hey Big_D , this is one of ......

-- Last Updated: Jun-22-09 7:32 PM EST --

..... the places you and some buds paddle at sometimes if I remember correctly .

Since the rivers have been kinda high lately with all the rain , I was wondering about this , if it was bad decision for these two adults to take those 10 kids into the Shenandoah there around Bull Falls this past Sun. ... I'm wondering what you think since you know the run ??

Sun. eve. guage was about 3.9' and rising at Millville ... I'm thinkin that Bull Falls is more of a class 3 at that guage ??

These folks were lucky in one sense that they were rescued ... but it was dark by the time they were found . The part that gets me is the kids were as young a 4 yrs. old !!


Hyperbole and nonsense
That article was written to make the area sound much worse than it is. 3.9’ is no place for a 4 year old at Bull Falls - in a kayak. It’s still a 2+ at that level. The outfitters that run that section cut off at 10’ and rising. Just as I was getting back into whitewater, I ran that section in a Torrent at 4’ and had no problems. Neither did some 10 to 12 year olds that were with us. Some others wiped out and were readily rescued. What they don’t tell you is that though the rocks are only a foot above the water, they are huge. You could sit twelve people on them and have space for a picnic lunch. There is a mountain on one side. Well set back from the railroad tracks and road. And the other side does have trees, and a bike path, and frequent paths down to the river. Had it been daylight, there would have been no need for the helicopter because half a dozen outfitter rafts would have come through there and helped them out and the entire cost would have been a case of beer. How does someone ‘appear’ to be on the verge of hypothermia, from the air, in the dark? Notice that they were flown to an elementary school, not to a hospital. This was a routine rescue. It seems like they were unfamiliar with the water and panicked. I gaurantee the rescue crews were professional, relaxed, new what to do and how to do it, and were totally in control of this situation.

My opinion is that this was a good creative writing exercise and a routine rescue. The folks clearly made poor choices, else they wouldn’t have needed rescued on as well known and as easily run of a section as that at that level, but don’t get sucked into the author’s hyperbole.

I fish this section and routinely ground out on a ledge in the middle of a rapid and fish the chutes. It’s exciting. It’s exhilerating. And it’s also an area that I would consider taking my four year old if I had a whitewater raft to do it in and solid folks paddling with me. I’d probably wait for it to be about 2.5’ rather than 4’, but 4’ is not an insane level there for shepherded novices.

  • Big D

Yep, gotta agree with D
Just somebody trying to write and exciting story by exaggerating the facts and conditions.

I made a run across the Shenandoah on Rt 340 at Harpers Ferry on Saturday afternoon and it sure didn’t look like a ‘raging torrent’ to me. In fact I was kinda envious of the play-boat crowd surfing the waves and having a high old time out there in the “VA Staircase”. It was heavily stained to be sure, and definatly running at 4+ft on the gage. But I would be willing to bet, had it been daylite, or even dusk, I know a couple of guys who could have pulled off that rescue with ropes, a raft, and a couple of headlamps.

yeah , I don’t know what the author …

– Last Updated: Jun-26-09 2:15 AM EST –

.... of the piece was thinking when he said "raging" ... but the Friendship Fire dept. apparently believed it was out of thier capability alone .

I've seen the Shen. rage , blow her banks at Front Royal (Thunderbird) , and I've seen her roar on many other occassions , I'm reasonably certain 4' at Millville isn't quite the same thing no matter how you slice it , but I'm also certain that 4' there is not what one calls tame either . If I'm not mistaken , 4' at Millville and very few of the rocks show below the dam .

Other than that , I found "no" hype or exageration in his reporting , it simply gave the details .

Also , I'd be willing to make a wager that rescuing 10 kids and 2 adults from the Shen. in mountain territory , in the dark near Bull Falls (they must have been hanging there for many hours before help arrived - read cold and beaten) , is anything but "routine" for Frederick and Cumberland MSPA rescue crews . Wonder why others (on the river) didn't call for help earlier in day when it was still daylight ... could the rescued folks have been the only ones out there that day ??

