This photo needs editing.
Difficulty III-IV
Length 0.5 Miles
Gauge N/A
Flow Range
Reach Info Last Updated 08/14/2018 3:45 pm

River Description

The Occoquan River has a short series of fall line rapids between the Lorton Dam and the tidal Belmont Bay. The rapids are fun class 3+/4- boulder gardens, although there are only 4 real rapids. For intermediates looking to work on eddy catching, boofing, and stepping up their paddling abilities to solid class 4 this is the perfect after work or dawn patrol run. At high water it’s a great way for DC-area boaters to experience Gauley-sized rapids close to home. The large drainage area (500 mi2) ensures that the Occoquan will have good flow for two to three days after a storm.
Video of the Occoquan at 900cfs including all the rapids is:
A high water descent at 8100cfs including all the rapids is: 
Video of the last ledge at 4000cfs:
Rapid Description (based on flow of 1000 cfs)
Below the 2nd dam the river starts out with a long class 2 boulder garden. Enjoy the numerous splats, small surf waves, and eddies. This rapid lulls out for a few meters and leads straight into the beginning of the 2nd rapid. There is no pool between.
The entrance to the second rapid (class 3+/4-) is on the middle/right. You’ll come up on the action which is a big hole somewhat backed up by a large boulder. Either boof off the rock far left or boof the big hole in the middle. The river is flat until the 3rd rapid.
The 3rd rapid has two routes, right and left of the island. River right of the island is class 4- with a bad-looking piton rock on the left close to the island. Run the entrance center/left of the channel and then get hard right once past the 1st hole/ close to the big island. If you have the skills you can boof off river right of the big island, but you are threading a very tiny gap between the island and the piton rock. River left of the island is class 3+ and has no such piton rocks. Simply run down the middle of the channel. This is a fantastic rapid for eddy catching. Of potential interest is the eddy in the middle above the big island that allows you to go between the right and the left sides after the 1st hole on each side.
The last rapid is a class 2 ledge into tidal flatwater. 
Takeout: Takeout at the River Mill Park river right in the town of Occoquan. 
Putin: Put in just below the 2nd dam (Lorton Dam) river left. To get to the put-in there are two options:
1) Hike. Ferry over to river left from River Mill Park, and attain up to above the blue pipes. Getting out below the blue pipes river left is trespassing. Once above the blue pipes get out and hike up hill. It is easiest to go straight up the hill first, and then once you are close to the top start hiking upstream. Hike until you are right below the 2nd dam (the farthest downstream dam), then hike down a ravine to river level. 
2) Drive. Drive to 9352 Occoquan Overlook Dr, Lorton, VA 22079 and park at the cul-de-sac. Hike down the power lines, and put on in the Occoquan Reservoir. Paddle to the 1st dam and portage river left. Make sure to get out upstream of the orange bouys, they connect to a fence on land that encloses the dam. Being inside the bouys or fence is trespassing. Walk just along the outside of the fence, you'll follow it uphill a bit, past a sharp 90 degree right turn and down close to a small creek. There are no trespassing signes on thiks portage too, so be sneaky. Hike along the creekbed untill you reach the Occoquan river itself. There is one small rapid between the two dams. Paddle downstream and portage the 2nd dam river left. 
Driving is more time consuming than just hiking up, but the hike up is more strenuous. Portaging the dams is a long, but flat hike.
Important Access Information: Touching land river right between the 1st dam and the River Mill Park is trespassing on Farifax Country Water Authority Property and they will pursue legal action. Touching land below the blue pipes river left is also trespassing and they are strict with enforcing this as well. River left above the blue pipes (where you will hike / portage) is of dubious legality. The land looks to be private property owned by the Vulcan Materials Company for their Quarry Pit. Long story short don’t get out river right and be fast and sneaky. If anybody from Vulcan Materials or The Fairfax County Water Authority asks you to leave please be polite and comply. 

Rapid Descriptions


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Bill Durr
2 years ago

Ran it at about 3000cfs today and it was great. Have a copy of the gauge data that doesn't require a login. It's up at

No Gage

Gage Descriptions

No USGS gauge exists for this stretch of river, but luckily Virginia Tech runs a gauge at the base of the 1st dam that gives exact flows for this section. Make an account here: Bill Durr has written a script to grab the data without needing to log in, making it much easier to check the level here:
Once you have an account go to graph view, drag the flow(cfs) box from ST01 to under graph 1 on the right, and then hit smart plot. This gives a graph of the past months flow, and the current flow. There are other gauges for tributaries up stream but ST01 is the gauge at the dam. 
The Occoquan usually comes in 12-18 hours after a rainstorm depending on how much rain fell. Usually 0.4” in the watershed is enough to get it to 1000 cfs for a day in the winter, in the summer probably 0.6 inches. It is also important to realize that the 1st dam stores river flow as drinking water, and the reservoir will have to fill up before any water overflows. Approixmately 100cfs-200cfs of is continuously withdrawn from this reservoir. In the summer and fall the reservoir level is often below the dam and needs to be filled up with extra rain. You DO NOT need to subtract any flow from the gauge, the gauge only counts flow over the dam, which is the flow through the rapids.
Minimum Flow: 500cfs is the lowest level where you won’t scrape. 
Maximum Flow: Attaining up to the blue pipes becomes difficult above 7000cfs, and impossible above 10,000 cfs., so you will need to set shuttle. If you like class V big water it’s never too high.
500cfs – 1000cfs: Class III+
1000cfs - 1500cfs:  Class III+/IV-
1500cfs – 2500cfs: Class IV
2500cfs – 10000cfs: Class IV+
10000cfs - ???:  Class V
Flows over 3000cfs provide great waves to surf for play boaters looking to get some air. Flows below 3000cfs offer many fantastic small play features, lots of eddies to catch, a few good splats, boof practice, and stern squirt eddy lines.

Directions Description

We have no additional detail on this route. Use the map below to calculate how to arrive to the main town from your zipcode.

No Accident Reports



article main photo

Attention Virginia Boaters!

Jason Robertson

During the high waters of Spring 2003, there has been a noticeable increase in reported confrontations between boaters and property owners in Virginia. Please remember to be respectful and courteous to property owners; do not trespass; and avoid confrontation in order to preserve access in the future.

Tony Allred Jr


Thomas O'Keefe


Todd Henry


Revision #Revision DateAuthorComment
1210240 08/14/18 Tony Allred Jr 8-8-2018 - cleanup
1209228 04/18/18 Thomas O'Keefe n/a
1209229 04/18/18 Thomas O'Keefe reach created
1209578 05/14/18 Thomas O'Keefe reach edits
1209685 05/23/18 Todd Henry
1209689 05/23/18 Todd Henry
1209687 05/23/18 Todd Henry