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Difficulty V
Length 0.4 Miles
Flow Range 1000 - 5000 CFS
Flow Rate as of: 19 minutes ago 7.02 [CFS]
Reach Info Last Updated 03/20/2008 7:08 am

River Description

I first ran this run back in 2002 which I am almost positive was the first decent, please correct me if I am wrong.

This VA creek is the steepest in the greater Washington DC area. When caught at higher flows this can throw more at you then any traditionally run lines at Great Falls. It is located just down stream of the American Legion Beltway Bridge over the Potomac River. It drains the Langley and Mclean area neighborhoods above Georgetown Pike which runs parallel to the George Washington Parkway. There is no gradient to speak of above the GW Parkway so this is where the run begins with a short but dramatic plunge to the Potomac with no portages.

The run is about a quarter mile long and drops about 160 feet, making for a very hefty fpm gradient. This run is very prone to wood but there are most always alternative routes to navigate with the choice of lines amongst the islands above and below the main drop. Obviously, the more water the more choice in the lines.

There is one public entrance through the neighborhoods behind Langley High School for an upstream put-in that requires a half mile hike in and some general knowledge of the trails to have a top to bottom run. There could be a lot of other potential put-ins with much more convenient and less trouble but they would require trespassing right through neighborhood backyards. And these are some NICE neighborhoods with some BIG backyards where kayaks on top of peddler vehicles will easily get some attention. So I recommend most to stick to the Maryland side and park at the Lock 10 C&O canal parking lot on the Clara Barton Parkway just inside the beltway; and paddle up the channel and ferry directly across the river to the delta of Dead Run.

When there are no leaves on the trees and Dead is running the cascading rapids off the hill side are impossible to miss, but when there are leaves on the trees the delta is somewhat concealed. This is the best way for a first run so that one can hike up the river right side (there are no trails on either side) of the creek and scout on the way up. There are a few pools and good eddies at lower flows but when it gets anywhere above a high medium the rapids quickly begin to mold together and have even fewer micro-eddies. There is one major pool below the main drop that is unmistakable. The rapids in order are: Truckin, Toothpick, Blow, The Real Garcia (the main drop), and Threesome.

"Truckin" is the first rapid that is a class III that can be run anywhere the level allows you.

"Toothpick" is a long manky class IV+ usually filled with wood pills, strainers, sieves, and a lot of piton rocks that ends with a little ledge drop. There can be many alternative lines around the three possible channels with higher flows. At lower flows, follow the water through the top to the last ledge, at these levels there should be a pointy triangular rock that sticks up in the middle of the drop, don't be enticed by the left line and just go right. The left is sieved out if it is not already filled with wood.

"Blow", for those that are familiar, is like the center line down LeonardÂs Leap - the first rapid down the VA side of Great Falls. This consists of a less then 10 ft drop down a left side slot with all sides of the water folding in over itself. At higher flows it is a big boof down the right over a sticky hole which you would definitely not want to swim out of seeing that this drop is only yards above "The Real Garcia", with a tiny micro-eddy to the river right.

"The Real Garcia" is a clapper drop onto a 30 ft long 45 degree angle slide with a sticky hole at the bottom. The ideal line is to stay as far inside the left corner as possible to line up down the slide. This is very challenging with higher flows and the current pushing away from this corner coming down stream from "Blow". The farther right you stay down this drop the higher the fall becomes dropping onto the slide, with nasty corners jutting out from the right side wall. My third run on Dead I came off of a 12 foot point and rolled over my cross stroke boof (being a C-1er) in the air and cracked three ribs on the slide landing on my chest including a lung contusion and a very tweaked left shoulder. At the bottom of the slide with higher flows the hole can be quite the keeper and could make for a nasty swim as it quickly roles down just 20 yards later into "Threesome". The pool at the bottom of "The Real Garcia" would probably be the best place to set safety if not the only place on this run.

"Threesome" can really abuse you at lower flows as it is hard to get a quality boof off of and most of it lands on rocks. Even at higher flows you are likely to hit something, just keep your bow up! The best lines are mostly on the right. And be aware of the under cuts on both the right and left side coming down the neck and the end of the rapid.

After this is just some good wood jammed, piney, class IV boogie mostly down the left side of the creek bed for about 100 yards to the confluence into the Potomac. The water quality on this run is not as bad as it looks, just a little street water and mud.

Rapid Descriptions


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Todd Henry
2 years ago

I fixed the incorrect Dead run gauge, the one shown is the correct one.

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Erik Amason
14 years ago

This gauge is incorrect, but as Stephen pointed out, if you are even contemplating this run you will have to be there in the rain because it goes up and down so fast. Contrary to Four Mile run, I would suggest Difficult Run as a more appropriate gauge for all VA side Potomac creeks in the DC area; looking for exceptionally high water.
In my defense I haven't spent the time to figure out how to change the gauge listing sense I put it up incorrectly.

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Stephen J. Ettinger
14 years ago

The river gauge reference is wrong. The Spout Run that has the gauge is not the Spout Run along Spout Run Parkway, but rather way out near WV. The only river gauge that is even marginally useful would be Fourmile Run. You'd want at least 1000 - 1500 cfs on that, but of course you normally would not have the time to wait to get that reading.

Gage Descriptions

Mostly visual, minimum flows are around 50 cfs. It can be run as high as you can catch it. The run significantly changes in the higher flows, i.e. if it is close to or over its banks above the GW Parkway.

The gauge is for a nearby stream to give a rough idea if this one is running or not.

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



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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.

Erik Amason


Revision #Revision DateAuthorComment
1194322 03/20/08 Erik Amason