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Cheat River, WV

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Mystery Archives: Cheat River, West Virginia By Jim Snyder


The Cheat River is the birthplace of the squirt sport and mystery moves. Jesse Whittemore evolved the sport into high performance play and inspired Jim and Jeff Snyder to follow suit. Jesse went on to design and build boats in Friendsville, Maryland. but Jim and Jeff pursued the sport in Albright, West Virginia- the put in for the Cheat Canyon.  Jim went on to design short squirt boats in an attempt to get cartwheelable boats.  And Jesse pretty much stayed with designing long, fast, pointy squirt boats.  Jesse discovered Blasting, Backblasting, Splats, and Bow Screws- so his contribution to the sport is quite noteworthy.  The first mystery moves in a squirt boat were done by Jim Snyder in a small eddy at the top of Decision Rapid - the first rapid in the Canyon. No one even lays in this obscure little eddy anymore.  There are only a few mystery spots on the Cheat.  Its best squirt levels are relatively low (2-2.5') and so it tends to be shallow. The river is full of good Mush Move spots and has superb blasting available at Cueball Rapid at these levels.

The Mystery Spot Below Calamity

This place has never been properly named like most mystery holes. It lies about 100 yards below Calamity Rock Rapid on the "Narrows" section of the Cheat- 10 miles upstream of the Canyon.  It is frequented at very low levels (below 1') in the summer because you can drive to it and get meager but consistent downtime (DT). At higher levels the eddy line gets kind of squirrely and consistent DT is harder to get- but not impossible. The best eddyline lies on "Attainer’s Right" (river left). There the river kicks sharply off a shoreside rock and forms seams with other lesser slabs in the area.  You use a steep charc with your bow partially submerged before you engage and try to drop quickly.  You might get just a couple seconds downtime but you can get consistent good results.  This is a good place to work on Black Attacks and is where Jim developed Light Loops. It's also an excellent place to do Screws. 

The attainer’s left eddy line can yield results also but takes a different handling.  The easiest way to get good DT is to go way to the top of the eddy and use a backcut mystery. You can even ride the mystery into the main slab and across it into the eddy on the river left shore- stay underwater and leave that eddy on a mystery also.  Another way to mystery on this side is to come out much lower- maybe 20' downstream and use a "regular" charc and try to link up with seams squishing around in the middle of the slab there.  Just keep winging down and being persistent and you will travel a bit but quite likely get acceptable to good DT. Local boaters also enjoy swimming through mysteries at these low levels and often get major DT and travel big distances.

Slam Dunk

 This is a powerful mystery spot about 60 yards downstream of Armadillo Rock, halfway down the Cheat Canyon.  A large low rock splits the main slab of the currents just to the left of center. You leave the eddy breaking left and try to engage your upstream hip fully and drop pretty much level but winging down. Only do three turns underwater at the most or you will have a chance to whack a shallow rock that waits off to river right or you may go too far downstream to recover into the eddy easily.  This is a good place to perform dervishlike black attacks and is an excellent play spot at the right levels (2'-3'). The drawdown is profound and can be disconcerting but there is no history of anyone ever having a bad ride or getting whacked here.

Cueball

Cueball is famous for it's blasting hole which is similar to Swimmers Hole on the Lower Yough- but cranked up about double.  The optimal level for the hole is 2.3-2.5 when it is fluffed up a bit and has strong shoulders but still an intense slab. Good squirt boaters can achieve blasting transitions and shudder Rudders at will here although it isn't  easy.  There is an excellent mystery spot on downstream 100 feet just to the left of the big splat rock.  Here the currents pile into steep sided bedrock slabs which form the river left shore and form ponderous but fickle seams.  The trick is to wait just on the upstream flow section of the seam area and wait for a big seam to lumber your way. When it does attack it quickly and drop fast winging down hard but level into the encroaching slab and seam.  If you get lucky your head will disappear for a few seconds and you will get up to 4' deep as you spin.  This is a very powerful and dynamic arena and doesn't lend itself well to roaming. But it is definitely worth a detour if you are ever passing by.

Recyc

Short for "Recyclotron" this was once one of the best mystery spots in the Appalachians.   After the flood of 1996 the pool level below the slide type hole dropped 2' and destroyed the mystery capabilities the arena had.  When it was good- from 1985-1996 you could easily get 3-5 seconds DT and often 8-10 seconds. This was one of the first places where paddlers experimented with big DT (over 6 seconds).   It was named by Jim Snyder after Paul Marshall named the flume-like drop below it- "the Cyclotron" in the spring of 1986.  The Cyclotron disappeared in the flood of 1996.  The best charc was breaking left from the center to dive with a shallow charc into the thin slab and drop sideways to a point where the bedrock bottom fell away.  At this point you could drop deeper into an underwater eddy with the currents passing just over your head. Then when you had enough you could easily hit the up button and erupt vertically next to the waiting mystery riders.  A few people and boats were speared this way with rude bows. You could also break right from the center and get respectable DT although you

