) forest service road that follows the creek make it an easy "choose your own adventure" high water alternative for folks in the area. Dismal Falls can make a nice "park and huck" while headed to or returning from other area rivers.

The nature of the streambed and its rapids remind me a lot of a smaller version of the Tellico in TN. There are a few technical boulder rapids, some easier class II-III boogie and two bigger bedrock ledges. For the most part it is class III+ with a few places warranting at class IV rating (Dismal Falls being one of them). However, this creek has a lot of wood in its fairly small streambed and some badly placed wood could easily create class V hazard.

If anyone else has pictures please add them. If anyone knows more named rapids or has any additional information, please post comments or e-mail me to let me know.


Lat/longitude coordinates are approximate, to get the intrepid paddler into the ballpark.

Rapid Descriptions


Class - Mile - 0
Rapid Thumbnail Missing
Use one of the many roadside pull-offs and hike down the bank.

Dismal Falls

Class - IV Mile - 0.5
Rapid Thumbnail Missing

Second Ledge

Class - III+ Mile - 0.7
Not long after you leave dismal falls you will approach another horizon line. This is a simple 5' ledge, go anywhere but far left where the water goes into some pin rocks and trees. I've also heard the ledge can have a bad hole at really high flows.

Take Out

Class - Mile - 1.5
Rapid Thumbnail Missing


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John Gannon
10 years ago

This thing really does take a lot of water to run. The ground was already saturated and the rain gage in the area recorded about 2" of rain and the falls were at a good boatable flow. Everything else we drove by on the way was up in the trees. This is a really fun drop though, the approach looks like it would be shallow and scrapy but it isn't bad at all. Only downside is if you managed to swim or miss the eddies on either side right after the falls it'd likely be a good long while before you or your boat would find a nice eddy.

No Gage

Gage Descriptions

This one takes a LOT of water! I have been skunked on this run more times then any other run... EVER. If everything else in the area is HUGE, Dismal Creek may be worth a look.

There is no gauge (at this time) so folks generaly just drive up for a visual of Dismal Falls. If the falls are pumping the rest of the creek should be good to go.

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



article main photo

Attention Virginia Boaters!

Jason Robertson

During the high waters of Spring 2003, there has been a noticeable increase in reported confrontations between boaters and property owners in Virginia. Please remember to be respectful and courteous to property owners; do not trespass; and avoid confrontation in order to preserve access in the future.

Adam Goshorn


Matt Muir


Revision #Revision DateAuthorComment
1194360 09/28/05 Adam Goshorn n/a
1198668 11/14/10 Matt Muir Added coords and abstract.