Savage - Dam to North Branch Potomac River

Savage, Maryland, US


Dam to North Branch Potomac River (Site of World Championships)

Usual Difficulty III-IV (for normal flows)
Avg. Gradient 75 fpm
Max Gradient 115 fpm


Photo of Al Button by Ken Strickland

Gauge Information

Name Range Difficulty Updated Level
usgs-01597500 250 - 2000 cfs III-IV 04h49m 184 cfs (too low)

River Description

Whitewater Releases:

American Whitewater is working aggressively to obtain regularly scheduled recreational whitewater releases (600 - 1000 cfs) for the second weekend of each month between June and September. This is contingent upon water availability and UPRC cooperation.

These efforts have worked very succesfully in the past, and have resulted in water releases for recreational purposes. However in 2009, the following text was posted on the Army Corps of Engineers Website: "Constraints have been placed on operations at Savage River Dam during the 2009 season due to a malfunctioning outlet gate. These constraints may result in a wider than normal range of lake elevations along with a slight increase in the possibility of flow over the spillway." You can view the text at their website.

2011 Releases:
6/5, 7/3, and 9/25

River Information

SOURCE FOR THE FOLLOWING TEXT: William Nealy's Whitewater Home Companion, Southern Rivers Volume I, which has more on this run. Text used with permission.

The Savage is THE whitewater rocket ride! With an average gradient of 75 feet per mile (with sections exceeding 100 fpm) the action is fast and continuous. The Savage's overall difficulty rating below 800 cfs is Class III-IV. At 800 - 1,200 cfs it is Class IV. Above 1,200 cfs the Savage is the longest Class IV-V rapid in Maryland!! Due to the steep, narrow and unrelenting nature of this run paddlers should be: 1) Well insulated (water temp 46), 2) Adept at fast self-rescue and wave-crest scouting, and 3) In possession of paddling skills commensurate with water levels... below 800 cfs - intermediate to advanced, 800 - 1,200 cfs - advanced to expert, above 1,200 cfs - expert only.

Savage River Road follows along the entire 4.5 mile run. At approx. mile 1.5 and just before the swinging bridge that marks the end of the slalom course there is a large undercut rock (House Rock) on river left.

The takeout is on the North Branch of the Potomac just upstream of the confluence. Please respect the locals and refrain from drinking or changing clothes in the open, here. The putin is just minutes up the road and its relative remoteness lends itself to these activities.

Another good source of information about this run is Ed Gertler's Maryland and Delaware Canoe Trails.

StreamTeam Status: Not Verified
Last Updated: 2011-01-20 23:43:31

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

2009-10-22 11:49:03 (1982 days ago)
x (1)
With the construction stalling releases can anyone local or with experience give us a description
around ~250? AW now shows it as green. Are we talking a fun ELF or ass scraping level 2? I've run
the Savage once during a release weekend and it's a hell of a ride. What's it like at lower levels?

2008-07-21 01:49:52 (2441 days ago)
x (1)
Steve Ettinger: Don't take the 349 cfs indicated as the real zero level. It can be run comfortably
down to around 250 cfs, as indicated in the rankings of river difficulties accessible from the MCC
home page, and from the earlier comment posted here about recreational releases of 300 cfs.

2006-06-05 02:30:50 (3218 days ago)
Robert FarmerDetails
A few years ago, the old lady who lives near the dam (the dam-keeper's wife?) screamed at me that
she would call the police if I tried to put in below the dam. What's with that?! Just FYI. I put in

2004-08-16 17:56:48 (3875 days ago)
Brad RobertsDetails
The North Branch Potomac Whitewater Release Schedule for 2004<br />
<br />
April 10 and 11<br />
April 24 and 25<br />
May 8 and 9<br />
May 22 and 23 <br />
Large releases suitable for whitewater recreation may be scheduled for several other weekends
during the summer and fall, provided sufficient water is available. These weekends will be
announced about two to four weeks in advance on this website, or on a telephone recording at (410)
962-7687.<br />
<br />
<br />
<br />
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------<br />
NEW<br />
There are plans for an Artificially Varied Flow (AVF) release beginning on August 14, 2004 at 10 AM
and lasting until August 15, 2004 at noon. AVF flows are scheduled periodically to help improve
downstream habitat. The release rate will be 850 cfs from Jennings Randolph Lake,<b> with a
corresponding release of 350 cfs from Savage River Dam.<br /></b>
Additional AVF releases are being considered for September 11-12 and October 9-10, 2004. More
information will be provided here at a later date.<br />
The Thursday afternoon releases have been cancelled due to lack of interest!<br />
Smaller recreational releases of 300 cubic feet per second are scheduled to occur from 10:30 AM
until 2:30 PM each Thursday from July 15 until August 26.<br />
<br />
Additionally, attempts will be made to avoid large releases during selected weekends, unless such
releases are required as a result of highwater conditions, downstream water supply needs, or
unforeseen circumstances. These weekends are as follows: April 3-4 and 17-18; May 1-2, 15-16, and
29-30; June 12-13 and 26-27; July 10-11 and 24-25; August 7-8 and 21-22; September 4-5 and 18-19;
and October 2-3 and 23-24. <br />
Releases from Jennings Randolph Lake are made for a variety of purposes and are subject to increase
or decrease without prior notice. <br />
<br />
The whitewater releases are sponsored by the Mineral County Parks and Recreation Commission. They
can be reached for further information at (304) 788-5732.<br />

2004-08-16 17:55:09 (3875 days ago)
Brad RobertsDetails
A group from DC recently ran the Savage on a release of 350cfs and found the stream navigable. The
paddled creekboats.

2004-05-24 17:42:15 (3959 days ago)
Mike CroakDetails
Paddled the Savage 5/22/04 at 1000 cfs. Dangerous strainers approximately 1/4 downstream of 5' dam
(in middle of run). Trees down on each side of the river give the false appearance that the middle
line might runnable. It's not. Eddy out before you get to these trees. There is another tree in the
water behind them that you cannot see until it is too late.

2003-04-13 09:52:40 (4366 days ago)
Sam mershonDetails
STRAINER ALERT!!! Towards the end of this run there is a rapid with an island in the middle. both
channels are blocked with wood. You can identify this rapid by a blue warehouse on river left. I
highly suggest scouting this from the bank or the road. unless conditions improve it is highly
advisable to walk this one.
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Calendar Control Date:
Calendar by Date by Title

July 2014

Savage River Release
10:59 am -10:59 am est


Savage River Release Savage River Dam,MD runs 09/09/07 - 07/06/14
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