Youghiogheny - 3. Upper

Youghiogheny, Maryland, US


3. Upper (Sang Run Road to Friendsville)

Usual Difficulty IV-V (for normal flows)
Length 9.5 Miles
Avg. Gradient 52 fpm
Max Gradient 140 fpm

National Boof

National Boof
Photo of Ratt Boy (KHCC) by Boris Glick taken 06/05/04 @ 2.3'

Gauge Information

Name Range Difficulty Updated Level
usgs-03076500 2.90 - 4.00 ft IV-V 00h32m 2.86 ft (too low)

River Description

The Upper Yough is a truly exceptional class IV/V river that has attracted the paddlers from around the globe for decades. The river was and remains a hotbed for the development of paddling skills and equipment, and offers some of the most technical commercial rafting you'll find anywhere. Predictable summer releases make this one of the main playgrounds for Eastern Class-IV and Class-V boaters. The rapids are continuous, technical, beautiful, and intoxicating. Most rapids have numerous lines ranging from Class III/IV to solid Class V lines featuring narrow slots, tricky boofs and big holes.  The intense crowding brought on by rafters and kayakers during a Saturday release only serves to increase the challenge, and add to the aura connected with this gem of a river.

The trip begins with about two miles of flattish water. If you begin at the start of the release, you're liable to "outrun the bubble," i.e., to get ahead of the water. It's fun to head down and wait at Wait Rock. When Wait Rock is getting covered by water, it's a good idea to put your uneaten cookies back into the drybag and get into your boat while you can. After a short pool is Gap Falls, which marks the beginning of several miles of consistent named drop-pool rapids. (See the rapids descriptions, below, for more.)

The rapid descriptions given below are for the typical summer release level of 1.9-2.1' (on the Sang Run gauge; Sang Run = Friendsville - 1.25). Some lines will vary at other levels. The reader is of course cautioned that this description is no substitute for judgment, knowing who's leading you down, and etc. (Read the disclaimer!) After all the rapids, it's nothing but three miles of Class-I-II drudgery.

Take out on river left, just downstream of the Maple Street bridge in town, at Wilderness Voyageurs, or under the 68 overpass, and walk past the liquor store to the parking lot. Please don't park on Maple Street, and follow the rules and be quiet and discrete while changing. This great new takeout was created in 2015 by the Town of Friendsville after $25,000 in paddler-donated seed money was raised through an AW and friends fundraiser, and $160,000 in grants were raised by the Town under the leadership of Jess Whittemore.
(Thanks to John Kobak for many helpful comments and suggestions re. the rapid descriptions.)

The putin is at Sang Run (see map), at a public MD State access field. AW continues to manage the Sang Run put-in for the MD-DNR based on a 2001 agreement, thanks to the AWESOME volunteer efforts to keep the site looking great. Your donations at the put-in are vital to our continued access successes on the Upper Yough. Put an amount that you think is fair for your level of use into the brown fee box at the parking lot. If we don't cover our expenses it goes back to the state, and they will be forced to use more coercive methods for getting payment.

Please observe the usual courtesies at both access areas! Don't drink alcohol in public, change clothes where others can see you, or park in residential areas in town. Please take time to patronize the businesss in Friendsville, and be great visitors and neighbors.

Directions: To takeout: from I-68, take the Friendsville Exit (the westernmost exit in MD). If you're coming from the West, bear Left at the fork on the off-ramp, and take a left at the stop sign. Cross under the bridge and take your first right. (If coming from the East, take a right at the end of the off-ramp.) This gets you onto Maple Street. The parking lot is just past the liquor store on the left.

To putin: Head back out of town back toward I-68. Take a left onto Rte. 42. Continue on 42 about 4-5 miles and take a right onto Bishoff Rd. Head about 2 miles on Bishoff, and at the four-way intersection, head right onto Sang Run Rd. The putin is a small grassy and gravelly lot on the left. (If you get to the bridge, you've gone too far.) Park and remember to put a couple bills into the till for your good friends at American Whitewater!

Another nice online guide to this section can be found at Gorp.

Other related or nearby streams:
Lower Yough (Class III)
Bear Creek (Class IV)
Top Yough (Class IV-V)
Little Sandy (Class III-IV)
Upper Big Sandy (Class III-IV)
Lower Big Sandy (Class IV-V)
Middle Yough (Class II)

Lat/Longitude coords verified by GPS.

