Potomac, North Branch - 4. Barnum, WV to Bloomington, MD

Potomac, North Branch, Maryland, US/West Virginia, US


4. Barnum, WV to Bloomington, MD (Bloomington Section)

Usual Difficulty II(III) (for normal flows)
Length 6.5 Miles
Avg. Gradient 30 fpm
Max Gradient 30 fpm


Photo of Dick Gramm hitting the perfect line by Brenda Dinne, Monocacy Canoe Club

Gauge Information

Name Range Difficulty Updated Level
usgs-01595800 400 - 2500 cfs II(III) 01h16m 416 cfs (running)

River Description

This section of the North Branch Potomac has fairly continuous whitewater consisting of primarily open Class II-III rapids with waves and holes. The water is cold, however, because it is usually drawn from deep in the reservoir. Be prepared for 50-55 degree water anytime of year. Short pools break up the rapids. One-third of the way through the run is a nice series of surfing ledges. The lunchstop, where a steep wall forms on river right, has another nice playhole.

The most difficult rapid is Robin's Nest, which occurs near the bottom of a river right channel formed at the split of an island. Skirt the hole with a right to left move or sneak on the extreme left. Just below here you will encounter Top Of The World, a large, fun and bouncy wave train.

Take Out:  There is now an official public take-out at Bloomington, at the wastewater treatment plant, upstream left, just above the arch railroad bridge. Get there by driving west and uphill from the Savage River on Rte 135, over the railroad to the first left. Across from the school, take the next left downhill to the access. Once again, we emphasize model behavior (slow driving, no public nudity), as we will be creating traffic in a residential neighborhood. On the other hand, we can make some friends by patronizing the little restaurant in town (and by the way, don't forget the teensy snack and bait shop in Barnum too).

As for using the traditional take-out at the mouth of the Savage: that is still OK, too. Just remember: the popular parking lot at the take-out, in front of the two-story brick building, is on private property. Please take care not to block the driveway (even just to unload for a minute), change clothes in the open, or do anything else to offend the tolerant owner, or the caretaker who lives out back in the trailer (where we have no business being). Poor behavior by some in 1997 almost cost us the use of the lot. So be on your best behavior and watch over the other guy too.  (From Ed Gertler:)

Put in:
Directions to the Barnum Whitewater Area (BWA) from Interstate 68 
Exit Interstate 68 at Cumberland, MD
Take Green Street Exit off of Interstate 68 (US Route 220 South) to Keyser, WV -- Approximately 20 miles
Follow US 220 South through Keyser to the intersection with US Route 50 --Approximately 7 miles **
Take US Route 50 West to intersection of Route 42 --Approximately 7 miles (just past Saddle Mountain overlook)
Take Route 42 West to Elk Garden, WV --Approximately 5 miles
At Elk Garden take Route 46 East to the Barnum Whitewater Area Road --Approximately 5 miles (Jennings Randolph Lake will be on your left)
Follow Barnum Road to parking area --Approximately 2 1/2 miles
**Look for Jennings Randolph Lake signs off of US Route 50

Directions to BWA from Interstate 81

Take US Route 50 West exit at Winchester, VA
Follow US Route 50 West to Romney, WV --Approximately 60 miles
Continue on US Route 50 to intersection of US Route 50 and Route 42 West --Approximately 25 miles West of Romney
Follow Route 42 to Elk Garden, WV --Approximately 5 miles
At Elk Garden take Route 46 East to the Barnum Whitewater Area Road --Approximately 5 miles (Jennings Randolph Lake will be on your left)
Follow Barnum Road to parking area --Approximately 2-1/2 miles
**Look for Jennings Randolph Lake signs off of US Route 50

