Jones Falls, Maryland, US
Lake Roland to Round Falls
||I-III (for normal flows)
Double Topo Duos
Double Topo DuosPhoto of GBCC Topos taken 06/15/02 @ Dam Release
Time: about an hour with no playing
Fun Factor: 8 out of 10
Water Quality: Ever take a shower in a junkyard?
Scenery: Good to weird.
History: Used to provide Baltimore City with water. Currently provides Baltimore City Harbor with
ALERT: There are summer releases scheduled for Sunday, July 21st, Saturday, August 17th, and
Sunday, September 22nd, 2002. Visit the Greater Baltimore Canoe Club for details: www.baltimorecanoeclub. org
Description: The Jones Falls is one of the most unique, most fun, strangest, stinkiest, wildest,
and most bizarrely scenic little runs available anywhere, arguably, and certainly within an hour of
Baltimore. The best put in is just below Lake Roland in Robert E. Lee Park, a hidden left turn,
just after crossing the Jones' Falls bridge at the top of Falls Road. If you see Pepe's Pizza,
you've gone too far.
It begins in a fast moving narrow gorge that cuts through the brambles of the park with an
occasional class 2 to add interest. It quickly transforms into a riffley river enclosed on both
sides by concrete, spillways, fences, parking lots and other man-made structures, none of which
present a hazard (at least not physically). There are some blind turns, and opportunities to take
wrong turns around islands, the only consequences of which are running out of water. Eventually,
you begin to run right beside the expressway itself. You can hear the gentle roar of trucks, see
exit signs, and enjoy the smell of the runoff. Soon after, it becomes wild again, and plunges
through some dense woods, with an occasional mill or other forgotten structure sticking out.
Shortly after reentering the treeline, the first real rapid comes up. It's really only a class 2+,
but has a rock in it that seems to love eating canoes, be they fiberglass or aluminum. Rescue here
for someone broached is a PIA because of the fast moving water and nasty foot entrapment potential.
The river now takes a hard left, and after a few riffles, goes directly under the expressway. Say
goodbye to the sunlight for a few minutes of shallow paddling that features a few surfing waves and
a weird reaction wave off the wall at the end on river left.
When you get back into the sunlight, it's time for novices, open boaters without flotation, and
anyone especially susceptible to disease to think about getting out. There is a convenient place to
abandon the river at the Meadow Mills take out on river right, just after passing under a small
bridge. This take-out/put-in can be accessed by taking a right on Union Ave off of Falls Road and
making a left just after the bridge and just before the railroad tracks. A small access road will
take you down behind the buildings. Signs are usually posted on scheduled releases for the unwary.
Those who want to avoid the flatwater stretch can put in here also, though first timers should run
the whole thing, if for no other reason than for the sake of the spectacle.
Now it begins to get fun. The river starts dropping very quickly from here, with tight, frothy
rapids that zigzag through the deepening woods. Some have small but particularly nasty looking
holes that you probably won't see until you're on top of them, but they bark a lot worse then they
bite. Not far into this section, when you see some large boulders in center of the river, and a
horizon line that's partially missing, get over to river right to get out and scout.
Here you get to choose your doom... On river left, there's a chute that features a narrow rapid
that abruptly drops at its end for a total of maybe five feet into a weird, twisted, boiling hole.
It's runnable, but not recommended as the cleanest/safest route.
The center route is a tumble down a bunch of boulders to the bottom. It's very shallow, has a lot
of pinning potential, and doesn't look like much fun, though it's probably runnable with more rain
then you get during an average release from Lake Roland.
On river right, there's a six foot flume/waterfall that has to be the funnest thing on the river,
though it's a tough scout since a weedy bank obstructs the actual drop. It's best hit on the far
right, where a little wave is trying to pile up at the top. If you can get some speed and boof it
here, you may not get that wet. However, most often, you get drawn back into the center pile,
submerged up to your eyeballs (or beyond) in white froth, and spit out (or back endered) into a
swirling eddy of garbage that includes beer cans, shopping carts, and some other items you'll just
have to see for yourself to believe. Keep your mouth closed here. This pool is, however, a great
place to re-gather should you crash and burn.
After this drop, the river takes a hard plunge down and twists to the left past (and partially
into) an old burned out factory. Stay far left in the main chute: the rapids are small but dicey,
and there is a tree strainer about a foot off the water that runs more the halfway across the width
of the river. After this obstacle tries to flip you, the current tries to take you directly into a
rusty pylon that would love to broach a boat of any kind, upside down or right side up. There's a
lot of metal around here, so beware. A few more easy rapids take you down a wide pool that forms
the backwater for the piece' de resistance: Round Falls. You can actually boat scout the falls by
going all the way around to the right and looking back upriver at the falls itself, since the falls
is, well, round.
In past years, it has been about a 7-8 foot drop, where your bow was in the water at the bottom
while your stern is still wet at the top. The clearing of several downstream obstructions has
lowered the pool substantially, making the drop a touch more formidable (somewhere between 11' &
13'). Either way, it's a good drop. Center is the best path, or a little to the right of center to
avoid the frothier parts of the hole below. While not particularly bad, it can hold a flipped
boater under the falls, making a roll difficult. It's not a terribley violent drop, and its a lot
of fun even for less experienced boaters as long as lines are set, and they can overcome the pucker
factor. A new platform has been constructed here for viewing the wildlife, the waterfall, and the
WARNING: Though this year features a smaller drop (due to downstream debris piling up, creating a
deeper pool) it is still possible to bottom out here during regular release levels! While the
impact is not likely to break any bones, several low (and medium) volume boats have put a notch in
the river bed with a variety of consequences to their hulls. A last minute boof stroke on the lip
of the drop will serve better than trying to build speed: the shallow edge will often put a big
dent in your mph, no matter how fast you're going when you hit it. For some paddlers in some boats,
excessive penciling is almost unavoidable, so proceed at your own risk...
After you recover from your freefall adventure (assuming that you do) it's best to take out just
after the falls on river left (a short, steep hike up to Falls Road) because not far below this,
the river plunges underground for the rest of its way into Baltimore. I have heard tell of two
paddlers unintentionally passing into this tunnel of lightless horror and coming out alive in the
Harbor, but the journey is definitely to be avoided by kayakers, canoeists, spelunkers, and
probably even by the rats, gargantuan insects and morlocks that you'd likely encounter.
StreamTeam Status: Verified
Last Updated: 2002-09-17 11:34:42