East Fork of Elk Creek is located along Forest Service Road 35 just outside the James River Face Wilderness Area in central VA. I wouldn’t suggest driving far for this little gem, but if you’re already in the area and everything else is high it’s worth a look. This small micro creek rarely has enough water, but when it does it rewards paddlers with 2 miles of non-stop class III-IV boulder action with the best rapids contained in the final 1/2-mile. The continuous nature of this creek is reminiscent of paddling in the Smoky Mountains of TN and as with all small creeks paddlers should be on the constant lookout for wood. Luckily much of this creek can be scouted from the road while running shuttle. When it has enough water to paddle there are few eddies on the entire creek so take the time to check for wood before putting on, then you can enjoy bombing down. On 10/7/06 we only had to get out around 2 trees.
With its easy access I wouldn’t be surprised if this creek had been previously explored, however it runs so infrequently I have my doubts. Anyone with additional information or photos is encouraged to comment here or contact me. My knowledge of the history of this run is as follows: Craig Granfield and I (Adam Goshorn) ran a section of this creek including Folded Falls early in the spring of 2003. John Howard also reports a run on Folded Falls later that same spring. Brandon Hughett and I made a run on 10/7/06 from a little below the first road bridge (near Sulfur Springs Trailhead) to the rapid below the second road bridge.
Lat/longitude coordinates are approximate, from Google Maps.
D-Lowe and I ran this Sat. 4-16 after alot of rain. I would say it was med-high level
and Very continuous. I would give it a 4+ at this level due to the lack of eddie service, almost none. Most all of the wood was avoidable in one way or another.
Would be nice to see again after some wood removal. I called it after about a mile or so due to a busted boat and shoulder. It is a little abusive for us open-boaters, though I think it may have been a first OC1 descent.
Overall,Very Narrow, Fast and Continuous.
Think I'll let it simmer down a bit next time.
3 of us ran this at LOW...below what i would consider a minimum, but we did it anyway. after seeing the creek at the takeout bridge i said no way; but it looked a little better upstream. we scraped all the way, gorilla walked through alot of stuff between drops. we still hit all the drops and the pools were still deep. only had about 3 portages due to wood. was a good time anyway and a good 'pre-flow' scout run.
I haven't been yet, so I can't speak to actual putin / takeout locations. But from Adam's description, it sounds like the creek runs along FS Road 35. Doing some preliminary research (in case we get some rain), I found the following on a USFS trail description for the Sulphur Springs trail that gets you to FS Road 35: From Va. Route 130 at Natural Bridge Station, turn south on Va. Route 759. Go 3.2 miles and turn east (left) on VA. Route 781. (At 1.5 miles pavement ends and at 1.8 miles road designation changes to FS Road 35). If you make a scouting run, let us know what you find out.
There is no gauge on this creek (yet), but there would be a good location for one on the river right bridge support at the takeout bridge. However, if you’re already there a visual assessment of the level should be pretty easy. If it looks like its runnable at the take-out or put-in, it is.
Permits are not required for this reach.
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East Fork of Elk Creek
(AG) Upstream view from the bridge
(AG) Brandon running Roadside
(AG) Brandon goes for a ride
(AG) Brandon finishes the Pinch
(AG) Brandon melts into Folded Falls
(AG) Brandon above Folded Falls
Adam finishes Bow Up
Adam boofing at Bow Up
Adam hits the boof at Bow Up
Adam above folded falls
Adam on Folded Falls
Adam on East Fork of Elk Creek
Adam finishing Roadside
Adam finishes the Pinch
Adam Enters Pinch
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