A 141 day old warning about this river was added. Click on comments below to read it.

Goose Creek - Fairfax Dam to The Potomac River

Goose Creek, Virginia, US


Fairfax Dam to The Potomac River

Usual Difficulty I-II(III) (for normal flows)
Length 2.7 Miles
Avg. Gradient 9 fpm
Max Gradient 9 fpm

Golf Course Rapid Top

Golf Course Rapid Top
Photo by Colin Abernethy taken 03/28/11 @ 2.25 ft

Gauge Information

Name Range Difficulty Updated Level
usgs-01644000 2.00 - 4.00 ft I-II(III) 00h33m 2.38 ft (running)

River Description

This stream has changed quite a bit in the past 10 years. After 9/11 security measures now prevent you from putting in at the Fairfax City Reservoir Dam, and Loudoun County has put in a new kayak and canoe launch in the Belmont Ridge neighborhood called Kephart Bridge Landing which is at 43942 Riverfront Drive Leesburg, VA 20176. This new takeout saves you the long (6 mile) flatwater paddle to the old takeout at Algonkian Park on the Potomac

You now have only a few options for put-ins on this section, the first being the half-mile carry on the Washington and Old Dominion trail from the Belmont Ridge Road parking area, or at "Keep Loudoun Beautiful Park" which is located next to the Goose Creek Countryclub golf course off of Route 7 and Crosstrail Boulevard. The old option of parking on Cochran Mill Rd and carrying on the W&OD trail is no longer available as the former parking areas have been either walled off or posted.  If you choose to put in at the W&OD trail, walk over the bridge which crosses Goose Creek and head down the equestrian trail on your right at the information kiosk and picnic tables. Instead of heading right after passing through the line of trees, continue walking straight (perpendicular to the W&OD trail) and you will come to Sycolin Creek which flows into Goose Creek a few hundred feet down its course. Sycolin offers much better opportunities for launching just upstream of the confluence with Goose Creek as the banks are lower, and an area with a collection of small boulders in the stream offers superior stability to the muddy and steep banks of the Goose. If you choose to put in at the launch at Keep Loudoun Beautiful Park, you will have to paddle the long pool up-stream to reach "Golf Course" rapid (Cooke's Mill) and then carry up the river left bank next to the mill and locks to run the rapid itself. Keep Loudoun Beautiful Park can also act as a takeout for those who only want to run the rock garden just below Sycolin Creek confluence and Golf Course rapid. 

The run from the W&OD Trail is only 2.7 miles to Kephart Landing which is the best takeout for this section of the river. The run consists mainly of mild rapids with stretches of flatwater in between.  There are 5 rapids on the run, a class I rock garden just below the confluence with Sycolin Creek which is best run left of center, "Golf Course" rapid (Cooke's Mill) a Class III at normal flows and III+ in levels above 3.5' which can be run on the right by intermediate or higher skilled paddlers or on the left by shepherded novices, another Class I rock garden under the Route 7 bridge, a Class II+ mill dam (Elizabeth's Mill) which can easily be run by all levels either left or right of center after the Riverside Parkway bridge, and a Class II rock garden (Kephart Bridge) which is best run left of center with a nice sized hole and wave train at the end. The takeout at Kephart Landing is immediately on river right after the final rock garden with an easy eddie and backwater with great access to the shore line.

This quiet and uncrowded stream is a must for anyone who loves history as well as whitewater. Goose Creek is home to the remains of a 12 mile canal system built by the Little River and Goose Creek Navigation Company between 1849 and 1854. The canal stretched from the Potomac River at Elizabeth Mills all the way to Ball's Mill (now Evergreen Mills) but low water and drought meant that only one boat ever ran the entire length of the system. The canal's final undoing was the sacking and destruction of the various mills and locks along its length by Union soldiers during the civil war. The ruins can still be seen along the entire watercourse with some of the best examples being the dam and locks at Cooke's Mill (Golf Course Rapid) and Elizabeth's Mill (Old Mill Dam Rapid). Remains of the locks and the bridge that spanned Goose Creek on the famous "Carolina Road"  which has since been moved and re-named US-15.

