Greenbrier River Trail

hkpierce

'02 140 Hi BlueBlk Pass
To maximize leave days, Memorial Day weekend seemed like a good time to do the Greenbrier River Trail. No – not the one that pops up on Google and most West Virginia tourist sites,

This one. https://diyoutdoors.wvu.edu/canoeing/greenbrier-river-canoe

The plan was to do the whole 165 miles from Durbin to Hinton. But lack of rain meant that we had to start at about the half-point – Marlington. Even there the minimum is recommended at 2.5 feet, whereas the reading was 2.43. Beggars cannot be choosers.

Between gear for 7 days, 16 ft river kayaks and us, displacement was about 450lbs per.

There are no good river maps, mileage markers, or inventory of pull-outs and camp sites for the Greenbrier River. For the Marlington to Cadwell section, we used the Green River bike trail map for guidance. Below Caldwell it was hit and miss with Google maps and locals. It was surprising how little the locals know of the river 5 miles above or below their location. Even the outfitters knew little beyond their normal section of the river.

A Marlington outfitter directed us to a free city campground that was well maintained with water and pits.




The first 1 ½ days the river had frequent gravel bars. That meant bottoming out, hand pushing, poling and even a few times getting out and towing our kayaks. Second night was spent at a grassy parking lot. Morning wake up consisted of a ATV crossing the river, occupied by a pensioner on his way to the do a bit of maintenance on the bike trail.




Between Marlington and Caldwell, the east side of the river is basically state or federal forest, with the bank of the river transitioning steaply up. The west side has a bank that transitions into narrow flood plain – where either the bike trail or vacation homes are located. The hills are steep, with numerous cliffs and recent rock falls. Wildlife seemed to be limited – Canadian geese, some ducks and deer. Surprising lack of other animal tracks in the river mud.






The later half of the second day river rocks became more noticeable – and for the rest of trip became the main feature of our attention. We would pick a chute that promised the most water and 100-200-400 feet later – bang – onto/bounce over/off/ or stuck on a rock. It is tough to maneuver at 450lb 16ft kayak bouncing on the bottom and the rudder only pinging with no purchase. The best of these chutes had enough fall that the speed of the water was enough to push us over the gravel and rocks. Sorry – no pic as I had all hands occupied.

Night three was in the park in central downtown Renick. No camping permitted. We phoned the park manager – no answer. Asked a neighbor property owner as to camping in the park – fine!. Later that night another neighbor biked over with a locally made product – a pint glass jar of moonshine flavored with local blueberry honey. Three in our group were former bar tenders. They all agreed – best tasting mouth wash they ever had. I don't drink enough mouth wash to judge.



Another day of rocks hiding below the surface of flat pools of water and grabbing the kayaks and gravel runs of various drops. Searching for a parking lot to sleep in again, we found a location that looked like a public park – complete with Adirondack and memorial benches. Nope. By luck, I found the owner - who nixed the idea of the parking lot camping. He offered his lawn for us, and, as he left for home, he told us to use the outdoor shower that had hot water!. Whoa! Hog heaven.



Rocks continued to grow in size. Below Caldwell our map ended. Targeting another town park for the night, we spotted a shelter and landing on the east (wrong) side of the river. What was that? Not marked as anything on any map we had or could find on Google, it was maintained 4-site with shelter and pit. There were few signs that most of the sites had ever been used in years. But timing and distance was right – so the fourth night was spent there.



The major change from Caldwell south is that civilization introduces noise.

I-64.


CSX


Road traffic with Jack brakes preferred. All reverberating and echoing off the steep hills on both sides of the river.

The fourth day on the river had three Class IIIs. Not normally a problem at higher water. I chickened out on one and dragged my kayak around. Then I dunked the third as I lost control of the bow. At the second another of our party flipped – and there was a vacation house located overlooking the rapids with occupants enjoying the free entertainment.





And as we approach Alderson, the geology of the river changed yet again. More limestone. And a noticeable decline in the volume of water (presumably going underground through the limestone).



We pulled out at the Greenbrier River Campground for the 5th night – and the management gave us pavilions to sleep under to give us a chance to dry gear. But after 60 plus miles, it was over for us. The first day one had damaged a hand tendon, another aggravated an old pinched nerve injury from his Ranger days, the third was recovering from a pinned pelvis and leg injuries from a motorcycle accident 3 months ago, and I came down with a bout of the West Virginia Revenge.



