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Difficulty IV(V)
Length 4 Miles
Flow Range 1100 - 2500 CFS
Flow Rate as of: 26 minutes ago 51.7 [CFS]
Reach Info Last Updated 02/11/2019 5:58 pm

River Description

Saint Mary's Wilderness Area is almost the entire watershed of the Saint Mary's River which drains the western slope of the Blue Ridge Parkway north of is junction with Rt 56 in central VA. This watershed is just over the ridge and slightly north of the VA ultra-classic North Fork of the Tye River.

Brandon Hughett and I made an attempt on Saint Mary's in September of 2006, but were caught in the gorge during massive flooding and left most of the rapids unrun as we were in survival mode just to get out of the gorge.

The first weekend in March 2007 the first known complete descent of Saint Mary's River was completed by Brandon Hughett, Dustin Bunch, John Howard and myself (Adam Goshorn). The level was minimal, but all drops were run, including my first and second descent of Saint Mary's Falls.

From I-81 Exit 205 Take Rt 606 to Steeles Tavern and then 56 to Vesuvius. Head north on Rt 608 for a couple of miles and turn on FS 41. Continue until it dead ends at the signpost for Saint Mary's Wilderness Area. This is the take-out and also the widest point on the river so it may appear low. If the river looks floatable here it will be good to go in the narrower upper sections.

From the take-out head back to Rt 56 and go up the mountain towards Montebello. When you reach the Blue Ridge Parkway check your milage and head north on the parkway. If the parkway is gated it can be accessed at Spy Run Gap by taking 685 to 686. At almost exactly 4 miles from the junction with Rt 56 there is an unmarked pull off on the left just before you reach the Fork Mountain Overlook (which will be on the right). Pull into the small parking area and you'll see the signpost and map for Saint Mary's Wilderness and Mine Bank Trail. Several old trals converge here so be sure to take the one with Saint Mary's Wilderness sign next to it, if you stand looking at the map it will be almost directly to your left. As you begin your hike you will almot immediately come to a trail junction, go left. Continue 2 miles or so following Mine Bank Creek (still unrun) until another juction in a grassy clearing. Take a right and hike 150 yards to where the trail crosses Mine Bank Creek. Follow Mine Bank Creek downstream 100 yards and you will be at the put-in at the confluence of Mine Bank and Saint Mary's.

Rapid Descriptions

Parking Area

Class - Mile - -2
The Mine Bank Trailhead is 4 miles north on the Blue Ridge Parkway from the junction of the parkway and Rt 56


Class - Mile - 0
The Put-In is at the confluence of Mine Bank Creek and Saint Mary's River

Entrance Ledge

Class - III Mile - 1.45
4 foot ledge that develops quite a hole at high water.

Finders Keepers

Class - IV Mile - 1.5

Just downstream of Entrance Ledge, Finder's Keepers is a fun 10' ledge that leads into the inner gorge.

Finders Keepers

Class - IV Mile - 1.5
A nice 10 foot spout

You Go First

Class - III+ Mile - 1.6
A slide into a boulder and against an undercut slightly undercut wall. Really not as bad as it sounds

Boulder Garden

Class - IV Mile - 1.7
Between You Go First and John's Slide is a boulder garden that is typical of the many other rapids on the run... fun read and run, but keep an eye out for wood.

Boulder Garden

Class - IV Mile - 1.7
Between You Go First and John's Slide is a boulder garden that is typical of the many other rapids on the run... fun read and run, but keep an eye out for wood.

John's Slide

Class - III Mile - 1.74
This easy slide is not far upsteam of Saint Mary's Falls. This slide is the indicator it's time to hop out for a scout.

Saint Mary's Falls

Class - 5.0 Mile - 1.75
Basicly a 16 footer that lands bedrock about 12 feet down. It can be run on the left by taking and hit and a bounce into the small (5' wide) landing zone. Scout and/or portage on river right.

Hope I Go Deep

Class - IV Mile - 2.2
This 80 foot long low angle slide against an undercut cliff finishes with pourover hole that was massive during the first attempted descent in Sept 06. This one is named for what Brandon says he was thinking as he flushed into the middle of the final hole out of his boat... he did go deep and poped up 20 feet downstream.


Class - Mile - 4
Rapid Thumbnail Missing

The Take Out is at the dead end of Forest Service Road 41, the Trailhead for hiking into Saint Mary's Wilderness from the bottom of the valley.


Class - Mile - 4
Rapid Thumbnail Missing
The Saint Mary's Trailhead on Forest Service Road 41


Gage Descriptions

Levels on this one can be hard to figure out, but it appears a gauge is being installed on Saint Mary's itself which should prove very helpful in the future.

When using the Tye gauge, look for 1100 when rising or 1500 on a falling gauge. The upper Tye drainage is close, but the gauge is far downstream so not that reliable. The dificulty of this stream is also influenced greatly by the level. If your in there at 2500 or more expect all the rapid ratings to bump up a notch and scouting and portaging to be very difficult.

The first attempt on this run was made at very high water and the first complete descent discribed below was done at a minimal flow. If you make a run please report the levels so we can get more data to and dial in the min and max levels more accurately.

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.

Matt Muir


Paul Martzen


Revision #Revision DateAuthorComment
1194693 03/08/07 n/a n/a
1211112 02/11/19 Paul Martzen updated description
1211137 02/13/19 Paul Martzen updated description
1211110 02/11/19 Paul Martzen updated description