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Release Season

Each October, the Corps of Engineers draws the Flanagan Reservoir down from summer to winter pool. The dam is on the Pound River, approximately 1 mile upstream from its confluence with the Russell at Bartlick. These releases are scheduled over 4 weekends in October providing great whitewater. Standard releases are 800cfs with a high release of 1000cfs on the last weekend.

Whitewater Action

The Russell Fork River is a free-flowing stream with 16 miles of great whitewater between Haysi, VA and Elkhorn City, KY. The gorge section is usually runnable 9-10 months of the year (200cfs or more).

The Breaks gorge section of the Russell above 500cfs offers stiff Class V technical creek style whitewater. The run's unforgiving reputation is well earned. Four separate rapids have claimed lives and serious injury is not uncommon in the gorge. Strong Class IV+ skills are necessary for full flows.

But this is only part of the story. Regional paddlers run the gorge year round at much lower flows, as low as 100cfs. At levels below 375-400cfs, the river loses a lot of its teeth and becomes a good Class IV creek. Because of its pool/drop nature, solid Class III creekers should have the skills to navigate the awesome gorge run at these lower levels.

Russell Fork Gorge description

Beginner and Intermediate paddlers don't have to be left out of the Russell Fork fun in season. The upper section of the Russell is a class II-IV run at release levels with plenty of play spots and technical rapids. Great for the intermediate boater and fun at any level above 400 cfs. Really fun at 2-3,000 cfs. The lower section of the Russell is a great training ground for beginner and intermediate paddlers. It features the Meatgrinder (known locally as the Ledges), a nasty little Triple Drop-like rapid that's as mean as anything on the upper section. Don't worry, it's easy to scout and sneak/carry.

Upper & Lower description

Other Streams
There are a few great creeks in the neighborhood. Check out Grassy Creek(IV) & Elkhorn Creek(II). Both flow into the Russell.

The Guest River Gorge (IV) and Little Stony (V) are two great streams about an hour's drive from Elkhorn City, both near Coeburn, VA.

Take a look here for directions, elevation and overhead maps.