South Branch of the Potomac River

The South Branch of the Potomac River rises in Highland County, Virginia, and flows northeastward across the eastern panhandle of West Virginia to its junction with the North Branch of the Potomac River near Green Spring, WV, a distance of more than 200 miles. Its principle tributaries are its North Fork and South Fork, which join the branch near Peterstown, WV, and Moorefield, WV, respectively. The South Branch of the Potomac and its north and south forks drain all or parts of Pendleton County, eastern Grant County, western Hardy County, and western Hampshire County. The South Branch is the largest tributary of the Potomac River in West Virginia.

South Branch Geography

The valley of the South Branch is known for its pastoral scenery. Its upper valley, near Moorefield, WV, opens into one of the largest areas of level land in West Virginia and is part of one of its most productive agricultural areas. Its skylines are dominated by the long parallel ridges of South Branch Mountain, to the east, and Patterson Creek Mountain, to the west, both of which rise to more than 2,000 feet above the floor of the valley. On its upper course, the character of the South Branch briefly changes as its passes through the “Smoke Hole,” a deep, narrow valley between mountains through which the river twists and turns. Further downstream, below Moorefield, the South Branch is hemmed between two parallel ridges in a section known colloquially as “The Trough.”

South Branch Communities

From source to mouth, the following select towns and villages are located on or near the South Branch of the Potomac River.

Harper, WV
Franklin, WV
Upper Tract, WV
Petersburg, WV
Moorefield, WV
Old Fields, WV
Romney, WV
Blues Beach, WV
Green Spring, WV
Circleville, WV (North Fork)
Judy Gap, WV (North Fork)
Riverton, WV (North Fork)
Seneca Rocks, WV (North Fork)
Cabins, WV (North Fork)
Sugar Grove, WV (South Fork)
Brandywine, WV (South Fork)
Milam, WV (South Fork)
Bass, WV (South Fork)

Parks & Recreation

The South Branch and its forks are popular destinations for fishing, swimming, and boating. Much of the river and its tributaries course through parks and recreation areas, including the Monongahela National Forest, through which much of the upper South Branch and its north fork descend, and the Washington & Jefferson National Forests, along which the south fork flows. Other parks and recreation areas along the branches include the following.

Thorn Creek Wildlife Management Area
Welton Park (Petersburg, WV)
South Branch Wildlife Management Area
Fort Mill Ridge Wildlife Management Area
Springfield Wildlife Management Area

Variant Names

South Branch of Potowmac River, South Branch of the Potowmack River, South Fork Potomac River, Wapacomo River, Wapocomo River, Wappacoma River, Wappatomaka River, Wappatomica

Regional Information

Information on lodging, dining, and recreation on and near the South Branch of the Potomac River may be found in our guide to travel in the Potomac Branches Region.

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