StreamTeam Status: Not Verified
Last Updated: 2011-03-31 14:14:30


Stream team editor

Rapid Summary

Mile Rapid Name Class Features (Legend)
0.0Sycolin Creek Put InN/APutin
0.0Sycolin Creek Rock GardenI
0.5Golf Course Rapids (Cooke's Mill)IIIPlayspot Photo
1.3Keep Loudon Beautiful ParkN/APutin Takeout Access
1.4Route 7 Bridge RapidN/A
2.0Old Mill Dam (Elizabeth's Mill)II+Portage Playspot Photo
2.6Rock GardenIIPlayspot
2.7Kephart Bridge Landing N/ATakeout Access Photo

Rapid Descriptions

Sycolin Creek Put In (Class N/A)

Put in on Sycolin Creek just off of the equestrian trail on the W&OD trail.

Sycolin Creek Rock Garden (Class I, Mile 0.0)

A straight-forward Class I rock garden best run from river left of center to center or river right. Scraping is expected at flows below 2.10 feet on the Leesburg gauge and it becomes washed out at levels above 3.5 feet.

Golf Course Rapids (Cooke's Mill) (Class III, Mile 0.5)

Golf Course Rapid Top

Golf Course Rapid Top
Photo by Colin Abernethy taken 03/28/11 @ 2.25 ft

A lower class III at 2-2.5' that quickly becomes a strong III at higher levels. Novices should scout from river left by the old locks and mill race of Cooke's Mill. Paddlers of lower skill can sneak this rapid on the left without much trouble and only a few bumps. More skilled paddlers will find the river-right route over three drops into decent sized holes will be farm more fun and challenging. The final hole offers excellent play and surfing opportunities.

Keep Loudon Beautiful Park (Class N/A, Mile 1.3)

This is one of the alternate put-in/take-out points of this trip. Loudon county states that there is a kayak launch here. I've never used it personally, but have met people on Goose Creek that have.

Route 7 Bridge Rapid (Class N/A, Mile 1.4)

This is a simple and straight forward cobble bar with a few small boulders sticking up. It sits directly underneath the old truss bridge and the modern route 7 bridge. Run river left in low water to avoid scraping on rocks that have rolled down from the bridge abutments. 

Old Mill Dam (Elizabeth's Mill) (Class II+, Mile 2.0)

Mill Dam

Mill Dam
Photo by Colin Abernethy taken 03/28/11 @ 2.25 ft

The old mill dam to historic Elizabeth's Mill who's mill race and wheelhouse remains still stand on the river right bank. This dam is easily run by all paddlers either left or right of center. The right of center run offers the best play hole of this rapid as the center portion of the dam creates an excellent eddy for upstream ferrying. 

Rock Garden (Class II, Mile 2.6)

A basic rock garden with easy to read lines. Best run river left at normal flows to avoid the rocky river right bank. There is a nice sized hole guaranteed to get you wet at the bottom. Remember to eddy out on river right after this rapid for the Kephart Bridge Landing take-out.


Kephart Bridge Landing (Class N/A, Mile 2.7)

Kephart Landing Lock Wall

Kephart Landing Lock Wall
Photo by Colin Abernethy taken 03/28/11 @ 2.25 ft

This is the best takeout for the trip. Unless you decide to continue down to Algonkian Park or across the potomac to Edwards Ferry, this is where you want to take out to avoide long flat-water paddles. You'll know you're there when you exit the final rock garden and see the man-made stone bridge abutment on the river right. The remains of the original 1 mile long lock to Elizabeth's Mill are still visible here. It's a short (100 foot) walk to the parking lot on a wood-chip path.

