Why We Love the Russell Fork Race

Each October, boaters across the US rendezvous in Kentucky in celebration of the annual fall water releases on the Russell Fork, a category II-V+ river. The stoke builds all month lengthy, culminating within the Lord of the Fork Race the final weekend of October. We despatched our CKS On-line coworker, Nick Gilbert, to go test it out and report back.

Erik Hancock getting vertical on one of many many play spots on the river

An Ode to the Russell Fork

Heading North on Freeway 80 alongside the Virginia/Kentucky border is a pull-out frequented by vacationers, RVs, and locals attempting to take pleasure in top-of-the-line leaf peeping views in Appalachia.

The signal for the pull-out states: “Mill Rock Overlook: The Grand Canyon of the South.” Whenever you look down from the aspect of the freeway – previous the limitless sea of yellow and orange – there seems to be a small creek trickling by means of a sea of yellow and orange leaves. What few onlookers understand is the little trickle on the backside of the gorge is a whitewater paddler’s paradise.

Russell Fork “Grand Canyon of the South” Overlook

For paddlers within the Southeast, fall colours imply whitewater releases.

Sandwiched between, and sometimes overshadowed by, Gauley Season and the Green Race, the Russell Fork releases are an occasion that shouldn’t be missed.

Driving by means of Elkhorn Metropolis, KY (the closest city to the river) the thrill permeates from the locals to the paddlers as automobiles with kayaks are stopped and requested about one of the best locations to hike to observe the kayaking.

Are you Dane Jackson?” one native requested me. “My daughter is a large fan and has been attempting to satisfy him for years!”

Weekends on the Russell Fork exemplify every little thing proper about fall paddling. Apart from fall colours vivid sufficient to make a pumpkin spice late appear bland, this stretch of river actually presents one thing for each paddler to take pleasure in.

The primary attraction is the category IV-V gorge, well-known for its sieved out geology and nerve-wracking undercuts. Rapids resembling Triple Drop function seams that may devour a kayak, whereas the slide at El Horrendo is a basic take a look at piece for sophistication V rafters.

Over the last weekend in October, dam operators launch 200 additional CFS into the Russell Fork making it Kenucky’s largest weekend for whitewater paddling. The added juice creates a world class race course, and one of the best paddlers within the South all flock to the Russell Fork for the Lord of the Fork Race.

Generally known as a take a look at run for aspiring class V racers, the outcomes of the Russell Fork Race usually foreshadow what’s to come back within the Inexperienced Race just a few weeks later. On race day, the locals and kayakers alike hike out alongside the prepare tracks to Climax speedy to soak within the fall surroundings, take pleasure in some drinks by the river, and watch racers cross the end line of a technical and steep race course.

Apart from the well-known class IV-V gorge, kayakers and SUPers may also benefit from the class II-III higher part, whereas playboaters will park up for the afternoon on the wave on the takeout. We noticed folks paddling the Hala Atcha SUP by means of the calmer stretches, and R2ers firing up the massive rapids of the gorge within the Aire Tributary 12.

The Russell Fork is a kind of rivers the place you will note each kind of watercraft on the market. For racers, the Liquid Logic Stinger was some of the standard selections. Whereas many paddlers loved their creek boats, the Jackson Kayak Antix 2.0 was probably the most talked-about boat at camp, because the combo of bow rocker with a playful stern proved to be probably the most enjoyable strategy to benefit from the river for these able to half-slice down class V.

My boats of selection for a weekend of racing and play

Whereas it was my first time on the Russell Fork, I used to be in a position to squeeze in two observe laps earlier than Saturday’s race.

After backendering my Liquid Logic Stinger in Triple Drop, I clinched the coveted 72nd place on this race. Solely 71 behind Dane Jackson. Good.

With just one weekend to paddle this river, it was arduous to take racing too severely when slicing down the river within the Antix 2.0 was simply an excessive amount of enjoyable.

Whereas many individuals would not consider Kentucky as an apparent decide for his or her bucket listing, each paddler deserves to expertise the magic of the Russell Fork. From the paddling, to the lifestyling, to the autumn colours– if you have not been to the Russell Fork River, I can not suggest it sufficient.

Falling off the seal launch the wrong way up

Did you beat Nick Gilbert within the Lord of the Fork race? Go away us a remark!

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