This photo needs editing.
Difficulty II-III(IV)
Length 2.07 Miles
Gauge ROCK CREEK AT SHERRILL DRIVE WASHINGTON, DC
Flow Range 300 - 600 CFS
Flow Rate as of: 13 hours ago 79.9 [CFS] ℹ️
Reach Info Last Updated 12/14/2018 8:22 pm

River Description


Runs after heavy thunderstorms, the hardest rapids are near the Park Police Headquarters on Beach Drive. Be alert and take out above the lowhead dam at Pierce Mill even though it is occasionally runnable on far river right (river left is a very bad keeper and very dangerous at most runnable levels).

Class: III (IV)

 

Put in:  There is a large parking area on Beach Drive NW, just upstream of the Military Road bridge.   The main whitewater starts just downstream of Military Road.  There are numerous alternative put in locations, accessing easier paddling upstream of this point. 

Take out:  There is a large parking area on Beach Drive NW just upstream of  Pierce Mill.

In 1999 several boaters were escorted off the creek by Park Service Police. American Whitewater successfully resolved the conflict over access, and it is now legal to boat on Rock Creek. However, it is not legal to swim, wade, or fish in the creek. The swimming restriction is based on the fact that the water quality is low and storm sewers dump directly into this beautiful urban waterway. Stay upright, don't drink the water, and watch out for the dam at Pierce Mill.

 


 

Rock Creek Park (DC): Access Secured!

January 17, 2000
By Jason Robertson

Great news! Rock Creek Park Police stated today that they will not prevent kayakers or canoeists from boating on the creek in the future. These statements come in response to American Whitewater's discussions with the Park's administrators after two pairs of boaters were prevented from boating on the creek when it was moderately swollen by Hurricane Dennis in September 1999.

In a discussion this morning, Park Police Lieutenant Kass reported that his research confirmed that there is a CFR rule banning recreation in the creek. However, the Lieutenant's research also confirmed that former Superintendent Shields waived this regulation for kayakers and canoeists more than 20 years ago and that former Superintendent Ellerd later dropped all registration requirements in the mid-80's. The Lieutenant added that Assistant Superintendent Cox, representing Superintendent Coleman, respects her predecessor's decisions. The practical result for experienced whitewater canoeists and kayakers is that we will be permitted to continue floating the Class III (IV) creek, regardless of water level and that no special permits or permissions will be required.

NOTE: MR. Kass forwarded a copy of a file to AW dated 4/27/1993, which states "Kayaking is permittted [sic] on Rock Creek- no permit needed. USPP requested that a warning sign be placed along the creek to warn of Pierce Mill Falls ahead. Park stated that they would look at it." This memo also includes a handwritten note by Lt. Kass affirming that the superintendent had upheld this decision.

The Lieutenant cautioned that his staff are not trained in swift water rescue and are not lifeguards. He also explained that the DC Fire Department is responsible for all emergency calls on the creek but that the department's river rescue kit only consists of a single foam life ring. In other words, boaters must continue taking personal responsibility for their actions and personal rescues. Additionally, boaters must wear lifejackets and helmets, and be aware of the unique hazards associated with running this urban creek, including strainers, coliform and urban runoff, low bridges, and the 8-foot dam at Pierce Mill.

American Whitewater wishes to thank: Ron Knipling and Martin Radigan for reporting the access problems on Rock Creek; Lieutenant Kass and Assistant Superintendent Cox for their cooperation in resolving the problem and working with us to address the issue; and Mac Thornton and Ed Gertler for sharing documents detailing the history of the 1980's access agreements with the Park's superintendents.

Contact American Whitewater, if you encounter any future access difficulties on Rock Creek or other streams in the region.


 

HEALTH ALERT

In May 2001, District Health Commissioner, Dr. Ivan Walks, issued the warning, "We are not recommending that people use Rock Creek and enter Rock Creek because of standing high bacteria levels..."

Dr. Walks added that the bacteria levels in Rock Creek are too high for human contact, and have been for the last year.

---

Mark Anderson commented in 2001 that, "While the water quality is unquestionably questionable, the combined sewer overflows on Rock Creek are located south of the commonly-run whitewater section. The first overflows are on Piney Branch Creek and there are almost 30 from here to the mouth of the Potomac River. D.C. health warnings and decisions to boat this creek should be taken in that context. North of Piney Branch, Rock Creek is subject to more routine urban surface runoff ills

 

 

Other Information Sources: 
Rock Creek National Park 
Can I kayak/canoe in Rock Creek?  Rock Creek NP faq.

