The Upper Blackwater is arguably the best run in the northern part of West Virginia with its seemingly endless series of steep boulder drops through a deep canyon. The run packs over 40 Class 4-5+ rapids in a mind blowing 2.5 mile section while dropping over 600 feet!
Then combine that with 5 more miles of solid Class 4-4+ on the Lower Blackwater and that makes for one amazing day on the water! Oh yeah! Basically, the Blackwater River is top drawer, the king of the castle!
I was stoked when a plan came together to run this on the day after Thanksgiving. Our large crew consisted of fellow Calleva River School instructor Steve O, Jesse Shimrock, Matt Fithian, Noah Wisdom, Tyler Thornton, and Chris Brymer. The rain just before Thanksgiving had soaked Canaan Valley. As a result, the Blackwater dropped slowly into a fantastic level of 330 cfs. Oh yeah! There was much to be thankful for!
Starting a short distance below Blackwater Falls, a steep trail through thick rhododendron, brought us to perhaps the most beautiful put in ever. Then the run kicks off in grand fashion with a steep series of drops called 100 Yard Dash.
A hard right boof into an eddy sets you up to peel out and immediately boof a drop with a stout hole. Following, a long stretch of fast moving water ⎯ with several more boofs ⎯ carries you to a brief respite in a small pool. From here, the run is constantly disappearing around boulders and off horizon lines in a creek boater’s paradise.
Halfway through the run, the gradient steepens and paddlers face the most difficult and dangerous part of the run. So, we paused to search for Brandon Thompson’s drone. He was shooting some final shots for the video Freeland, which is the latest astounding edit from Mountain River Media.
The first big one in this section is Tomko Falls, which has two closely spaced 8 foot boofs. There were some killer launches from the group here! Shock To The System follows and is a sweet constricted water boof. Then, Sticky Fingers is next and has two drops close together next to a dangerous sieve. A few of us ran this one with good lines, while the rest opted for the low volume sneak on the right.
We finally spotted the drone at Pinball, a long manky rapid. So, it followed us through the next incredible series of Angle Left or Piton and Flatliner Falls. But, I stopped briefly to talk with Brandon who had made the steep and arduous hike down into the canyon to get the footage.
Boof After Boof
The run continues with many more phenomenal boulder drops and incredible boof after boof for the next mile. As you near the end of the Upper B, the character of the river changes and there are some dynamite slides.
Mumina Humida kicks this off and has a sweet 6 foot water boof followed by a long, fun slide. A good boof called Bunjee Jump leads into a series of 5 slides and ledges called My Nerves Are Shot and I Can’t Take It Anymore. Arguably the highest quality rapid on the run, the high speeds reached on the slides and the massive amounts of air off the boofs left permagrins on all of our faces!
The North Fork of the Blackwater flows in shortly after and marks the end of the Upper B. Another thing to be grateful for was the bonus 5 miles of fun, entertaining, and comparatively chill boulder drops and slides down the Lower B! Joy and thankfulness were the words of the day for what was an outstanding time with a superb crew on the most classic of all the West Virginia steep creeks!
Watch the Upper Blackwater on YouTube
Calleva River School Instructor
Here at the River School, Bobby Miller is a main component of the instructor team. Bobby leads Fall Training, Cheat Training, Upper Yough Training, Green Training…. whatever you want to train for, the Zone Dogg turned elementary school teacher, can get you there!
If you’re still not impressed, Bobby is a pro athlete ⎯ sponsored by Dagger Kayaks, Accent Paddles, Immersion Research and Astral. He also has multiple first descents on rivers, creeks, and waterfalls throughout the United States.