Potomac, Maryland, US/Virginia, US
|Usual Difficulty||V+ (for normal flows)|
|Avg. Gradient||100 fpm|
|Max Gradient||500 fpm|
|POTOMAC RIVER NEAR WASH, DC LITTLE FALLS PUMP STA|
|usgs-01646500||3.25 - 3.90 ft||V+||01h06m||4.99 ft (too high)|
, but when running it - you are out in the middle of a massive cataract surrounded by deadly sieves, huge holes, and slippery rocks, and if you don't live here - it all looks the same. Even the pourover in the class 3 rapid above the falls can dish out a beating at these levels, and all the other rapids to the river left of Grace Under pressure are extremely seivey and dangerous. Swimming anywhere near the Center lines is a life threatening mistake that usually requires an elaborate rescue in full public view. There have now been 2 fatalities here of experienced kayakers who had run the lines before. Know your limits out here and don't come without a guide and very experienced friends. Center lines is an intricate maze that requires A LOT of scouting, and choosing the wrong channel could kill you and put access at risk for everyone. Please be careful and always have a safety plan.
Access to the river is restricted on both the Maryland and Virginia sides. Maryland Side - Paddlers may put in almost anywhere on the Maryland shore, but may not leave the boardwalk across Olmstead Island. To run the Falls from the Maryland side, most people cross the Canal and put in above 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 make a difficult 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)|
|0.4||Grace Under Pressure||5.1|
Arguably the toughest standard line in Great Falls. Skirt to the right of the top hole, then boof off the right side of the 12' waterfall. Watch for rocks in the runout. Eddy out right, or continue down to the Ledges. A swim anywhere in this area is potentially fatal due to what lies downstream.
The Sliding Board (Class 5.2) crashes into the bottom of Grace and is rarely run due to horrible sieves on the left.
A short sequence of 3-5' ledges and slots. They're not that hard, but if you lose control or get disoriented things can go downhill in a hurry. The center option is the traditional line and should be finished by boofing right into the pool above the Fingers. The right-most option is called the Angel Slot and is more difficult. To the left, Next to Charlie's Hole (MD side) is a wider channel called Hollywood Boulevard that funnels toward Twist n' Shout, and the deadly Subway - should be avoided at all costs.
Also known as the Streamers. Five slots that look alike from above, with serious consequences for choosing the wrong one. From river left to right, they are:
Twist and Shout (Class 5.2) - A narrow, twisty flume with high piton potential. Sam Drevo used to run this back in the day.
Subway (Class 5.3) - A steep double drop with a sieve at the top and a at the bottom. This drop has been run accidentally a couple times but also Took the life of an experienced class V kayaker in 2004 who swam into it. Avoid at all costs. safer line is to the right.
The Middle Finger (Class 5.0) - Pretty straightforward 20' drop . Calm green water leads into a 4' diameter slot. you slide 8 feet then boof This is the one you want.
The Ring Finger aka Flatliner (Class 5.1) - Shallow landing zone. rocks underneath and to the right. Higher water line. Run a bit left of center. Miss the boof and you’re [censored].
The Pinky Finger aka Angel Hair (Class 5.1) - Tricky entrance options. Lands in a boily cauldron between a sheer rock wall and an undercut boulder. If you swim in the pocket, there's a small underwater ledge against the Flake that you can stand on while awaing a rope and figuring out your next move.
Make SURE you know which slot to take. there are no arrows painted on the rocks.