Dismal Creek - Half a mile above falls to a mile below falls

Dismal Creek, Virginia, US


Half a mile above falls to a mile below falls (Dismal Falls Run)

Usual Difficulty III-IV (for normal flows)
Length 1.5 Miles

(JH)Adam Goshorn runs Dismal Falls on Dismal Creek in VA

(JH)Adam Goshorn runs Dismal Falls on Dismal Creek in VA
Photo of Adam Goshorn by John Howard taken Feb 03 @ Medium

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.

StreamTeam Status: Not Verified
Last Updated: 2010-11-14 14:53:07


Rapid Summary

Mile Rapid Name Class Features (Legend)
0.5Dismal FallsIVAccess Hazard Waterfall
0.7Second LedgeIII+Hazard Waterfall Photo
1.5Take OutTakeout

Rapid Descriptions

Use one of the many roadside pull-offs and hike down the bank.

Second Ledge (Class III+, Mile 0.7)

(JH) View downstream towards the 2nd Ledge on Dismal Creek, VA

(JH) View downstream towards the 2nd Ledge on Dismal Creek, VA
Photo of Dismal Creek, VA by John Howard taken 02/15/03 @ Medium

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.

User Comments

Users can submit comments.
January 27 2010 (3277 days ago)
jpg2095 (151448)
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.