BARNUM - Over the river and through the woods, to Barnum's whitewater we go: Saturday, Aug. 25, from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.

For the News Tribune
BARNUM - Over the river and through the woods, to Barnum's whitewater we go: Saturday, Aug. 25, from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.
Leased from the US Army Corps of Engineers and operated by the Mineral County Parks and Recreation Department, the Barnum Whitewater Area is featured in this week's “Tour of the 7'C's” series of events designed to showcase Mineral County assets and cross-connect the county.
Another of the county's out-of-the-way and relatively unknown assets of beauty and recreational enjoyment, Barnum sits just below the base of the dam at Jennings Randolph Lake. It offers some of the best fishing and whitewater to be found in the East.
Especially during controlled releases from the dam, the Potomac River spillway surges with water fast and furious below the dam at Barnum and downstream. Saturday Aug. 25, is one of those scheduled release days.
The Mineral County Parks and Rec, along with the Convention and Visitors Bureau, is hosting “River Day @ Barnum” that Saturday from 10 a.m. till 2 p.m. Kevin Simon, Parks and Rec director, says. “Come and put in at the river access for rafting, canoeing, kayaking, or tubing, and be prepared for big water! Or come just to watch.”
On any given day, the Potomac River access is great for exploring the North Branch as it meanders along through mountain valleys and past the towns of Beryl, West Virginia, Bloomington, Maryland, and through Piedmont, West Virginia. From a slow float to Class I, II, and III rapids on release days (the maximum flow is 1500 CFS), the seven-mile length creates the border between the states of West Virginia and Maryland.
The trek down river can be a wild one on release days.
Kevin Clark, director of the Mineral County Development Authority, recounts a visit to Barnum with a warning to be prepared for a serious challenge on the day of a release: 'We decided to give it a try in our canoes with no life vests or helmets because we were young and dumb and we didn’t make it 100’ until we almost died.  We were daredevils and couldn’t do it. ' ...word to the wise!"
When at Barnum, one may want to take a look at the ten cabins managed by Parks and Rec - seven that accommodate four people, renting for $33.60 per night, and three that will sleep eight, renting for $56 per night. In addition there are several tent sites that rent for $10 per day. Reservations are made through Parks and Rec contacts provided below, with cabins often fully occupied during summer weekends. A lighted bathroom facility is available though without running water.
Fishermen know Barnum for some of the best fly-fishing in the region. Trophy fish including stocked brown, brook, rainbow, and golden trout have been caught, including a record brown trout weighing 18 lbs., 3 oz. Because of its renown, fishing reports for the North Branch are common, including this report from the Savage River Angler guide service: “The lower river is a tailwater that gets it's coldwater supply form Jennings Randolph lake. This is the section of the North Branch that people usually are talking about when they talk about the river. There is a catch and release section immediately downstream from the dam that runs downstream for a mile or so before it runs past the campgrounds and the parking area at Barnum, where it becomes put and take for a couple of miles. Below the put and take section it goes back to C&R regs.”
Such specific interest is part of what makes the Barnum area of Mineral County a great site for tourism development.
One other element that is available to residents and draws tourists to Barnum is the bike and hike trail that begins at the campground and extends over five miles along the river to reach Route 46 at Beryl. Known for its “Wild, Wonderful, West Virginia” challenge, the trail is used by people from nearby metropolitan areas looking to get out of the city, including those who participate in the Altis Endurance Race (cf. altisendurance.com). The Barnum Rail Trail Marathon and Half Marathon will take place on Sept. 29, and is part of a series of five marathons that are planned over five consecutive days.
According to the US Army Corps of Engineers 2015 Fact Sheet, after the Water Resources Development Act of 1988, “which added downstream recreation, including whitewater rafting, as an authorized project purpose,”  to the $175,000,000 Jennings Randolph Lake project, the Mineral County Parks and Recreation Commission leased from the US Army Corps of Engineers the first 12 acres of the Barnum area in 1990 for whitewater and fishing access downstream of the dam. Another 45 acres was added to the lease in 1998 for land including the area developed for the enjoyment of the cabins and camping. The Baltimore District of the US Army Corps typically conducts the annual water releases from the dam in the April - May each year, and periodically in the summer and fall as desired. Mineral County Parks and Rec and the US Army Corps of Engineers enjoy an excellent working relationship in mutual benefit of the lake and its surrounds.
For directions to Barnum: Take route 135 west through Westernport, Maryland, and past Piedmont, turn left at Route 46, cross the Potomac River at Beryl,  and head south, up through the woods till you come to Barnum Road on the right. Follow to the river. From Elk Garden and the highland communities, follow Route 46 down to Barnum Road.
For more information contact Parks and Rec at 304.788.5732. Visit www.mineralcountywv.com. Or like the Mineral County Parks and Recreation page on facebook.
Simon says: “See you at Barnum on Saturday, August 25th!”
The next in the Tour series is the Mineral County Car Show in Piedmont on Labor Day Weekend, Saturday, Sept. 1, from noon – 4: p.m. Cruise on in and enjoy some great auto history, move to the music of DJ Tim Kady, and enjoy the eats of the Piedmont American Legion's best cooks and grill-masters.