Upper Yough - Rapids

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 was...to 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.

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)

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 7/3/95 @ 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 IV, 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 III+, Mile 5.0)

Time Warp

Time Warp
Photo by Matt Muir (KHCC)

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)

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 5/4/01 @ 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 (10-foot) waterfall. Safest is probably to go a couple of boat lengths 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.

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.

The Upper Yough River

Class: 3-5
Gradient: 50 (3.5@115) per mile
Volume: 620 -1500 cfs
Season: April through October
Scenery: Wild and Scenic
Time: 3-5 hrs
Length: 9.8 Miles

The Upper Yough (pronounced YOCK, like rock with a Y) flows through one of the last remaining wilderness canyons in the eastern US. World renowned for continuous whitewater and an impressive average vertical drop of over 115 ft per mile for 5 miles. This creates a river adventure with non stop intensity, exhilarating thrills, and adrenaline pumping action! Famous for its tight and technical passages, continuous rapids, this is an impressive section of river. "The miracle mile" is a mile long section with a vertical drop of over 120 feet per mile. This section of river was considered unraftable in the early stages of exploration.
In the mid 1960's some brave open canoeist started boating the river with mixed results which helped name the rapids.  In the early 1970's  the river was kayaked with better success, but still no one wanted to raft this section. In the early 1980's, Phil Coleman and Roger Zbel begin to seriously look at commercially rafting the Upper, with the thought of starting a whitewater outfitting business. In  August 1981 Precision Rafting Expeditions was formed. These early commercial trips were not without adventure and mishap as these pioneers started to get the pattern down, also the rafts in use were not the state of the art self bailing boats of today. Bucket boats added to the excitement by forcing you to stop before all of  the big drops to bail your raft. The local residents weren't to thrilled to see commercial activity take place and it was not uncommon to have shuttle vehicles vandalized. Gun shots were another means of discouragement. This is Maryland's only wild and scenic river corridor and is still a very wild and pristine river canyon.
Over the years though commercial rafting began to catch on and before long mid 1985 the State of Maryland started to regulate outfitters and guides. A lot has changed over the years but rafting the Upper Yough is still a very exciting trip! The river starts as a flat water river for about 1.5 miles and then the warm up mile starts with little rapids that get a little closer together and a little harder as you move through the warm up mile.  Then .....the awesome central canyon begins! For nearly 5 miles you take on 20 major rapids, back to back!! Control and technical maneuvers are made easier with the small state of the art self bailing rafts. The crew is one guide for three rafters for maximum action. For ten breathtaking miles your adventure takes you through 20 consecutive major rapids-each one guaranteed to leave a lasting impression. The whitewater dam releases happen every Monday and Friday and the first Saturday of May. The summer Saturday releases start on the next to last Saturday in June and go to the second Saturday in September, with one bonus Saturday the first Saturday in October. Check out the dam release calendar for exact dates and times.

Available Upper Yough Trips

Monday Rafting 4-6 hours $120.00 per person Reservations
Friday Rafting 4-6 hours $125.00 per person Reservations
Saturday Rafting 4-6 hours $140.00 per person Reservations

Upper Yough Photos (click on photo to enlarge)

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