Some of the damage



Video
 
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glasseye

Well-known member
Most excellent, despite the hardships. As usual in America, the kindness of strangers prevails. :rad:

Low water everywhere, even in freshet season. Sobering.
 

sled

Member
Fantastic write up, appreciate it. Brought back memories.... Wife and I with our two children did it 30yrs ago in our Mad River canoe. Great trip, plenty of water back then.
 

Patrick walsh

Active member
A true adventure!

To maximize leave days, Memorial Day weekend seemed like a good time to do the Greenbrier River Trail. No – not the one that pops up on Google and most West Virginia tourist sites,

This one. https://diyoutdoors.wvu.edu/canoeing/greenbrier-river-canoe

The plan was to do the whole 165 miles from Durbin to Hinton. But lack of rain meant that we had to start at about the half-point – Marlington. Even there the minimum is recommended at 2.5 feet, whereas the reading was 2.43. Beggars cannot be choosers.

Between gear for 7 days, 16 ft river kayaks and us, displacement was about 450lbs per.

There are no good river maps, mileage markers, or inventory of pull-outs and camp sites for the Greenbrier River. For the Marlington to Cadwell section, we used the Green River bike trail map for guidance. Below Caldwell it was hit and miss with Google maps and locals. It was surprising how little the locals know of the river 5 miles above or below their location. Even the outfitters knew little beyond their normal section of the river.

A Marlington outfitter directed us to a free city campground that was well maintained with water and pits.




The first 1 ½ days the river had frequent gravel bars. That meant bottoming out, hand pushing, poling and even a few times getting out and towing our kayaks. Second night was spent at a grassy parking lot. Morning wake up consisted of a ATV crossing the river, occupied by a pensioner on his way to the do a bit of maintenance on the bike trail.




Between Marlington and Caldwell, the east side of the river is basically state or federal forest, with the bank of the river transitioning steaply up. The west side has a bank that transitions into narrow flood plain – where either the bike trail or vacation homes are located. The hills are steep, with numerous cliffs and recent rock falls. Wildlife seemed to be limited – Canadian geese, some ducks and deer. Surprising lack of other animal tracks in the river mud.






The later half of the second day river rocks became more noticeable – and for the rest of trip became the main feature of our attention. We would pick a chute that promised the most water and 100-200-400 feet later – bang – onto/bounce over/off/ or stuck on a rock. It is tough to maneuver at 450lb 16ft kayak bouncing on the bottom and the rudder only pinging with no purchase. The best of these chutes had enough fall that the speed of the water was enough to push us over the gravel and rocks. Sorry – no pic as I had all hands occupied.

Night three was in the park in central downtown Renick. No camping permitted. We phoned the park manager – no answer. Asked a neighbor property owner as to camping in the park – fine!. Later that night another neighbor biked over with a locally made product – a pint glass jar of moonshine flavored with local blueberry honey. Three in our group were former bar tenders. They all agreed – best tasting mouth wash they ever had. I don't drink enough mouth wash to judge.



Another day of rocks hiding below the surface of flat pools of water and grabbing the kayaks and gravel runs of various drops. Searching for a parking lot to sleep in again, we found a location that looked like a public park – complete with Adirondack and memorial benches. Nope. By luck, I found the owner - who nixed the idea of the parking lot camping. He offered his lawn for us, and, as he left for home, he told us to use the outdoor shower that had hot water!. Whoa! Hog heaven.



Rocks continued to grow in size. Below Caldwell our map ended. Targeting another town park for the night, we spotted a shelter and landing on the east (wrong) side of the river. What was that? Not marked as anything on any map we had or could find on Google, it was maintained 4-site with shelter and pit. There were few signs that most of the sites had ever been used in years. But timing and distance was right – so the fourth night was spent there.



The major change from Caldwell south is that civilization introduces noise.

I-64.


CSX


Road traffic with Jack brakes preferred. All reverberating and echoing off the steep hills on both sides of the river.

The fourth day on the river had three Class IIIs. Not normally a problem at higher water. I chickened out on one and dragged my kayak around. Then I dunked the third as I lost control of the bow. At the second another of our party flipped – and there was a vacation house located overlooking the rapids with occupants enjoying the free entertainment.





And as we approach Alderson, the geology of the river changed yet again. More limestone. And a noticeable decline in the volume of water (presumably going underground through the limestone).



We pulled out at the Greenbrier River Campground for the 5th night – and the management gave us pavilions to sleep under to give us a chance to dry gear. But after 60 plus miles, it was over for us. The first day one had damaged a hand tendon, another aggravated an old pinched nerve injury from his Ranger days, the third was recovering from a pinned pelvis and leg injuries from a motorcycle accident 3 months ago, and I came down with a bout of the West Virginia Revenge.



Some of the damage

 

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