Little Elk is the biggest tributary stream of Elk Creek. Don't let the high gradient and Class III rating fool you; it is mostly due to constant whitewater keeping you on your toes the whole time. The first .25 miles are pretty easy with a warm-up Class II and then the creek begins to get steeper with a fun 3 foot waterfall. About a half a mile from the takeout is a 9 foot sloping ledge followed by a wide and very gradual 12 foot ledge leading into some holes that get big when the water is up. After this point the run is constant Class II boogie water until you get to Francis Road. There is a concrete stream bottom here which drops about 6 sloping feet and ends in a 3 foot waterfall. If the water is near the max level, there is a lethal whirlpool that forms just below the falls and would be nearly impossible to get out of. To portage, you must trespass on private property on the right in order to get to the takeout or continue into the lower gorge down to Girard.
Parking is a bit of an issue here. Park on State Road .25 miles from the take out. Go west on Francis Road from the bridge to the intersection. Turn right on State Road and park just past the second house on the right where there is a big enough shoulder. When you take out you have to climb a steep bank. You may want to leave your kayak by the road and walk up to your car. You can then put your flashers on and strap your boat on while sitting on the road. Traffic is very low on Francis Road.
Put in near the Franklin Center Road. A lot of the area is posted, so you may have to park a couple hundred yards away and put in on the tributary stream that parallels Franklin Center Road.
Three Foot Falls is the first major ledge. It presents no major difficulties, but can be fun for surfing. It comes up on the first left bend. This marks the beginning of the steeper section.
The river widens out and as you will come to an 80 degree bend. Flat Rock is just below. It is not very tough, but can look intimidating on the approach. It is quite wide and tends to be a scrapey descent down the 9 foot steep sloping ledge. You can run it anywhere except the far left where you might get pinned in a very narrow slot. You can scout it if you want on the left side in the flat hemlock forest. A large flat slab of sandstone is on the right side that almost hangs over the ledge. This might be a good place to take nice close up pictures of people running the ledge. Zoom Slide is just below.
Just after Flat Rock, the Zoom Slide begins. It is a series of holes on a gently sloping ledge that drops about 12 feet in about 50 yards. You can pick up a lot of speed here. There is a nice hole at the bottom as the ledge culminates in a big pool. The river is wide here too, so you might scrape a lot near the minimal level. The deepest route is on the left. There are many great play spots from here to Concrete Falls.
Just as Francis Road comes into view, you will come to a ledge formed of folded bedrock on the right side of the island. Most of the water is on the right side if there is enough water for there to be an island at all. The left side often gets choked with strainers.
This rapid can be anything from a Class II to Class V+ depending on the level. Concrete Falls is directly underneath Francis Road. The river becomes constricted into a fake narrow channel, slides down a sloping drop with one big hole, then plunges into the whirlpool. This is a fun ride and the climax of the trip. You can't scout it except from the shuttle because the area upstream of the falls is posted. Metal grading exists on the concrete bed, but you will not see it nor will it be a problem. If it weren't for that, this spot would be the ideal place to use as a waterslide. Take out just below on the left side or continue into the Lower Gorge.
WARNING: Excersise extreme caution in high water. The whirlpool at the base of the falls creates a death trap at levels above 1.4 ft.
The level should probably read between 1.9 ft to 2.5 ft.
Permits are not required for this reach.
We have no additional detail on this route.
Use the map below to calculate how
to arrive to the main town from your zipcode.
Winter thaw on Little Elk
Running Flat Rock
Flat Rock Ledge
Three Foot Falls-Dave 1
Three Foot Falls-Frank 2
Three Foot Falls-Frank 1
Three Foot Falls
Little Elk Upper Gorge
If someone gets hurt on a river, or you read about a whitewater-related injury, please report it to
American Whitewater. Don't worry about multiple submissions from other witnesses, as our safety
editors will turn multiple witness reports into a single unified accident report.
This past fall American Whitewater met with Ohiopyle State Park managers to discuss possible updates to their whitewater paddling regulations. The first topic was to change the rules governing raft sizes at different water levels to recognize the capabilities of self-bailing rafts. Shorter self-bailing boats will now be allowed to run the river at high water. Some small changes to the regulations will make Ohiopyle Falls more accessible to paddlers. A change in the way the gauge is interpreted should make the falls "legal" on more days. Although whitewater paddlers are only one part of the vast public that visits the park, every effort was made to accommodate them while avoiding user conflicts and safety hazards. Special thanks goes to Ken Bisbee, Ohiopyle State Park Operations Manager and John Hallas, a former Ohiopyle State Park Operations Manager who is now Director of State Parks. Click here to read the updated Ohiopyle River Regulations:
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