Youghiogheny River (Upper)
|Stretch:||Sang Run Road to Friendsville|
|Difficulty:||Class IV to IV+|
|Flows:||500 to 1,500 cfs (600 is normal summer release). Visit the AW flow page|
|Gradient:||55 fpm average (95 fpm from mile 2.4 to 5.6)|
|Put-in:||Sang Run Road Access|
|Take-out:||Maple Road in Friendsville|
|Shuttle:||9.6 miles (20 minutes one way)|
|Season:||Dam Releases in Spring, Summer and Fall (Schedule)|
This is one of those runs that you always hear of when talking to folks from the central east region… It and the Gauley seem to be the classics for the non-class V variety, and it was with that background that it was high on my list to experience myself.
Karl Whipp motivated a 3 day road trip up to the river (which is good since it is over a 7 hour drive from Knoxville). For some reason I had always thought the Yough (as it is called, like Yawk) was in Pennsylvania, I guess that is because the lower Yough is. But as it turns out the Upper is in Maryland. Also to my surprise as a newbie to the South East, is that the leaves change colors 2-3 weeks earlier up north… so we were welcomed by full fall colors which is a site to behold and so so different than anything I am accustomed for being from California.
We ran the river twice over two days. The first day was reasonably nice.. dry tops and single layers. We got a little cold as we got ahead of the water (the release hits put in at 11:30 or so, we put in around 12:30 and caught up really fast, several times… unless you plan on scouting, swimming, etc I would aim for 1:30 put in). The second day however, the temperature dropped some 20 degrees and the wind picked up and it was brutally cold, thank goodness for dry suites… though too bad I didn’t bring my pogies! Fall has officially arrived I guess!
The river itself was fun, and at 2.1’ on the put-in bridge was much mellower than I had anticipated. The nature of the run is a shallow rocky river. A few spots get sporty holes (National Falls and Heinzerling to name two), but for the most part the river is a rock dodging affair. However I can imagine as the flow comes up, and rapids link together the river becomes the real deal. Though I would also love to see it over 3’ just to experience it! As it was though, the run was fun with several long rapids requiring moves around or between boulders and a few fun boofs as well. I think the bulk of the difficulty comes from the continuousness of the rapids and the shallowness of them. If there were pools between them I would be more inclined to offer it a mostly class IV rating… but the rapids come one after the other, and being upside down will result in rock hits in most rapids… hence I feel comfortable giving it a class IV+ rating… just knowing that most class IV boaters would feel a bit overwhelmed here until they get used to it.
- The river starts off mellow2.4 miles of flat water. Once you bend the corner to the left you will be welcomes with a small rapid that is more than a shoal and you know that you are done with the paddle in.
- Gap Falls (III-). A straight forward rapid that can be harder if you bite off more of the holes on the left. If you stay right it is mellow and ends in a slide down around a meaty hole at the bottom.
- A long boogie section culminates in a rocky rapid best run down the far right. There are plenty of eddies as you approach it.
- Bastard (IV-). Just below, on a left hand bend is a steep rapid. We ran down the middle and boofed a nice ledge on the right and again just downstream, boofed on the right. It gets a little junky on the left so be careful if you venture off that way.
- Charlie’s Choice (IV-). AW has this listed as a V… perhaps at high flow, perhaps. At the 2.1’ flow I had, I thought it was actually a class III+ with a few distinct parts, only one of which stood out… the mushroom boof part at the bottom. We started on the left and ferried back to the right. Then ran the mushroom. Then exited down the left in a mellow slot with some fun waves.
- Triple Drop (IV). I am not sure where this starts… but I remember two parts. The first was tight around the right followed by a large eddy on the left. The second part had a great boof on the right to hit if you wanted, or just run middle driving right down a wave train. Again, eddies on either side. Perhaps the next ledge is part of this although it seems to me as the lead in of National Falls… I am not sure.
- National Falls (IV+). The lead in is a nice little ramp we ran on the left. Some people sneak the hole on the far left. Or you can boof the meat of it on the far right. If you choose to boof the right, make your move to the right early and keep driving. Also, boof straight off of it, folks boofing pointing right find themselves eddying out and being pulled in for a surf.
- Tommy’s Hole (IV). The lead in has an undercut and rockhit in play… in the far left channel the river makes a 90 degree turn right, go right. Below, there is an eddy behind the rock that sets you up for a great boof off a curler and hole combo.
- Zinger (III). A boogie rapid that is run down the left around a house sized boulder. Behind it the river splits around a pointy rock… just choose left or right and go there. Right is tighter but the water seems to push you there anyways.
- Heinzerling (IV-). There is an entry rapid to the main move… the left is obvious and runnable but pinny (apparently). Or if you realize it in time you can do between some rocks off to the right to enter a side channel and run Gun Barrel which is a fun sneak with two ledges that deposit you just above the Heinzerling move itself. The move is an s-turn formed off the water piling up on a midstream bolder and deflecting into a hole formed by a ledge on the left side of the river. Drive up into the pillow and you avoid the hole. Fun move… causes issues for those who wobble on their edge control ;)
- Meat Cleaver (III+). A fun boof into a ramp, this rapid starts in the middle channel. The hazard is that there are two pointy rocks in the ramp that are visible as soon as you boof in. Just don’t hit them… go between them.
- F-up Falls (IV). Going left ends up badly with pin rocks and an undercut. Some people bang down the right. Karl demonstrated a nice move which started left at the top but immediately moved across behind the entry rocks but above the big rock splitting the river. From there it was straight forward. Drive left at the bottom to boof around the bottom hole. Also be aware just 50 feet downriver is another hole with a pocket… make sure you go either left or right around this!
- Cheeseburger Falls (III). The final rapid that I remember, this rapid is on a somewhat blind left hand turn. Boof the main ledge, maybe a tad right of center. Below is a rapid that folks do full attainments of back to the base of Cheeseburger… impressive for sure.
For more details on the run, see the AW write-up...
Take-out: 37 miles East of Morgantown on Highway 68, look for the Friendsville Rd, take it and turn left. Take the first right on Maple Street and park before the bridge at the large grass lot on the right.
Put-in: Go back to Friendsville Road and turn left, heading south for 4.8 miles. Turn right on Bishoff Rd and follow for 2.3 miles and take the right side of the fork on Sang Run Rd and follow for 1.8 miles to the river access and parking area.
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