StreamTeam Status: Not Verified
Last Updated: 2012-05-10 00:19:17

Rapid Summary

Mile Rapid Name Class Features (Legend)
3.2Robbins NestIIIPhoto

Rapid Descriptions

Robbins Nest (Class III, Mile 3.2)

skirting robins nest

skirting robins nest
Photo of steve f. by courtny c. taken 09/02/04 @ 850cfs

Skirt the hole with a right to left move or sneak on the extreme left

User Comments

Users can submit comments.
April 13 2015 (745 days ago)
TonyAllred (3101)
Some additional Rapid Names: "Slides" mile: 1.5; Class II+ - about the fourth boulder garden rapid
from the top, starts as a boulder garden, but then forms a series of nearly river wide surfing
ledges. "Blue Hole" mile 2.0; Class II - a sweeping turn to the right with a pool at the bottom and
cliffs to the left. The name "Blue Hole actually refers to the pool at the bottom, but has to some
extent migrated to the rapid that leads into it. This is the last road access to the river (on
river right) for a short take-out. "Lunch Stop" mile 2.2; Class II+ - a rocky rapid that makes a
sharp left turn at a concrete wall which continues after the turn. After the sharp left turn, there
is a playhole, which can be surfed to the enjoyment of the paddlers that gather on river left to
eat lunch. "Warnick" mile 2.7; Class II - Named after the town of "Warnick" that was once on the
river right side at this rapid. The traditional line is to start at center work to the left,
passing just to the right of a rock that appears to block the channel. The river right side of this
rapid has been opening up in recent years and there is a line down river right,as well, with a
rocky turn back to the center at the bottom. "Robin's Nest" mile 3.2; Class III - already in the
river description above. "Top of the World" mile 3.7; Class II+ - just below a long low staging
rock. It shoals up to the left and is run center to right; stay right for big waves that are not
stoppers, but if a dryer run is desired, move back to the center/left after the shoals at the
bottom. After "Top of the World" the river continues for another two miles or so. There is another
decent unnamed rapid below "Top of the World" that has a stopper hole at the bottom in the center,
but the rapid can be run either right or left. After "Robin's Nest" the rapids become generally
progressively easier down to the town of Bloomington, MD.
October 2 2012 (1668 days ago)
Jon NelsonDetails
Robin's Nest: Removed a nasty tree from the far left sneak route. 10/01/2012
May 9 2012 (1814 days ago)
Nice wide easy class 2 run at 1000 cfs.
August 31 2010 (2431 days ago)
Colin AbernethyDetails
Fantastic release last weekend. Robin's Nest was in full form and the paddling was great! The final
big left-hand bend in the river where the channels split around several islands holds some downed
trees in the left channel. Stick to the main channel or the right. Definitely a fun run!
June 18 2008 (3235 days ago)
David HillDetails
An Ohio company is proposing constrcution of a hydrolectric plant below the dam. This company may
try and fast track the permitting through FERC and local paddlers need to get involved ASAP. Check
out the FERC website and do a general search under docket number "P-12715"
http://elibrary.ferc.gov/idmws/search/fercgensearch.asp Your recreation opportunities and release
schedules may be at risk.
July 21 2007 (3568 days ago)
February 21 2007 (3718 days ago)
Julianna WilsonDetails
Link to release schedule: <a target="_blank" href=
"http://www.nab-wc.usace.army.mil/northBranch.html">click here</a> Main COE link: <a target=
"_blank" href="http://www.nab-wc.usace.army.mil/">click here</a> Lots of photos of this section:
<a target="_blank" href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/mundobizarro/tags/nbp/">click here</a>
June 29 2002 (5416 days ago)
Ed EvangelidiDetails
Below the Barnum to Bloomington stretch is a nice Class 2 section that is rarely paddled since you
first have to portage the Westvaco dam on river right, then paddle by the huge monstrosity that is
the paper mill. But the river entertainment continues all the way to Keyser.

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Calendar Control Date:
Calendar by Date by Title

May 2014

Potomac, North Branch Release
09:00 am -3:00 pm est
1000 cfs

Potomac, North Branch Release
09:00 am -3:00 pm est
1000 cfs

Potomac, North Branch Release
09:00 am -3:00 pm est
1000 cfs

Potomac, North Branch Release
09:00 am -3:00 pm est
1000 cfs


Potomac, North Branch Release Luke,MD runs 08/26/06 - 05/18/14
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