would often travel in this mode and so couldn't roam as peacefully.  In the final days before the 1996 flood, squirt boaters were starting to have a problem with boogie board riders who would drop in for verrry long rides- to the excitement of no one. They ended up trying to work next to the boogie boardom and that was often a successful solution. When Recyc was big - anything over 3'- it was (and still is) way burly and gave violent and dynamic- although not impossible rides.  Jeff Snyder was master of riding these levels- often jumping in at 6' and higher.  At this level the foam pile is at least 6' tall and 50' wide and the slab is about 2' thick. The ride is often so violent you often become an end throwing speck.  Jeff seemed to bide his time calmly and well though in all conditions.  There is good footage of him in there with just handpaddles at 6' in the video "Token of My Extreme".

Bottom of "What" Rapid

"What” Rapid is the last significant rapid in the Canyon but still about 2.5 miles from the take-out. At the very bottom of the rapid is a large rock splitting the currents in the center of the river. You eddy up behind the left side of the rock and leave the eddy very close to the rock with a steep diving charc.  You have to wing down as you are dropping vertically. If you do it right you will be pulled down abruptly and sent for a spin or two before the currents force you up- very similar charcs and conditions to Trash Compactor on the Lower Gauley.  The thing to remember here is to not travel back into the eddy underwater if you can help it. There is a rock about 4.5' deep on the eddy line and it can give you a rude whack if you don't give it some space.

Last Mystery

There is a little known mystery spot just above the final riffle going into Jenkinsburg. It is at the bottom left of the rapid above the riffle and is only distinguished by a low lying rock with strong deep currents to the left of it- almost next to the shore. You break out high going right with a steep diving charc and try to link up with a seam about 18" beyond the eddy. If you get it right your head will disappear for a couple seconds. You travel a lot and can't get much support from the eddies so it is very fickle but worth a stop if you have any energy left.

Recyc

Short for "Recyclotron" this was once one of the best mystery spots in the Appalachians.   After the flood of 1996 the pool level below the slide type hole dropped 2' and destroyed the mystery capabilities the arena had.  When it was good- from 1985-1996 you could easily get 3-5 seconds DT and often 8-10 seconds. This was one of the first places where paddlers experimented with big DT (over 6 seconds).   It was named by Jim Snyder after Paul Marshall named the flume-like drop below it- "the Cyclotron" in the spring of 1986.  The Cyclotron disappeared in the flood of 1996.  The best charc was breaking left from the center to dive with a shallow charc into the thin slab and drop sideways to a point where the bedrock bottom fell away.  At this point you could drop deeper into an underwater eddy with the currents passing just over your head. Then when you had enough you could easily hit the up button and erupt vertically next to the waiting mystery riders.  A few people and boats were speared this way with rude bows. You could also break right from the center and get respectable DT although you would often travel in this mode and so couldn't roam as peacefully.  In the final days before the 1996 flood, squirt boaters were starting to have a problem with boogie board riders who would drop in for verrry long rides- to the excitement of no one. They ended up trying to work next to the boogie boardom and that was often a successful solution. When Recyc was big - anything over 3'- it was (and still is) way burly and gave violent and dynamic- although not impossible rides.  Jeff Snyder was master of riding these levels- often jumping in at 6' and higher.  At this level the foam pile is at least 6' tall and 50' wide and the slab is about 2' thick. The ride is often so violent you often become an end throwing speck.  Jeff seemed to bide his time calmly and well though in all conditions.  There is good footage of him in there with just handpaddles at 6' in the video "Token of My Extreme".

Bottom of "What" Rapid

"What” Rapid is the last significant rapid in the Canyon but still about 2.5 miles from the take-out. At the very bottom of the rapid is a large rock splitting the currents in the center of the river. You eddy up behind the left side of the rock and leave the eddy very close to the rock with a steep diving charc.  You have to wing down as you are dropping vertically. If you do it right you will be pulled down abruptly and sent for a spin or two before the currents force you up- very similar charcs and conditions to Trash Compactor on the Lower Gauley.  The thing to remember here is to not travel back into the eddy underwater if you can help it. There is a rock about 4.5' deep on the eddy line and it can give you a rude whack if you don't give it some space.

Last Mystery

There is a little known mystery spot just above the final riffle going into Jenkinsburg. It is at the bottom left of the rapid above the riffle and is only distinguished by a low lying rock with strong deep currents to the left of it- almost next to the shore. You break out high going right with a steep diving charc and try to link up with a seam about 18" beyond the eddy. If you get it right your head will disappear for a couple seconds. You travel a lot and can't get much support from the eddies so it is very fickle but worth a stop if you have any energy left.


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