Rapid Descriptions

Comments

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n/a
|
7 years ago

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Robert Butera
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11 years ago

Ran it today at 2.75 on the Military Rd gauge. It was fun and not too scrapy, but I would not go too much lower (this is my first time, but 2.5 sounds like a good lower bound given our experiences). Correlation point: When we returned from our takeout shuttle the bridge gauge was down to about 2.65. Checking online, the online gauge at Sherrill Rd read 3.29 at that time.

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Hal DuBois
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12 years ago

The Rock Creek Park website states (in the FAQ) that boating is allowed when the level is greater than 2 ft. Today, the level was exactly 2 ft and with the exception of two fallen trees completely blocking the creek and a few shallow spots, it was a good ride.

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Mark Anderson
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14 years ago

There is a USGS stick gauge on Rock Creek. It is located at on the southwest side of a smaller bridge on Joyce Road that crosses the creek near the intersection of Beach Drive and Joyce (Joyce provides access via ramps to Military Road, which has a larger and higher bridge just to the north).

A reading of 2.5 feet on this gauge is a good paddling zero.

I have found Rock Creek to be running numerous times when Difficult Run is up. While I can't offer an exact correlation, I will say Rock Creek is worth looking at whenever the Difficult Run gauge spikes.

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Mark Anderson
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18 years ago

There appears to be a new USGS stick gauge on Rock Creek. It is located at on the southwest side of a smaller bridge on Joyce Road that crosses the creek near the intersection of Beach Drive and Joyce (Joyce provides access via ramps to Military Road, which has a larger and higher bridge just to the north).

A reading of 2.5 feet on this gauge is probably a good paddling zero.

default user thumbnail
Mark Anderson
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18 years ago

While the water quality is unquestionably questionable, the combined sewer overflows on Rock Creek are located south of the commonly-run whitewater section. The first overflows are on Piney Branch Creek and there are almost 30 from here to the mouth of the Potomac River. D.C. health warnings and decisions to boat this creek should be taken in that context. North of Piney Branch, Rock Creek is subject to more routine urban surface runoff ills, park service officials say.

There is another gauge located on a footbridge near the bottom of the whitewater section and accessible from Beach Drive. One to three feet is good on this gauge.

Gage Descriptions

The online gauge is located at Sherril Road, but a stick gauge is located at Joyce Road bridge just downstream of Military Road river right.  This Military Road Gauge appears to be the one that must be 2 feet before the park allows boating on Rock Creek.  

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

Alerts

 

News

article main photo

Rock Creek: The Premier River in Our Nation's Capitol Is Overlooked... Again

4/22/2003
Jason Robertson

How can the namesake river of Rock Creek National Park in our Nation's capitol be overlooked in the Park's new management plan? The Park is collecting comments on its new General Management Plan. The focus of the Plan is clearly on transportation issues affecting commuters. As a result, the Plan neglects the health and water quality of the Creek as well as the recreation opportunities that the creek provides. Please write.
article main photo

Health Warning on Rock Creek (DC)

6/2/2001
Jason Robertson

In May 2001, District Health Commissioner, Dr. Ivan Walks, issued the warning, “We are not recommending that people use Rock Creek and enter Rock Creek because of standing high bacteria levels...”

Dr. Walks added that the bacteria levels in Rock Creek are too high for human contact, and have been for the last year.

user-avatar

Jason Robertson

user-avatar

Paul Martzen

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Tony Allred Jr

Revisions

Revision #Revision DateAuthorComment
1192376 03/22/08 Jason Robertson n/a
1195876 08/24/09 Paul Martzen
1195873 08/24/09 Paul Martzen
1195874 08/24/09 Paul Martzen
1195875 08/24/09 Paul Martzen
1195877 08/24/09 Paul Martzen
1210716 12/14/18 Tony Allred Jr 12-15-2018 - cleanup
1208162 12/14/18 Tony Allred Jr 12-15-2018 - cleanup
1210714 12/14/18 Tony Allred Jr 12-15-2018 - cleanup
1210715 12/14/18 Tony Allred Jr 12-15-2018 - cleanup