Also , seems to me the wisest plan (as was done) would be to get them from the river to the nearby school (emrgency medical squad staging) as quickly as possible , so EMS could take over quickly (as opposed to flying them directly to a hosp.) .

I wonder if any of those 10' guage outfitters where called for advise/help by Friendship Fire dept. to assist in rescue ??

Who cares about below the dam
No, not many rocks are showing there. But below the dam is flatwater so who cares of the rocks show. They weren’t rescued from flatwater. If I can believe the article, it was the section between Bull Falls and Bull’s Tail. Bull Falls is a roughly 5’ ledge with a wave train below it. Most folks wipe out in the wave train because they entered the rapid wrong at the ledge. I won’t say how to enter it here, because I don’t want some dope reading it and thinking they can handle it without experience because he saw it on the internet, but it’s not a hard rapid. Bull’s Tail is a big wave train below that that isn’t hard to run, but it is a play spot for a lot of folks.

There are big ledges (“rocks”) below Bull Falls that are visible at 4’. They are not only visible, but they are large enough for a dozen or more people to comfortably beach their kayaks, break out lunches, and have a picnic.

Really, 4’ is enough to get someone’s attention, but it isn’t an unreasonable level for shepherded novices to run that stretch. As I said, the guide companies run it up to 10’. As it’s rising, they stop running at 10’, as it’s falling, they start running again at 10’. I’ve never been on it at that level, but I have been on it several times between 2.5’ and 4’, and 4’ is fun and challanging but is not out of line.

I suspect that the fire department thought it was too much rescue to handle because of the darkness. Running a rapid in the dark while trying to rescue others is quite a chore. I do not criticize their decision to play it safe. Good decision. I’m just saying that it was almost certainly the darkness that was at issue and not the strength of the rapid at that level.

DoahRiverRat said it right. I can think of half a dozen or more private boaters who, in the daylight, could have pulled that rescue off with chewing gum, a couple bungees, and a confident attitude. Shoot, I did a rescue of someone off the rocks at the base of Bull Falls just paddling into the eddy and having the gal sit on my SOT’s deck while I paddled her over to the rocks. The chute is rough, but the eddy near it is HUGE (like probably 40’ wide x 20’ long) and easily navigated.

Why’d you put this in fishing?
Actually, probably better you did. No telling how rough it would have become in the PP or Advice sections.



Yak, I put it on here basically …

– Last Updated: Jun-26-09 10:13 PM EST –

...... because I know Big_D and some of his buds (ShenRiverRat ??) have first hand experience in this stretch , are familiar with paddling in it ... I didn't think Bull Falls was dangerous at 3.9' although challenging , but also wondered why 10 kids w/ only 2 adults were out there needing rescue last Sun. eve. in the dark , and the report of taking a 4 yr. old into that stretch then didn't seem to wise to me . The report "suggested" they were rafting or tubing , but didn't really say for certain , typical loose details .

I know this stretch also from numerous visits through my life , but have never paddled it myself .
Above the Millville dam on up to Berryville/Westminister , and then the Front Royal area of the Shenandoah I know first hand from many times in it over the years .

D , about the 4' guage at Millville and the rocks below the dam (flatwater ??)... I used that picture just to relate to the downriver conditions (it's only like 7 mi. or so to the Potomac confluence , Bull Balls , the staircase , etc. about midway on down or so , right ??), when those rocks are covered at the dam , the downriver to the Potomac has quite a bit more cfs discharge , that's all that was . When the rocks there are all showing (2'-2.5'), the downriver is quite tamer looking . I always relate to upriver to get a better idea of what's happening (or may soon be happening) where I might be going downriver .

You ask who cares about that upriver flatwater in a sourcastic way I think , I care about it ... if 3' of water is flowing over Millville dam (which would be busting big time ) , it's still flat as a pancake above the dam , wouldn't you agree !! ... it's about downriver a few miles where the upriver flatwater guage relates to WW class conditions downriver .

Not that this is really the topic here (although related) , but for example the Potomac stretch from PawPaw on down to Hancock has a habit of rising fast , 12'-16' in 8 hrs. is not unusual , and the crest just goes in sequence down river ... I believe Millvile crested at about 4.3' last Sun.