User Comments

Users can submit comments.
July 23 2018 (141 days ago)
PaddleMe69 (160143)
Heavy rains have created a large mass of logs and debris on river right as you approach the Route 7
bridge. Boaters should keep to the left here.
May 19 2013 (2032 days ago)
ByronThree (155446)
Be careful of fallen tree acting as a strainer at the golf course rapids. The tree is in the center
of the rapids and anyone running river right can find themselves under this tree quickly if not
careful, as I found myself over the weekend. Another tree or branch is under water and not seen
only feet to the left of the fallen tree, it will pin you further after your boat becomes pinned
under the visible fallen tree. Scout and plan well prior to going river right, otherwise stay on
the left. If you find yourself racing towards the strainer be prepared to exit and saddle yourself
on the tree. Your boat will sink and wedge itself between the tree you saddle and the branch or
tree that is under water. So long as water levels are low you can safely move on the left side of
the under water tree/branch to remove your kayak, though it will take a lot of work. Be sure to
have a safety ready while you do this.
March 7 2012 (2470 days ago)
Colin AbernethyDetails
River main and maps have been updated to reflect the current put-in, take-out, and parking
situations. Rapids have been updated with pertinent info and pictures as well. You can see video of
the more major rapids and takeout here: http://www.youtube.com/embed/pcOustXpPTA 03/07/2012 Edit:
Recently found a new video from some fellow paddlers on the Goose. How to not make a successful run
of Golf Course Rapid: http://youtu.be/QTdlyZz_hNI
June 23 2009 (3458 days ago)
Liam OliverDetails
If you are polite, and speak to the property owner in a professional manner he/she will probably
grant you access to put in on the river. The owner of the residence is used to highschoolers
causing trouble around the bridge, and his skeptical of people on his property. With the new take
out after the Rock Garden, this is a nice beginners run. It would be an excellent place to teach a
new paddler. Even at higher levels this river is not necessarily very pushy.
April 30 2008 (3877 days ago)
x (1)
Bob Franz and Andy Collins ran Golf Course Rapids at 2.58 water level. The walk in from Cochran
Road via the W O and D path is .5 mile. Go in next to the information stand and walk along the tree
line next to the bridge to the waters edge of Sycolin Creek to get in. There is a new County take
out at 43942 Riverpoint Drive in Landsdown just beyond River Creek Bridge and the long rock garden
rapids Class II. Parking and a portajohn a short walk on wood chips from the Goose Creek take out.
Look for the Manmade rock structure on river right.
March 20 2006 (4649 days ago)
Craig CookDetails
I have run the Goose Creek Dam to route 7 many times but not in the last several years. It didn't
bother me to portage my canoe down the steep little trail on the right side of the Dam, but is that
now totally inaccessible?! ( I was planning on going again this Spring )
This is a great little run though....the golf course rapid is fun. Best tact is to start straight
down the middle, then hard right thru a flume that passes thru a jagged ledge...then hard rudder
left to avoid slamming against a rock wall! ( easier than it sounds )
If you continue past the rt. 7 bridge, it's a loooong mostly flat paddle to the take out at
Algonquin Park on the Potomac but there are some intersting areas....about a mile past bridge there
is a 3/4 dam which is runnable at proper water level, if not it's an easy portage.
I caught several very nice largemouth bass here several years ago! There is one nice, fairly long
rock garden rapid ( II ) which requires manuvering about a mile below this dam. Then it's a long,
painful padddle to Algonquin. If you know someone you can take out at the River Creek Country Club
on left just before the confluence.
June 11 2005 (4931 days ago)
Stephen J. EttingerDetails
The best way to run Golfcourse Rapid, in high water, is to come down Sycolin Creek (2.3 miles of up
to class II+), which deposits you about a quarter mile above that rapid. Unfortunately, this is not
a trip you can plan far in advance -- just go when the Limestone Branch gauge is above 50 cfs.
April 4 2005 (4999 days ago)
Scott ParkerDetails
What does this run look like beyond that takeout at Rt. 7? Just looking at a map, it seems that a
natural extention would be to continue down to the Potomac and take out at Algonquin Regional Park?
Anyone have any info on this stretch of water?
March 18 2004 (5381 days ago)
Danny O'BrieDetails
I have attempted the putin ot the Dam but it is cut off now. Does anyone know of another spot above
or below the dam that is good and will not upset any property owners? Thanks
June 16 2003 (5657 days ago)
Michael PearsonDetails
Don't attempt to putin at the bridge on Sycolin Road, above the dam. The property owners in this
area are very sensitive, even to kayakers walking down along the roadside to the bridge.

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