Sunday, August 16, 2009

Little Falls to Lower Yough

I have been invited to do a river run of the Lower Youghigeny (known as the Yough to paddlers). I have been very apprehensive about going as I have really only experienced one river in a kayak, the Potomac. I was on the Upper Gauley in a raft and that would have been way to much for me in a kayak. So I was apprehensive of going to the Yough. I have run the Potomac Gorge at least 3-4 times this season and in high water but I have no idea what the Yough is like other then the stories I have been hearing. In order to get an idea of what to expect, it was recommended to run Little Falls. So today I ran Little Falls, and was nervous about that too. I had, again, heard stories that made this out to be a horrible section. Once we got to Little Fall, we beached the kayaks and walked over to scout the falls.

Little Falls
There are two ways to get through Little Falls, the Maryland side or the Virginia side. As we were coming down the Potomac, we were eddy hopping for practice as well as to let our guide know how comfortable we would be as the water became progressively faster and bigger. Once we got to the rapid, the guide suggested that we would be good to take on the more challenging Virginia side which is a far better indicator of what running the Yough would be like.

The line through Little Falls was pretty simple. The water flow would push you where you needed to go and it was a matter of maintaining boat control just to avoid the rock, affectionately known as meat cleaver. The current flows between cleaver and the island creating a drop into a hole followed by another drop then you are through. The first time, I ran through following someone and once I passed the first wave and was heading between the rocks, I lost focus on looking ahead and focused on the hole I was about to fall into. As such I ended up upside down. I rolled back up, forgot to paddle and went over again. Once I was back up I was off to the eddy to wait for the others. I wasn't the only one to flip but we all made it safely.

Once at the bottom, we went around the island and decided to run it again. I wanted to run it again as I wanted to go through without flipping this time. We had to portage our kayaks up over some nasty and very hot rocks to get back to the top of the rapid. I ran again, following someone again and was successful this time. I managed to keep my focus ahead and kept paddling as needed. The water was quite pushy and bit but I just paddled and kept going. The other new guy flipped again and was actually dragged up onto the rock before he managed to get back up.

Lower Yough
So after that, while I can't make it to the Yough for the Saturday run, I will be able to make it for the Sunday run. I am still a little apprehensive but I think I can handle it now. This will be a good way to better my abilities which I sorely need. I can't just be a Potomac whitewater paddler. This is going to be a great trip as we have a mix of the experienced and the inexperienced.

Turns out this will be a great weekend to go to the Lower Yough too as there will be a Falls Festival. I haven't been to it before but whitewater people know how to party. I might have to clean out a keg and bring some of the homebrew. It will be easier to keg it then trying to find time to bottle it.


  1. Where did you get a map of the yough to know where the falls are located?

  2. The ranger station actually gives out waterproof maps of the Lower Yough. They have the rapid name, class and safe lines shown, it is pretty handy.