— Breaks Interstate Park —
Russell Fork originates at the confluence of a
number of small streams near Council
Virginia. Typical of the Appalachian Plateau,
the river valley is narrow and V-shaped. Flash
floods are not uncommon. Major tributaries
are McClure River and Russell-Prater Creek,
entering at Haysi, Virginia, and most notably
Pound River just north of Bartlick. Russell Fork
drains all of Dickenson and portions of Wise
and Buchanan counties in Virginia. The
drainage area above Elkhorn City, Kentucky,
just downstream from here, is 554 square miles.
Russell Fork is tributary to Levisa Fork at Millard, Kentucky. Levisa Fork and Tug Fork combine
at Louisa, Kentucky to form the Big Sandy River, which enters the Ohio River at Catlettsburg
Kentucky. The Native American name for the Big Sandy was Chatterwha, and these highlands
were called Ouasioto; both names have been applied to Russell Fork.
Russell Fork is a world-renowned whitewater stream, particularly the gorge section through
the heart of Breaks Interstate Park. The river drops nearly 280 vertical feet from Garden Hole
upstream of the Towers, to here. The stream runs over bare bedrock and around large
boulders fallen from the cliffs which are 800-1000 feet high.
John W. Flannagan Reservoir and North Fork of Pound Dam and Lake were completed in 1964
and 1966, respectively, as flood control projects on Pound River. Controlled releases from
Flannagan Reservoir assure prime whitewater conditions on October weekends of each year.
The character of the river can change markedly at other times dependent on precipitation.