Low Water Fun Paddle on the White Oak and Clear Fork Rivers

by  kayjeckel

A self-supported trip created by kayjeckel

Trip Overview

Area: Big South Fork National Area

Section: White Oak Creek to Burnt Mill Bridge

Mileage: 11 miles.

This Spring, my two friends and I took one canoe and one kayak on what we thought would be a chill river run on a Class II river. I have done a moderate amount of canoeing, but never on any technical rapids. I have only had to navigate strainers. I was on a plastic 14 foot Emotion Brand canoe with my partner, Pegasus. Our friend, GuitarMan, came with us on a sit-on-top 10 foot Sundolphin kayak.

Our first day we paddled about 5 miles on the White Oak Creek, beginning at White Oak Bridge. The river run was fun, but more trouble than I thought it would be, because the water level was too low. We all had to Portage around rapids probably 10 times. The Big South Fork website showed that the Clear Fork was at about 300 CSF and 2.5 feet. The creek would have been much easier had there been another foot or two of water. I had thought about bringing along my dog, but boy was I glad that I had decided to leave him with a caretaker, because he would have been barking and trying to jump out of the boat every rapid. Our buddy GuitarMan, while having an easier time navigating rapids due to the flexibility of the kayak, still got flooded several times because his sit on top kayak was NOT made for rapids. It was cause for a lot of laughter everytime he stopped on some rocks to dump water out of his boat. Despite the portages and slight misadventures, we all had a good time. We turned right and followed the Clear Fork River for maybe a mile before landing on a Sandy beach to camp for the night. We had plenty of daylight left for setting up tents, cooking dinner, and listening to music and laughing around the campfire.

The next day we finished the route to Burnt Mill Bridge. The water was higher on the Clear Fork than the previous day on the White Oak. We did run ground a few times, but we didnt need to portage at all today. It was fun and relaxing.

Overall, the trip was a blast. Scenery is absolutely gorgeous and the weather was perfect: cloudy with a little bit of sporadic sun. We saw a river otter, several ducks, and a couple eagles. Big South Fork is a paddler's paradise.

Portage Notes

Only because the water was at low levels.

Trip Details

  • Trip Dates: 5/16/2021-5/17/2021
  • Sport/Activity: Kayaking, Canoeing
  • Skill Level: Beginner, Intermediate
  • Water Type: River/Creek (Up to Class II)
  • Number of Portages: 10

Trip Location