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Trip Reports

Sleepy Creek - No Snooze -
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by Bob Maxey

Sleepy Creek (WVa) from CR 13 near Smith Crossroads to WV 9 near Meadow Branch Confluence (AW Section 1) Distance = 12.3 miles; Flow:  approximately 1,500 CFS (no stream gauge)

Paddlers:  Bob Maxey (leader), Virginia del Rosario, Cindy Rogers, Barbara Brown, John Snitzer, Randy Snapp
      I was looking for a new stream to paddle, since the recent rains had brought up many streams.  Sleepy Creek is near Berkeley Springs and empties into the Potomac just downstream of Hancock.  According to Burrell and Davidson, it is the most beautiful of the four streams in the Eastern Panhandle.  They describe it as a Class 1 paddle with a Class 3 ledge that most people carry.  (The ledge is just below a mandatory-portage low water bridge.)  At the (flooded) level we ran it, the ledge drops five to 10 feet over a distance of ten yards with a giant hydraulic at the bottom.  Paddlers running this rapid in the center are presented with a wave 15 feet longitudinal to the boater on the right.  Also, the level of the route is at least a foot below this wave.  It’s possible to run from left to center into a river-right eddy whose current is upstream and would certainly flip the boater.  Also not mentioned in Burrell and Davidson is the portage, which, due to a tree obstruction, cannot be done at river level.  The left hand (Class 6) portage involved a 3/4 mile carry down a road to avoid the near vertical cliffs of the anticline which has created the rapid.  The relatively easy (Class 4) right hand portage involves a 1/4 mile carry down a road, passing over the anticline and then making your way back to the river.  We chose the right hand portage.  After the 1.5 hours we spent on the portage (the worst in WVa), we got back in our boats to paddle out.   Soon it started to rain and did not let up until well after we got off the river.  (The flow the next day was estimated to be 5,690 CFS.)  Nevertheless, we saw some interesting things along the river, including four river otters, a bald eagle and a beautiful waterfall on the left that Ed Gertler let us know about.  We persevered, passed two bridges and wondered when our takeout bridge would appear.  The four shuttle drivers paddled ahead and ran the (complicated) shuttle in the pouring rain.  Upon our return I went down to the river and marveled that as we were finishing the shuttle, John and Barbara were just arriving.  Wrong!  They had arrived a half an hour before and spent their time ferrying back and forth under the bridge to avoid the rain.  John, Barbara, Cindy and I kept our river clothes on and went to the Sheetz in Hancock, which has an excellent canopy to tie down and transfer boats out of the rain.  The Sheetz has only one unisex bathroom, so it took a while for us to change clothes.  Afterwards we had a long dinner at Weavers in Hancock.  John was interested in a healthy meal, but he ended it with a hot fudge sundae.  Others had pies.  I then drove to Myersville, which has an excellent canopy at the Crown station to tie down and transfer boats out of the rain…

Two final notes:  the people at the take-out were very friendly to us and allowed us to take out on their property.  This is not a good take-out for large groups, as parking is very limited and immediately adjoins Highway 9.  The landowner at the Class 3 ledge is also very friendly, has a beautiful property and suggested the river right portage.

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