StreamTeam Status: Not Verified
Last Updated: 2018-12-05 21:08:20


Stream team editor

Rapid Summary

Mile Rapid Name Class Features (Legend)
2.6Gap FallsIII+
4.0Charlie's Choice5.0Hazard
4.1Triple DropIV+Photo
4.2National FallsIV+Photo
4.3Tommy's HoleIV
4.6Trapp Run FallsPlayspot
5.2Meat CleaverIV+
5.6Powerful PopperIII+Playspot Photo
5.7"Lost and Found"IV+Hazard Photo
6.2Cheeseburger FallsIIIWaterfall
6.3BackenderIIHazard Playspot
6.6Wright's HoleIII+
6.8Double Pencil SharpenerIII
7.1Luke's Final InsultIIPlayspot

Rapid Descriptions

Gap Falls (Class III+, Mile 2.6)

One of the easiest "named" rapids on the Upper Yough, a (roughly) ten-foot slide into a hole. Start left of center, and work your way right into the big eddy at the bottom. The hole is playable, but it's trashy and shallow. An alternate line is to catch the Eddy of Death on river left, halfway down the slide. If you miss the Eddy of Death, there's a nasty rock ready to mess with your head; even if you catch the Eddy, you'll have a devil of a time ferrying across the river above the shallow hole. Just upstream of the slide are some very fun play holes.

Bastard (Class IV, Mile 3.8)

This rapid, which marks the end of some class-III boogie water, is recognizable by a midriver rock which has a tree atop it. Also, as you approach it, a bare rock face is visible on the mountain above the river. Head left and get set, because the rapids of the Upper Yough are just beginning!
The normal line at Bastard is to boof right into an eddy just behind a (mostly) dry rock. It's a fun and easy boof. Then work hard left, avoiding ledge holes, before working toward a big eddy at the bottom on river right.

Charlie's Choice (Class 5.0, Mile 4.0)

(Named for Charlie Walbridge. At 3.0', Charlie's Choice walk out.)
The "normal" line begins on river left, with a ferry just above a hole toward an eddy in the middle, and then the paddler heads left again. Running Charlie's on river right all the way is the highly technical "Slots" line, which leads the most intrepid paddlers into Mel's Toilet Bowl, an undercut that you don't want to mess up. Persons of a moderately adventuresome bent (me) can begin on the left, head for a 6-foot boof on the right (be sure to avoid the rock at the bottom!), and then finish the rapid in the middle right.

CAUTION: Mel's Toilet Bowl is a sieve on river right next to the boulders of the last drop in Charlie's (after a short pool below the main drop). It is named because you can see the water swirling down it like a toilet. It has claimed a few boats, and a several boaters have swam/flushed through this sieve. Be aware of this hazard and avoid it.

Triple Drop (Class IV+, Mile 4.1)

The Slot at Triple Drop

The Slot at Triple Drop
Photo of Ratt Boy by Matt Muir (KHCC) @ 2.3 ft

Triple Drop follows immediately after Charlie's Choice. The first drop involves two easy ferries into an eddy in the middle. (Alternate route: a very narrow fifteen-foot-long slot [see photo]; if you run this, commit carefully but forcefully to avoid pinning on the upstream face.)
From the center, the next drop is a steep drop through squirrelly water into a hole. The most sensible line is to work toward river right, coming within a couple of feet of the rock at the bottom right and into the eddy below it. That sets you up for the third drop of Triple Drop: National Falls.

National Falls (Class IV+, Mile 4.2)

The Standard Line at National Falls

The Standard Line at National Falls
Photo of Bryan Koster by Matt Muir (KHCC) taken 07/03/95 @ 2.0

National has two main lines: river left (photo) has a fairly straightforward "S" turn, catching a tongue just left of a truly impressive hole. River right is the Boof Line, which is one reason that spectators congregate. Miss that boof, and the hole's gonna make you its girlfriend. Though the hole does let go of the inverted boater, many good boaters lose their cool and go for a swim here. (Lucky for them, it's one of the few places on the Upper Yough where a swim is short and inconsequential.) The rock on river right below the drop is a congregating place for play-dogs to get their fix of rock splats.

