Potomac, Maryland, US
|Usual Difficulty||V+ (varies with level)|
|Avg. Gradient||100 fpm|
|Max Gradient||300 fpm|
|POTOMAC RIVER NEAR WASH, DC LITTLE FALLS PUMP STA|
|usgs-01646500||2.20 - 3.50 ft||V+||00h57m||3.37 ft (running)|
|These flows are very pushy and frequented only by experts. Eddying out is difficult so be prepared to run a direct line|
Maryland Side - Paddlers may put in anywhere on the Maryland shore, but may not leave the boardwalk across Olmstead Island. To run the Falls from the Maryland side, most people put in above and run the aqueduct dam, or put in below the dam at higher levels.
Virginia Side - Paddlers may not put in upstream of the Falls. To run the Falls from the Virginia side you must put in at Fisherman's Eddy and then ferry and carry above both O-Deck rapid and the Falls themselves.
|Mile||Rapid Name||Class||Features (Legend)|
Also known as Sunburst and Tumblehome. The line is level-dependent. Here are my general rules of thumb based on the Little Falls gage:
LF > 2.80 - Build up some speed and launch off the point. This is quite possibly the sickest boof known to mankind. Miss the boof and learn how Pummel got its name.
2.60 < LF < 2.80 - The point turns into a roostertail, so run right instead.
LF < 2.60 - The right side dries up, forcing you to run the Notch on river left.
Below Pummel you have (from left to right): Pencil Sharpener, Z-Turn, and Charlie's Hole
Enter the narrow slot against the river left shore, boof 2-3' onto a boil, and slide down a broken shelf. You must anticipate the cross current or it will push you into the inhospitable crack on the left. Pencil Sharpener is the preferred option when LF < 2.80.
A 10-foot sluice into a super-powerful hole surrounded by underwater sieves. It’s named after Charlie Crowley, who escaped by crawling out along the bottom (bursting both eardrums in the process). This line used to be run regularly by boofing left into the eddy, but after numerous close calls and one fatality almost nobody runs it anymore. There is very little margin for error.
Start left of center, then cut hard left down a twisting drop next to a huge midstream rock. Be careful not to get washed around the right side of this rock into Charlie's Hole. Choose a conservative line. Z-Turn is the preferred option when LF > 2.80.
The scariest hole on the Potomac other than Charlie's, Horseshoe has been the site of many near-drownings. The line is level-dependent. Here are my general rules of thumb:
LF > 2.90 - Left line. Boof onto a rocky runout.
2.60 < LF < 2.90 - Right (standard) line. Boof off the narrow shelf that extends past the hole. You can approach this directly or by doing a hairy ferry on the SOS wave.
LF < 2.60 - Center line. Boof off the knuckle .
If you get stuck in Horseshoe the odds of surfing your way out are slim, so save some energy for the swim.