Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Finishing February: We Have Water

Moats Falls on the Arden Section of the Tygart at around 14 grand.

February has been a cold son-of-a-wench here in WV. That said, I can only imagine what it has been like for places more northern than this (my guess: brutal). Most of February is fairly "locked up" around here. The rivers freeze over, the water leaves and everything gets white. Alas, the snow people have their time.

Fortunately enough though, the past few days here have let up, bringing warmer temperatures and some rain. I had the opportunity to paddle the Tygart River the highest I have ever been on it (I think the gauge read something like 12'/~14,000cfs and rising) and I had the opportunity to run the Upper Blackwater once more the day after.
This is a dam on the Buckhannon River, right out my back door. Notice the massive chunk of ice on the left, and not to mention the 4' tall death boil backing up the hole.
The above picture is the creek at the takeout for the Upper Blackwater near the parking lot. The gauge was off the day we rain it (reading 580cfs, when it was actually 320cfs). The river was a blast. Getting down to the putin proved to be somewhat challenging. One has to hike down into the Canyon on a semi-steep trail. Fortunately for us, the snow on the trail had built up over the winter causing some of the deeper spots to be waist high with snow.

The run was very nice . Since it had been low, then the big flux of water came through, causing whatever ice there was to blow out and disappear. The Upper Blackwater is roughly three miles long and allegedly has many of the same characteristics of Mans Creek (WV). Pure, continuous, steep, and sivved out! Lots of boofs, frigid cold water to the face, and unpredictable rapids made for an interesting run.

Another view of the Buckhannon dam at high water. I saw a tire, plastic soda bottle, and a basket ball recirculate in there for the entire time I was there. Not a good place to be.

The best part was the takeout. For the Upper Blackwater (as well as the North Fork) one has to hike up and out of the canyon for a little less than a mile, then hike back to the car via an old rail trail, roughly two miles. On this day, everything was coated in snow (sounds fun, right?). So, we ended up finding the "trail" up the hill, proceeding carefully with the snow afoot, while trying not to fall of the side of the mountain.

The rail trail happened to have about one and a half feet of snow on it, so we ended up following each others' footsteps and trying not to break through the lower ice crust. This hike is through an area that has come into question with local logging companies. Go to Save The Blackwater to find out more information and take action to save this beautiful wilderness (take action HERE , takes less than 1 minute). The Blackwater Canyon is a beautiful place and it would be awful to see it logged.
This is a sign on the side of the river from a landowner on the Arden section of the Tygart. Some of the landowners around that area are quite sensitive about trespassing (and parking!), so be careful if you head out that way.

A gargantuan hole at Undercut rapid on the Tygart at high water. Yehaw, the West Virginia HEEHAWWW!

That's it for this post. Spring is coming, hooray. Soon enough most of us will be able to get out and paddle.

See you on the river,

-Adam Johnson
Whitewater Freestyle

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