Tommy's Hole (Class IV, Mile 4.3)

(Named for Tom McEwan.)
After the pool following National Falls comes Tommy's Hole. The fun here is in the "Slot Move." Described by some as "Dimple with an Attitude," it requires a right turn through a hole just above a nasty-looking undercut rock. Soon afterward, there's a steep ledge (Little Niagara), for which the good line is tough to see; if you get the slight leftward angle here, you should be fine. The rest is boogie water.

Zinger (Class III+, Mile 4.5)

The whole rapid is down the left side of the river. There are at least two routes to avoid the two offset holes. Far left is the most trouble-free; if you choose to go right of the first hole, beware the big, bad undercut rock in the middle of the river. It's then all III boogiewater before Heinzerling.

Trapp Run Falls

One of the finest flatspinning holes on the river. It puts Swimmers on the Lower Yough to shame. When it kicks you out, don't try too hard to get right of the rock below. You risk being pinned, so you might as well go with the flow, which is left of the rock.

Heinzerling (Class IV, Mile 5.0)

Time Warp

Time Warp
Photo by Matt Muir (KHCC) @ 2.3 ft

The "normal" line here is to slip through a gap in the rocks on far river right. That sets you up for the Gun Barrel, followed by the Heinzerling Move. The Gun Barrel is a four-foot ledge drop; just stay right and ride the V. For the Heinzerling Move, head for the huge rock directly in the center of the river. Aim left as you ride up on the pillow, and drop down just downstream of the left hole. It's a unique ride, and among the most fun rapids around.
A little more challenging (and considerably more dangerous) is the Time Warp (photo), which involves going left of the flat rock in the middle of the river. It's full of pinning possibilities.
After Heinzerling, you can relax for half a mile of Class III before Meat Cleaver.

Meat Cleaver (Class IV+, Mile 5.2)

The "Cleaver Brothers" are two pointy rocks which are inconveniently placed at or just above water level amid some very fast water in a blind drop. The ferry move (far right to left) requires some precise positioning to run well; the ledge drop (middle right to left) risks a working in the pourover. In either case, once you're committed to the fast water, line up between the rocks or to the left or right of one of them. Try not to be running this one upside-down.
At this point, if you're getting weary, be assured that you're more than halfway home. It starts getting easier, though there are places to keep on your toes.

Powerful Popper (Class III+, Mile 5.6)

Powerful Popper

Powerful Popper
Photo of Colins Drozdowski by Matt Muir (KHCC) @ 2.3 ft

After some more boogiewater "The Rockies" comes Powerful Popper. The normal move here is an S-turn between two boulders. The hole is an ender spot, but be warned: 1) it's a little bit trashy, especially if you get kicked into the river-right eddy line; and b) it's kind of blind from upstream, so extreme care is required if you want to avoid an unfortunate collision. An alternative line at Powerful Popper is the "Death Slot" to the left of the normal slot move. It's probably not as dangerous as its name implies, but it requires an exacting line of those who want to run it cleanly.

"Lost and Found" (Class IV+, Mile 5.7)


Photo of a log up against Tombstone Rock by Matt Muir (KHCC) taken 05/04/01 @ 1.6 ft

After a couple of flatspinning holes, followed by a small pool, comes, for propriety's sake, "Lost and Found." Most boaters call it by a name that is most politely referred to as "F-Up Falls." This rapid includes the notorious Tombstone Rock, an extremely undercut slab. Fortunately, the line to avoid this death trap is pretty easy: go between the rocks, and make sure you finish right of the big center rock. After that, F-Up Hole looms in the middle of the river. It's as trashy as its name implies, perhaps especially so at higher levels like 2.2' or better. Avoid it to the left or right.

Cheeseburger Falls (Class III, Mile 6.2)

A small (5-foot) drop. Safest is probably to go a couple of boat widths away from river right. More fun is to come in close to the right bank, have a boofing angle (to avoid a rock at the bottom--this one can vertically pin an unsuspecting boater, so watch out), and grin like a demon for the photographer.

Backender (Class II, Mile 6.3)

Backender begins with a cartwheeling hole on river left. If the water's above 2.1', or if your boat's below 9.0', this one is worth waiting in line for. Local experts like Jess Whittemore, in long, light glass boats, wow the crowd by attaining this puppy, doubtless an impossible feat in any plastic boat. Just after the hole is the heart of the rapid: a fun little Class III, S-curving rapid with alternating ledge holes into the bottom hole.

