Jones Falls - Lake Roland to Round Falls


Jones Falls, Maryland, US

Disclaimer

Lake Roland to Round Falls

Usual Difficulty I-III (for normal flows)
Length 6 Miles
Avg. Gradient 23 fpm
Max Gradient 40 fpm

Double Topo Duos


Double Topo Duos
Photo of GBCC Topos taken 06/15/02 @ Dam Release



River Description

Time: about an hour with no playing

Difficulty: I-III

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 runoff.

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 carnage.

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

Rapid Descriptions

icon of message No rapids entered. If you know names, and locations of the rapids please contact and advise the StreamTeam member for this run.

User Comments


2013-11-08 02:32:33 (351 days ago)
Cagg1271 (153409)
About 25 of us ran this on 11/2/13 during a Dam Demonstration. It was definitely an interesting
paddle that I highly recommend. The river was clear of strainers once out of the park itself,
though one river wide tree has the potential to be life threatening. Don't even try. Portaging is
paddling, too. We all went eyeball deep in the flume and none of us are sick. I would guess to say
water quality has improved since this review was written.

2008-02-15 09:59:51 (2443 days ago)
x (1)
About 100 feet above the "flume," there is a large strainer in the water. Last time I was out on
this run, some of the less experienced members of our group nearly got into some trouble with it.
However, my advice would be to either go far left and possibly slide over some of the shallow
rocks. Or, if you are paddling a long boat, you can go river right and catch the eddy there, and
then ferry across on the wave. Either way, watch out because there is and undercut looking rock
right behind the log. Happy Paddling

2006-08-05 20:26:01 (3002 days ago)
tom reschDetails
Get ready for the 6th Annaul GBCC Jones Falls Down River Race on September 9, 2006. Check the GBCC
web site for more details..<br />
www.baltimorecanoeclub.org

2002-06-29 17:32:08 (4500 days ago)
RC ForneyDetails
This great write-up really sums up the Jones Falls experience well. Run the whole thing once to say
you did it, run the last part for the Class III stuff, and take a thorough shower afterwords.

I ran the left chute in my open boat and I didn't think it was so bad.

2001-10-15 10:10:26 (4757 days ago)
Seth CooperDetails
A really fun run--especially the second half after the Meadow Mills takeout (I'd suggest starting
here). Round Falls is great practice for boofing off of large drops, and you can easily portage
back up to the top of the falls and run them several times. The dam is released about once a month
during the summer check it out at www.jonesfalls.com
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