Great Falls? - Mountain Buzz

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Old 08-20-2007   #1
Join Date: Aug 2007
Posts: 13
Great Falls?

I know this site is called "Mountain" Buzz, but it is still a good forum site reguardless of which side of the country you live on. I'm currently stationed in Washington D.C. and I've been kayaking on the Potomac near Great Falls a few times and was wondering if there were other put-ins besides Angler's Inn. Especially ones with parking nearby. Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.

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Old 08-20-2007   #2
GWS, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1992
Join Date: Dec 2004
Posts: 494
You can put in on the Md or VA side at great falls park. You need to pay by the day or get an annual pass. On the MD side you can run the fish ladder, falls, or put in at the bottom of fish ladder which is the top of Mathers gorge. On the VA side you can put in above or below the falls. On the MD side you can hike back up, paddle back up, set a car shuttle or bike shuttle.

There is also little falls closer to DC, its short and not as good as Great Falls or the runout below.

I think Luke Hopkins has a website called local paddler. He is from the area and you may be able to contact him via his website. I have to imagine that there is an east coast version of the buzz, it might be boatertalk.
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Old 08-20-2007   #3
Join Date: Aug 2007
Posts: 13
Thanks, Mut. I've had that same post on now for a few days with no replies. Do you know where to go once inside the MD national park side?
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Old 08-20-2007   #4
GWS, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1992
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On the MD side, park as far downstream in the lot as you can. To run the fish ladder you should hike downstream along the canal path and you will find a place to put in. Be sure to scout the whole run from shore before hand. It is fairly strait forward but there are some real nasty spots. you should probably run this with some other folks first.

If you want to put in at the top of the Gorge you should hike downstream along the canal past where you can cross the bridge over the fish ladder. Go a few (maybe 100) feet past the turn off to the bridge. You will see a path that you can hike down to the river. You will end up in some slack water (more like a lake at low water but a surf wave at real high flows) that is surrounded by rock outcroppings. Paddle upstream and you will pop out at the bottom of the fish ladder. You can go upstream past the fish ladder and attain up to the base of the falls and the O-deck wave.

There is some really epic play in the stretch between the falls and anglers inn but it varies based on the level. At some levels it all sucks and at other levels only certain features are going. There are a ton of boaters there so chat one up. Be sure to get out there when center chute is going, it is one of the nicest bigger holes i have been in. Dead cow and corner pocket should not be missed either.

As for the falls I'll let you figure that one out on your own. The MD side has some stout lines and it is best to go with a guide the first few times. Also the park service wants people to paddle it during off hours so there are less people watching. I think their theory is that if people see kayakers dropping the falls and it looks easy that maybe some stupid tourista will follow suit.
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Old 08-20-2007   #5
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Littleton, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2002
Join Date: Oct 2006
Posts: 39
This time of year Little Falls is a great run. It's short but good. The nice thing is you can hit it on your way into work. Park at lock 6 or 5, carry to the feeder canal and paddle down a small stream to the Po. The bottom drop varies with tide.

American Whitewater - NWRI - Potomac 6. Little Falls_

American Whitewater - Graphic of Little Falls Rapid of the Potomac River_

I have a little app I wrote when I lived in DC, that collects data from all the government sites and predicts the play. You can have a copy if you want.
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Old 08-21-2007   #6
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Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 787
Here is a great resource for the area: Potomac Paddlers

Lots of DC area paddlers post on

DC are message board (i havent used or seen this one) Kayak Lessons On The Potomac River In Maryland Virginia Washington DC

Hope that helps. Ok, now my shameless plug-

HEY EVERYBODY! Check out CKS's Free online gear conetst here --> The Colorado Kayak Chronicle
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Old 08-21-2007   #7
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Englewood, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1978
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You are NOT allowed to put in above Fisherman's Eddy (access trail marked with a sign) on the VA side. The NPS specifically prohibits this, so you have to launch from MD if you want to run Z-Turn/The Spout. Try BoaterTalk for more beta - it tends to be more SE-oriented.
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