CAUTION: There is a sieve in the middle boulder pile about 30 yards below the backender hole at the top of the rapid that has sucked in a few kayaks. Be aware of it.

Wright's Hole (Class III+, Mile 6.6)

(Named for Jackson Wright, reputedly the first one to swim out of this hole without getting hurt.)
This one is easy to avoid, most easily on the far left or right, and it's playable at most levels but be warned it is VERY shallow.

Double Pencil Sharpener (Class III, Mile 6.8)

It's pretty easy to read-n-run. Most fun is to clip the right edge of the first hole, which (if you do it just right) sets you up to clip the left edge of the second hole. If you do it just right, you practically go airborne.

Luke's Final Insult (Class II, Mile 7.1)

Just the last decent flatspinning hole on the river. At some levels, it will be grabby in its most vicious maw (ask Luke); but you should be able to get out just fine.

User Comments

Users can submit comments.
June 26 2016 (934 days ago)
Curtis37 (156912)
Myself and Craig and Catboat Keith rowed this. Keith ran a 60 inch wide frame and styled it with a
boat that was pretty wide. I rowed a Sabertooth which is the easiest size cataraft for this river.
It can be rowed.
August 18 2008 (3803 days ago)
Mark ZakDetails
ALL: I paddled the Top Yough into the Upper yesteday, June 8th 2008. Many months ago, a tornado
ripped many, many trees down the sides of the flatwater stretch above Sang Run Rd. The next big
flood/hurricane could turn the Upper into a death trap of big strainers. It was good to go on the
6-8-08, with some new wood but easily avoidable. Just be careful in there after the next really big
July 12 2007 (4206 days ago)
9.58 miles for the upper yough. First three miles are flat, losing a total of 15 feet, 5 fpm. Gap
Falls is about mile 2.6 on the maps. Mile 3-4 = 33 feet. 4-5 = 126 feet 5-6 = 83 6-7 = 170 (mile 7
ends at Kendall on the maps, Topozone give this mile 130) 7-8 = 40 8-9 = 40 As we all know, that
last mile is flat.
June 3 2007 (4245 days ago)
Robert FarmerDetails
Hi, I just want to clarify two things. 1) At Gap Falls, there is an almost-river-wide hole, so
virtually everyone rides the tongue down the far left with a left-to-right angle. 2) Above Bastard,
the river turns almost 90 degrees left. Then---and this is very important---below the boof move,
there are severely nasty midstream pinning rocks, which are potentially fatal if you screw up. Go
left or right, but not down the middle. Use caution! Watch for strainers!
November 26 2006 (4434 days ago)
Dave MuellerDetails
Taking advantage of the fantastic Thanksgiving weekend weather, a few of us made some "low water"
runs down the UY. The Friendsville gauge was 2.87' on Friday, and 2.81' (38 cfs less) on Saturday.
We managed to stay in our boats Friday but were knuckledragging for a bit, especially on the
flatwater between the put-in and Gap Falls. Saturday, we had to walk about 50 yards. I'd recommend
3.0' at Friendsville as the low water cutoff. There was a noticable difference in the flatwater
between the two runs, and some minor changes to the rapids. Overall, we had fun, the trips seemed
much more relaxed than a usual release, and it was nice to see clear green water with white peaks
instead of the usual muddy brown stuff. On a side note, Deep Creek Hydro had Noon and Midnight
releases 3 days prior to the holiday weekend. Why couldn't they have waited? :-(
July 8 2003 (5671 days ago)
Hey matt, you left out little niagra on the description.


Calendar Control Date:
Calendar by Date by Title

October 2017

Upper Yough Release
10:00 am -1:00 pm est

Upper Yough Release
10:00 am -1:00 pm est

Upper Yough Release
10:00 am -1:00 pm est

Upper Yough Release
10:00 am -1:00 pm est

Upper Yough Release
10:00 am -1:00 pm est


Upper Yough Release Friendsville,MD runs 04/15/05 - 10/13/17
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Associated Projects

  • Upper Yough Access (MD)
    AW collaboratively manages the put in for the Upper Youghiogheny River in Western Maryland.
  • Upper Yough Releases (MD)
    American Whitewater worked closely with local paddlers and other stakeholders to negotiate an improved flow regime on the Upper Yough.