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Upper & Middle Keeney Rapid, Lower New River Gorge



RAPID NAME: Upper & Middle Keeney


RIVER SECTION: Lower New River Gorge - Cunard To Fayette Station

Named after Keeney Creek, a major tributary that flows into the New on river right, there is a trio of rapids in quick succession known collectively as the Keeneys. At high water levels, Upper & Middle Keeney are one rapid are the first Class V section on the Lower New. At low flows when each drop is more defined and separated, Upper Keeney is a mellow Class II/III rapid.

 32,000-14,000 cfs(12-7’) – At high flows, the entrance to Upper Keeney is dictated almost entirely by Whale Hole/Whale Rock. At flows around 24,000 cfs(10’) and higher, Whale Hole is a huge, powerful hydraulic in the center of the river and is one of the most impressive river features anywhere. The line is to the right, in between Whale Hole and the river right bank. Once past Whale Hole, the line is to move from right to left through Middle Keeney which is characterized by a multitude of large, seemingly random waves. Below 24,00 cfs(10’), when Whale Rock is showing, the eddy wall formed off of Whale Rock is extremely strong and known to flip rafts that try to make their move to the left too soon. The line is still to move from right to left across Middle Kenney after passing Whale Rock. There is a large safety eddy on the river left side in Middle Keeney. The main danger in the Keeneys is a feature known as the Meat Grinder, a large sieve and grouping of undercut rocks that exists at the bottom right of Middle Keeney. The main line of current from Upper and Middle Keeney leads directly to the Meat Grinder, hence the right to left movement while paddling through Middle Keeney. There are a couple of features to be aware of in Middle Keeney. One is the Mouth Wave, which is in the middle of the main current line about 50 yards downstream from Whale Rock. The Mouth Wave is a building and breaking wave that has been known to flip and/or dump-truck rafts, but it has also changed and mellowed some in the past couple years due to flooding and debris being pushed out from Keeney Creek. Of all the rapids in the New River Gorge, Middle Keeney seems to be affected the most by local flood events and debris moving in from the Keeney Creek tributary. Another feature is on the right side of Middle Keeney, known as the Tenderizer. This is a grouping of steep ledge waves and pourovers that will “tenderize” you and then set you up for the Meat Grinder.

14,000-7,500 cfs(7-4’) – At these upper-mid level flows, the features begin to become more defined. Whale Rock is now anywhere from 6-10’ out of the water. The eddy wall off of Wale Rock is still strong and should be accounted for. In Middle Keeney, the line is still to move from right to left, ideally ending up in the large river left safety eddy. The waves become more defined and are breaking harder at these levels. The vast majority of issues involving the Meat Grinder, including fatalities, occur at these water levels. There is a large eddy on the river right side of Middle Keeney which can be used to set safety or to catch if needing to avoid the Meat Grinder. Though not recommended as a standard line, the Meat Grinder is runnable if needed during a rescue situation. The main right slot of the Meat Grinder can be run with a left hand angle and then driving hard left out the backside. Again, this is not a recommended line, but it has been used several times during rescues and is a viable option.

7,500-4,400 cfs(4-2’) – At these mid-level flows, the entrance to Upper Keeney is easily identified to the right of Whale Rock. Although you still want to move right to left after passing Whale Rock, the current slows down significantly between Upper and Middle Keeney. The line through Middle Keeney becomes more narrow, generally being in the center of the river. There are multiple ledges and pourovers on the left and right that should be avoided. There are also two large ledge waves, basically in the middle of the rapid, the first one being farther left and the downstream one more to the right. These waves should be run with caution, particularly the downstream one on the right. These waves are newly formed over the past couple of years and have flipped rafts and inadvertently surfed kayakers.


4,400-2,400 cfs(2-0’) – At these low flows, Upper Keeney becomes a mellow current line along the right side of Whale Rock, with ample time before Middle Kenney. Middle Keeney consists of multiple ledges, pourovers, and the two large ledge waves that are not as much of a factor as the water level gets lower. Multiple surfs for kayaks are available as well as a surf wave for rafts at the bottom right. The river right eddy offers easy access to this surf.