The Russell Fork is one of the classic Class V creek runs in the United States. The river is run year round and relies on a combination of natural flow and dam release from the Flanagan Reservoir on the Pound River. Every October, the Corp of Engineers draws the reservoir down over 4 weekends, putting anywhere from 800-1100 cfs into the Russell. Paddlers from all over the world converge on the Breaks to sample the awesome whitewater, reputation and sheer beauty of the 1600ft gorge.
While best known for its extreme push and danger in October, many are running the Fork at much lower flows. Below around 400cfs, the gorge is a good Class IV+ creek run. Extremely technical, but the pool/drop nature of the stream bed allows time to regroup between rapids and time to take in the incredible canyon. There are a couple of Class V drops at lower water, but you can easily sneak or portage. More Information.
More information on the current Whitewater Release Schedule from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers can be found here.
The Russell Fork Rendezvous began in 1994. Originally called the Bluegrass Wildwater Association Fall Party, it started as a race between friends from Garden Hole to the takeout at Potters Mill. Soon after its modest conception, a musical element was added and the event was moved to Haysi, VA.
When AW listed the Russell Fork as America’s most endangered river in 1997, more musical acts stepped in, in an effort to raise money to fight on the river’s behalf. Paddlers also reached out to prominent locals for support.
The Gorge section was once considered to be nearly impossible to navigate safely, but advances in boat and gear design now allow it to be enjoyed by a wider range of skilled paddlers. As the popularity of the river grew, so did the festival.
Now in its 25th year, the Russell Fork Rendezvous has since is going back to its roots, with a return to Haysi, VA. The event is still a celebration of paddling culture and the proceeds still go to support American Whitewater. The Russell Fork River is still considered to be endangered, as strip mines and environmental issues continue to threaten its pristine beauty.
The event remains organic in nature, with primitive camping, few rules, and a focus on enjoying the river and our unique culture.
The 2019 Rendezvous will be held on October 27-29 at the Kiwanis Park in Haysi, VA. While not technically affiliated with the now named “Lord of the Forks” race, many participants and spectators stay at the park to enjoy the camaraderie of paddlers from all over the world and get the most out of this precious natural resource. More Information.