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Difficulty I-II(III)
Length 2.7 Miles
Flow Range 2.00 - 4.00 FT
Flow Rate as of: 35 minutes ago 1.57 [FT]
Reach Info Last Updated 03/31/2011 2:14 pm

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.

Rapid Descriptions

Sycolin Creek Put In

Class - N/A Mile - 0
Rapid Thumbnail Missing

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

Sycolin Creek Rock Garden

Class - I Mile - 0.03
Rapid Thumbnail Missing

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

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
Rapid Thumbnail Missing

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
Rapid Thumbnail Missing

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

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
Rapid Thumbnail Missing

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

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.


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David Hoddinott
3 months ago

Ran this at 1.95 a few days ago (just about as low as you go). The walk-in on the bike path is quite a ways, but it does let you run 1 or two more rapids. 2 feet was a good level to teach someone how to boat, lots of slow water, rapids were easy and safe (hardest was a class 2). There is a tempting put-in before the bridge, but it does require crawling through a kayak-sized hole in the fence, past a 'no trespassing' sign. Please cross the bridge and walk down the public trail system, it only takes 2 extra minutes of walking.

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Peter Perhach
1 year ago

My wife and I ran Goose Creek at 1.95 water level on 6/12/19. We strapped the 2 Pelican trailblazer 100 kayak's on a skateboard and rolled the.5 mile from Cochran Road via the WO&D path. Plenty of public parking next to the trail entrance. We entered the 2 Creeks Trail off WO&D and took the first right down a narrow/slight grade grass path to Goose Creek. River bank was about a 2 foot drop so we got in the river on a tipped over tree using a rope to hold kayak to shore. Ride was great. We scrapped a few times, but did not have to walk over rocks at all. Got hung up/spun around on Golf Course rapids, but my secret kayaking pro wife did not have any issues. We both completed ride from Keep Loudoun Beautiful Park to Kephart Bridge Landing without any issues. This is a better section for novice paddlers. Kephart Bridge Landing is not marked at all off river so make sure you go off to the right bank after Rock Garden. GPS did not give me a good location from river. Looking forward to completing run again. Safe Travels!

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8 years ago

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Colin Abernethy
8 years ago

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: 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:

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Liam Oliver
11 years ago

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.

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12 years ago

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.

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Craig Cook
14 years ago

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.

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Stephen J. Ettinger
15 years ago

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.

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Scott Parker
15 years ago

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?

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Danny O'Brie
16 years ago

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

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Michael Pearson
17 years ago

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.

Gage Descriptions

A minimum of 2 feet on the USGS Gauge at Leesburg will prevent a scrape-filled run. After 3.5 feet, many of the rapids wash out with the exception of Golf Course Rapid which can quickly become a III to III+ at high levels. Flood stage is 10 feet, but the river is no fun, and can become quite dangerous at 5 feet and above. 

Directions Description

Click for Map and Directions

Please note that the "put in" on the map that is automatically generated for American Whitewater is the parking lot on the W&OD trail at Belmont Ridge Road. The actual river put-in is clearly marked on the river map on Sycolin Creek.

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.

Colin Abernethy


Matt Muir


Liam Oliver


Revision #Revision DateAuthorComment
1199731 03/31/11 Colin Abernethy Rapids updated to reflect actual conditions
1199732 03/31/11 Colin Abernethy Map changed to reflect new put in and takeout
1199733 03/31/11 Colin Abernethy Put in and takeout Lon updated
1199734 03/31/11 Colin Abernethy Map edit for directions.
1191731 07/13/02 n/a n/a
1199730 03/31/11 Colin Abernethy Description changed, new details
1195542 06/23/09 Liam Oliver