WTL – Whitetop Laurel – Damascus VA.

Whitetop Laural – A FEW COMMENTS (directions below):

Whitetop Laurel, commonly refered to as “Whitetop” in conversation or “WTL” in posts is an absolutely beautiful creek in the western end of the state of Virginia (not WVa) just across the mountians from where Tennesse and North Carolina converage along the state border.  This is a pristen creek with most of its flow coming off the “Grayson Highlands” area just to the east.  It is normally only runnable after significant rains or repeated rains happen in the area.  It has two primary sections that are ordinarily run though some have ventured in to the more extreme areas above.

While it is in a fairly remote area and feels very remote on the creek,  it has one very nice feature should the need arise,  the “Virginia Creeper Trial” runs along its banks.  This trial is on an old railroad bed and hence is not difficult to walk and is well maintained and not overgrown (about 6-8 foot wide),  and weave back and forth across the creek over the many old railroad bridges that cross the creek.

A word about the railroad bridges – be careful many are at angle to the flow and can be a serious pinning hazard,  take approaching these seriously,  go for the areas where flow is slow and or will not push you into the bridge pilings and cross braces – this is no joke!!!

Strainers – trees down in the river are a item to be aware of and concerned about on any of this run.  Some of the sections are tight and pushing and leave little opporturnity to get out if your not watching and scouting.  Wind, water, and beavers all contriute to a changing situation on this creek.  If in doubt get out and scout and/or portage as needed.

Upper Whitetop is a much more pushy creek overall than the lower section (though don’t underestimate the lower).  The most technical and difficult spot “The Slot” can be protaged but you must know where to get off,  it not easy to find of spot if you do not know the creek.  There are many more very techical areas below too. 

Lower Whitetop while overall, is less pushy and technical should not be underestimated,  it has its tight, pushy and technical area.  In particular “Big Falls”.  At Big Falls, you must know where to get out above and scout or portage as you see fit, if you run you need to know the options on lines, there are places you don’t want to be.  Don’t under estimate hydralic holes/lines across the river either, some can be quite retentive.

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Directions:

From Boone NC – take hyw 421 through Boone, which in Boone will become hyw 421/ hyw 321 going west.  After leaving Boone going west for 5-6 miles US421 and US321 will split,  stay striaght on hyw 421 toward Mountain City Tenn.  After entering Mountain City Tennesse you will turn right onto hyw 91 going north toward Damascus VA.  After entering Virgina as the hyw decends toward Damascus you will see a large creek to your right following the road,  this is Tennesse Laural which feeds into Whitetop at Damascus.  Tennesse Laural is runable from a few mile outside of Damascus after very heavy or prolonged rain.  Eventually Tennesse Laural will cross under the hyw to join Whitetop, just past where it crosses under the road you will cross a bridge over Whitetop Laurel, and just past that bridge to the right is hyw 58 going east, turn right onto hyw 58,  as this road leads to all of the put in and takeout accesses.

From I-81:

  1. Going south on I-81 from Wyethville Va. (where I-81 & I-77 intersect) take exit 19 at Abbington Va. onto Va. hyw 11/58 and turn east toward Damascus. – continue with #3 below.
  2. Going north on I-81 from Bristol Tenn. take exit 19 at Abbington Va. onto Va. hyw 11/58 east toward Damascus – continue with #3 below 
  3. Follow hyw 58 east into and through Damascus till it T’s into Hyw 91,  turn right onto hyw 91S/58E and follow it to the outskirts of town where hyw 58 east turns to the left just before hyw 91 crosses WTL.  Take the left turn onto hyw 58 east,  as this road leads to all of the put ins and takeout accesses.

To Put ins and takeouts off of hyw 58:

  1. Put in for the normal upper section – Follow hyw 58 east until you come to Route 728 “Creek Junction Rd.” on the right (note this is a very hard almost 150-160 degree turn to the right on a very narrow and tight road).  It is probably around 10 miles or so to this turn.  This road takes to the put in for the normal upper section where there is a parking lot and pit toilet house.  As you ride down the road to the normal put in WTL will be off the side of the mountian on your left.  You will see a section that is sometimes is also refer to as the upper, however this an area most do not run,  it a upper upper very hair boat level run area not run by most.  The normal upper section begins at when  you get to the parking area.
  2. Take out for the normal Upper Section and Put in for Lower Section – From the intersection of hyw 91 and hyw 58 – go east on hyw 58 for serveral miles and watch for the “Straight Branch Acess” area on your right.  This area has a parking lot and pit toliets.  This can be used as a take out for the normal upper or put in for the lower section.
  3. Take out for the lower section:
    • There are 2 takeouts the lower secton:
      • The shorter run after the meat of most of the action is at the what is called the “Iron Bridge” which is the 1st steel tressel crossing WTL along the road going east on hyw 58 after turning off of Hyw 91.  This is also where the locals have painted a paddlers gauge on the bridge piling.
      • The alternate and slightly longer run is down to just above the the bridge where hyw 58 and hyw 91 meet and WTL passes under hyw 91.  While the extra mile+ at lower levels is fairly quite, when caught at higher levels it has some nice play waves and feature and is fun.  Be sure to pull off hwy 58 up from the intersection as little ways,  do not pull off on the paved walking path down near the intersection,  this is part of the Virgina Creeper trail and you can be ticketed or towed there.
  4. Alternate take out/put in in the middle of the normal upper section at Taylor Valley which requires as drive a few miles out hyw 91 going south to the Taylor Vally road on the left, and then driving into the hamlet of Taylor Valley to the bridge over WTL.  Most folks skip this one and just use the normal put in’s and take outs.