Potomac, Maryland, US/Virginia, US
|Usual Difficulty||V (varies with level)|
|Avg. Gradient||100 fpm|
|Max Gradient||500 fpm|
|POTOMAC RIVER NEAR WASH, DC LITTLE FALLS PUMP STA|
|usgs-01646500||2.85 - 3.50 ft||V+||02h02m||5.21 ft (too high)|
Access to the river is restricted on both the Maryland and Virginia sides. 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. Carry up the Flake for multiple laps. If the rocks are wet, this can be sketchier than running the Falls. Running Great Falls is currently unrestricted. However, to maintain good relations with the National Park Service paddlers voluntarily restrict their runs to less populated times in the park—early morning, late evening, or weekdays—and limit group size and time spent in the rapid. The Park Service is concerned about running the Falls at popular times because it can draw spectators down off the observation decks and closer to the river's edge -- where they might fall in the water and drown. And, if paddlers spend a lot of time running around and relaxing in the Falls, it can give the impression that such activities are not very difficult or dangerous. Since 1975, at least 30 people have drowned in Great Falls, so the Park Service is understandably nervous about this. For more information, see the Guidelines for Running Great Falls as written by the Canoe Cruisers Association in 1999. Today regular Falls runners continue to dialog with the Park Service to make sure access remains open to all.
|Mile||Rapid Name||Class||Features (Legend)|
Negotiate the small ledges and rocks at the top, then either slide down the left or boof off the center. There's also a high-water sneak on the right called Norman's Leap. The rock shelf protruding from the left bank below the drop is slightly undercut.
Peel out from the river left cove, boof right off an angled ledge, and ride the roller coaster down. For extra challenge, try catching the 4 eddies. A short pool separates S-Turn from the Spout, with a convenient staging eddy on the right.
The Spout is the tallest individual drop in Great Falls at about 18-22 feet with a sloping lip. the current is pushing to the right, curving down a 4' slope, and falling off to the left.
The standard 'old school' line is to start in the river right eddy and drive hard left across the lip and boof when the ramp ends. Lots of people will inevitable misjudge the current here and end up falling off sideways in the middle....The hole becomes really powerful above 3.1, and a rock behind the curtain (Big Toe) becomes exposed below 2.8.
Many people now prefer the right lines. The far right line involves driving up onto the boil at the lip and boofing onto a rock shelf jutting out from shore. It looks ugly but runs pretty smooth. Skipping off the shelf is actually softer on your back than landing in the green water on the left.
The preffered line is the right of center, boof off the curler, race line. similar to the far right line, but just clipping the edge of the boil, and taking a huge lefty off the curler that falls into the meat of the hole. Run well, this will give you some serious air time but you should either land clear of the hole or in the seam, reemerging with a mighty salmon jump
The Crack (Class 5.2) is a high-water (3.3 < LF < 3.70) alternate line to the Spout. It requires you to ferry across powerful current and hit a boat-width slot at full speed. If you miss the slot, or get rejected by the boils guarding it, you will wash over the Spout backwards and get destroyed.