I think I was bit surprised and perhaps a tad ticked the way you jumped the author of the report Big_D , saying his reporting was hyperbole and nonsense , and proceeded to play down the geographics of the area , as if the event of the rescue was no big deal "IF" it would have been daylight ... but it "wasn't daylight" , it was dark !! There where some other things you said , the way you came off in parts of your initial response and a couple afterwards that got me a tad irritated as well , but no need to go in to it , that's just life . I don't see you as a bragging bravado macho type Big_D , but more of a reasonable and responsible type when it comes to the water world , so I won't be hasty to judge on a few comments that irritated me .

I realize you are competent and experienced in this stretch , and understand that your estimation of the conditions is reliable and correct for Bull Falls area at that guage ... but the situation reported as said , was a rescue in the dark of 10 kids and 2 adults , requiring 2 MSP rotowing units and EMS ground opts. ...

I believe everything you and ShenRiverRat have said about it being a reasonably simple rescue for daylight conditions ... but add dark and mountanous terrain , fast water , rock ledges , islands w/trees and rotowing lift rescue of 12 , and it's not the same picture , I think it was a bit more of a serious situation for some folks that got in over thier head , ability and judgement levels .

ps., ... also I still don't understand why no one realized they needed help until it was dark or near so (again , where they the only ones out on that stretch of the river last Sun. when things went wrong??) , beings it was dark when help did arrive ?? ... the report said someone from shore heard them yelling out for help ...

Yeah, it was definately
the dark that had Friendship call in “The Pros from Dover”. Shoot, I would have called them too in the dark. But you are right about one thing. Obviously these folks misjudged their ability, their departure time and made a VERY poor decision to have a 4 year old along with them. Novices, no doubt about it…

Pilotwingz…drop me a line next time you’re in the Front Royal area…I’m 3 blocks from the south fork…maybe we can get Big D out of the big bad city and out into God’s Country for a day trip.

Rocks, mountain, trees, rtc
They’re all there in the day as well as at night. I considered most of it to be irrelevant to the rescue. They are present, but not ominous or imposing or at all unusual in their size or effect. I said the report was hyperbole because I legitimately consider it to be. I don’t apologize for my opinion, but didn’t mean to upset you with it.

  • Big D

fair enough D …
… I can respect a man who stands by his words and thoughts … we don’t have to always agree .

I stand by my words , I said what I meant to say and after reviewing , it is sufficient .

I’m not one to walk on eggshells , doubt you are either , so let’s keep a pack that we can always be honest with each other .

thanks so much for the offer Shen. …

– Last Updated: Jul-03-09 1:20 AM EST –

.... often do I remember the Shenadoah , drift back in time with her ... she holds a breath of life in my soul , I fell in love with her before all others , and I wish to rest with her one day .

Do you remember a local Nat.Res. officer named Mr.Warren in the Front Royal area ??

We'll probably never get together because I'm a loner , don't make friends readily and avoid such invites , but it is good of you to offer .. please forgive any offense for my not accepting ... nothing personal I assure you .

I am genuinely envious of your station in God's country ... and will always wish the best for you over there ... who knows , I may be floating by or standing in the river there again some day , we may glance and nod a hey there towards each other and acknowledge a shared peace and contentment ... over the top a little , yeah maybe lol , but I blame it on the Shenandoah and her alure !!

No offense taken…
and your sentiments about ‘my’ river poetically put.

I perfectly understand the desire to experience the ‘Doah’ as a solo paddler. I do myself often. Unlike so many other rivers in the Mid-Atlantic, ‘most’ of the Shenandoah is refreshingly devoid of housing developments backed up to the river, big industrial plants and cities and their accompanying ex-urban sprawl for the most part. There are long sections of the Shenandoah that are little changed in form or views from when the first German pioneers came down out of the Cumberland Valleys of MD and PA and laid eyes on her for the first time. The views of the Blue Ridge and the Alleghaneys in places are unmatched.

So when you see a green yak, or a ODC1018 pontoon boat being driven by a 50-ish guy with a goatee and wearing a “Toby Keith” style straw cowboy hat…gives a wave and nod.

…and the offer still stands, but you knew that. :wink: