Occoquan, Virginia, US
Occoquan Reservoir to Hwy 123
||III-IV (for normal flows)
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.
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
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.
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Last Updated: 2018-08-14 15:45:17