Russell Fork with the Vikings

Posted by Spalding Hurst

October 16, 2005


Russell Fork River

Release level ~800cfs

Jay and I went to the Russell Fork with the Viking Canoe Club and had a great weekend.  On day 1 we ran the Pound and Upper Russell Fork at the standard release level.  There were about 25 Vikings in the group.  A very strong showing.  It was fun to run a rapid then turn around and get to see about 20 more runs of what you just did.  We camped at the Breaks Interstate Park ($9 per night), we were off by ourselves there in section B.  The camping down at Ratliff Hole ($10 per night) looks cool too.  This is where the gorge runners camp.

Jay first drop

The upper has some really good technical rapids. I always forget the order and how far until 20 Stitches each time I go. But after the Railroad rapid there is one more rapid and then you are at 20 Stitches. It’s right after a big turn in the river. Afterwards there are 3 or 4 more good class II-II+ rapids.

After our run down the upper we hiked into the gorge and checked out El Horrendo and Triple Drop.  We hiked in from the Garden Hole side. I think hiking in from Garden Hole or the road close to the gorge take out are about the same in time walking the tracks.  The more I look at the gorge section the more I start to think I can run it. But I ain’t going to. Yet.


On day 2 we rant the Lower Russell Fork, putting on above Rat Hole which is a pretty good surfing spot.  The damn released water didn’t reach the lower section until 12:45 so we had to wait for that.  It was cool to watch the water rise so fast and I was able to get 6 kayaks onto my truck. A new record.

Meat Grinder on the lower section was the scariest rapid.  It turned out to be pretty easy, but it was exciting to run.  I guess it shouldn’t be rated higher than 20 Stitches, but it looks like it should. I have video of my run through on it here.

Awesome trip.  I hope to do the Russell Fork every year in October.  Great weather and a great river that’s only 4 hours (from Louisville) away!


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