Creek Stories & Events • April 17, 2015
Paddling the Darby Creek Section
Highway 53 — Cover Bridge Road
This is, likely, the best stretch of the river. It is long, due to the poor access point at Hwy 1694. The total length is 10.6 miles. Most of it is moving water, as you can really only paddle this after a big spring/fall rain (or a summer deluge). I’m not aware of any gauges on the river but my rule of thumb is if the water is brown and it looks like you could get down the first rapid without dragging, you’re good to go. I went 32 hours after a record breaking 7” rain so this probably doesn’t run too many times during the year.
This section starts with some meandering class II rapids. The gorge deepens and narrows and you start to enter a beautiful section with rocky bluffs lining the river. They may not be visible in the summer months, but are spectacular when the leaves are down.
This section has a few deep pools of flat water mixed by class II rapids. The rapids are more mild than the 53/393 section. You need to watch for downed trees, but you have good visibility in each rapid to get out if you need to portage a strainer.
After the cliffs section, the gorge widens and some lush bottomland starts bookend the river. Occasionally a larger spring will enter the creek from one side or the other, which would create an even larger flat bottomland section.
This, very remote stretch of river, has over a dozen waterfalls along the river and almost the same number of heron rookeries. If you see a wet water spring entering the creek, follow it back to the bluffs and you’ll see a nice waterfall or cascade.
One of my favorite sections splits the river around several rock bar islands. I called it as “Z-maze rapid,” although to a whitewater boater, it isn’t much of a rapid. You get to pick and navigating you way down several narrow serpentine rivulets. Another notable rapid after this is one I referred to as “Big Beaver Island”. It had a huge woodpile that blocks most of the river. This would be a great summer fishing spot as there are several nice undercut banks and wood structure to house big smallmouth.
The best part is I didn’t see a single sign of man, aside from the occasional debris that washed downstream, until about 3.5 miles downstream when there is an old stone culvert on river right. About 200 past that I saw a few “No Trespassing” signs, but still, no buildings, fencing or other references of man. The only houses you see is one at the put in and one as approach HWY 1694. However, after you pass 1694, that changes as the river passes several McMansions.
After Hwy 1694 the bluffs widen and soften and there are little or no rock formations at the rim. The river widens but the added water from Darby Creek fills it in where we still managed to make it down without scraping too much. Some sections require you pick the right path so you don’t ground out, but follow the current and you should be fine.
There are some rapids that end into what feels like a mile of flat water. Its a massive pool that takes some time to paddle through. After a while, the current picks up again and, although there are more pools, this is the longest one.
There is one notable rapid. It is likely the toughest of the entire section, but it is sill only rated class II. I named it “Dos Piedras” (two rocks) as the current narrows and pushes into two slightly undercut rocks. Portage around it on the island and you’ll avoide dumping your canoe and gear.
From there the current keeps moving as you circle around the backside of Nevel Meade Golf Course, and you pass several nice houses as you approach Cover Bridge Road — takeout is on river left.
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