Seneca Creek, Maryland, US
|Usual Difficulty||I-II (for normal flows)|
|SENECA CREEK AT DAWSONVILLE, MD|
|usgs-01645000||100 - 400 cfs||I-II||02h08m||61 cfs (too low)|
The entire course of Seneca Creek stretches many, many miles from the headwaters of Great Seneca Creek in Damascus Maryland through the cities of Gaithersburg, and Germantown and on down through Darnestown and Seneca, Maryland to the Potomac River. While not the action-packed whitewater trip that most users of this site are used to, it does offer a nice float trip for beginners with a few navigation and stability challenges thrown in for fun. The creek itself is maintained by a very few volunteers who work in conjunction with the MD park service to remove strainers, but often has large amounts of wood in certain less-maintained stretches which can present a complete set of challenges all their own. On the author's first descent of this reach, portaging around jams and river-wide strainers was necessary 6 times in a 4 mile section due to vast quantities of wood left over from the previous summer's DeRecho storm . However, the park and its volunteers have since cleared these log jams and strainers once notified of them (late 2013).
The water quality of this section is generally good. Sediments and pollutants picked up in the more populated areas have, for the most part, dropped out of the water by the time they reach the old Black Rock Mill and the bottom of the creek is clearly visible through most of the trip with the exception of some deep and long pools behind two low dams on the trip.
Access is reasonably good as is the ability for rescuers to reach those in trouble thanks to the Seneca Greenway Trail runnign parallel to the creek for most of its length as well as several access points from local roads which can bring vehicles close to the creek for either rescue or simply cutting the trip into more manageable chunks.
The section below River road is mostly slackwater which flows very slowly to the Potomac past Riley's Lock and the Seneca Creek Aqueduct. You have the option to take out at Berryville Road, but parking is limited and tight. You also miss the chance to see the beautiful Aqueduct at the take-out if you choose to end the trip at Berryville Road.
|Mile||Rapid Name||Class||Features (Legend)|
|0.0||Black Rock Mill Put-In||N/A|
|1.5||Darnestown Road Dam||II|
|5.8||Tschiffely Mill Dam||II|
|6.0||Berryville Road Access||N/A|
|7.3||Riley's Lock Take-Out||N/A|
Put in at the old Black Rock Mill on Black Rock Road.
Low head dam that stands just a few feet high underneath the Route 28 bridge. Either flood control or possibly covering a water or sewer line that runs along the road. Best approached from river left and taken head on. Expect some scraping at lower levels and a smoother ride at higher levels.
The tumbledown ruins of a stone and mortar dam built to divert flow from the creek, across the peninsula, and into the mill at Seneca Ford (present day River Road). Expect it after crossing the first long, deep pool on the creek when you can see a distinct horizon line. You will not hear the rapid until you are almost on it. Easily scouted from river right, you'll want to check it out from the shore as it is a quick drop over lots of rocks. The locals often build a sluice out of the loose rocks in the summer for tubing.
Quick access to the stream, and a good place to check the water level before committing to the trip. Park along the side of the road and walk the trail upstream to the ruins of the Tschiffely Mill dam. If there is enough water for you to make a scraping descent of the dam, you'll have enough water for the whole trip.
Public boat ramp with access to the Potomac River