Potomac, Maryland, US/Virginia, US
|Usual Difficulty||V+ (for normal flows)|
|Avg. Gradient||100 fpm|
|Max Gradient||500 fpm|
|POTOMAC RIVER NEAR WASH, DC LITTLE FALLS PUMP STA|
|usgs-01646500||3.30 - 3.95 ft||V+||01h28m||5.53 ft (too high)|
, but when running it - you are on the fringe of a massive channel surrounded by deadly sieves, huge holes, and treacherously slippery rocks, and if you don't know it - its easy to get disoriented. There were major changes in Spring 2018 so everyone should scout because the ideal flows have changed. It is not obvious how to get out to scout if you haven't been there before, a guide is mandatory. Even the sleeper pourover in the class 3 approach rapid above the falls can dish out a beating at these levels, and all the other drops to the river left of Grace Under pressure and river right of Pummel are extremely seivey and dangerous. A substantial amount of the flow goes towards the Subway sieve or into the Maryland Lines, http://www.americanwhitewater.org/content/River/detail/id/5553 which will be stompy. Swimming anywhere near the Center lines is a life threatening mistake that usually requires an elaborate rescue in full public view. There have now been 2 fatalities here of experienced kayakers who had run the lines before, most recently in July 2013. http://www.americanwhitewater.org/content/Accident/detail/accidentid/3743/. Know your limits out here and don't come without a guide and very experienced friends. Center lines is an intricate maze that requires A LOT of scouting, and choosing the wrong channel, or swimming could kill you and put access at risk for everyone. Please be careful and always have a safety plan, this is serious class 5.
Access to the river is restricted on both the Maryland and Virginia sides. Maryland Side - Paddlers may put in almost anywhere on the Maryland shore, but may not leave the boardwalk across Olmstead Island. To run the Falls from the Maryland side, most people cross the Canal and put in above the aqueduct dam, or put in below the dam at higher levels. Virginia Side - Paddlers may not put in upstream of the Falls. To run the Falls from the Virginia side you must put in at Fisherman's Eddy and then make a difficult ferry and carry above both O-Deck rapid and the Falls themselves. Carry up the Flake for multiple laps. If the rocks are wet, this can be sketchier than running the Falls. Running Great Falls is currently unrestricted. However, to maintain good relations with the National Park Service paddlers voluntarily restrict their runs to less populated times in the park—early morning, late evening, or weekdays—and limit group size and time spent in the rapid. The Park Service is concerned about running the Falls at popular times because it can draw spectators down off the observation decks and closer to the river's edge -- where they might fall in the water and drown. And, if paddlers spend a lot of time running around and relaxing in the Falls, it can give the impression that such activities are not very difficult or dangerous. Since 1975, at least 30 people have drowned in Great Falls, so the Park Service is understandably nervous about this. For more information, see the Guidelines for Running Great Falls as written by the Canoe Cruisers Association in 1999. Today regular Falls runners continue to dialog with the Park Service to make sure access remains open to all.
|Mile||Rapid Name||Class||Features (Legend)|
|0.4||Grace Under Pressure||5.1|
Arguably the toughest standard line in Great Falls and different as of 2018. Skirt to the right of the top hole, then boof off the right side of the 12' waterfall. The landing is chaotic, so Eddy out right, immediately on the left, or continue down to the Ledges. A swim anywhere in this area is potentially fatal due to what lies downstream.
The next drop over, Sliding Boad (Class 5.2) crashes into the bottom of Grace and was rarely run due to horrible sieves on the left. As of 2018 this rapid carries more flow and is temping when Grace is too low
A short sequence of 3-5' ledges and slots. They're not that hard, but if you lose control or get disoriented things can go downhill in a hurry. The center- right channel is the traditional double boof line and should be finished by landing right into the swirly pool above the Fingers. The right-most option is called the Angel Slot and is more difficult and committing. To the left, where you DON'T want to go, next to Charlie's Hole (MD side) is an inviting channel called Hollywood Boulevard that funnels toward Twist n' Shout, and the deadly Subway - this should not be run.
Also known as the Streamers. Five slots that can look alike from above, with serious consequences for choosing the wrong one. From river left to right, they are:
Twist and Shout (the Thumb) (Class 5.3) - A narrow, twisty drop with high piton potential. ugly and rarely run, but way better than Subway!.
Subway (6/NR) - A steep double drop with a sieve at the top and a http://www.americanwhitewater.org/content/Accident/detail/accidentid/3743/ at the bottom. This drop has been run accidentally a couple times but has killed two swimmers. Most recently an elite female paddle drowned here in 2013: It also Took the life of an experienced class V kayaker in 2004 who swam into it. Avoid at all costs. swimming into it is 100% fatal. safer lines are to the right.
The Middle Finger (Class 5.0) - this is the standard line. Pretty straight forward 20' drop but the entrance is only a couple feet from Subway. Calm green water leads into a 4' diameter slot. angle straight. you slide down 8 feet then lefty boof about 12'
The Ring Finger aka Flatliner (Class 5.1) - Shallow landing zone. rocks underneath and to the right. Higher water line. Run out of the eddy just left of center boofing off the nub. Miss the boof and you’re [censored]. A well known boater ran it too low, broke ribs and ruptured his spleen here. Google: epic fail
The Pinky Finger aka Angel Hair (Class 5.2) - Tricky entrance (angel slot or ferry in). Lands in a boily cauldron between a sheer rock wall and an undercut boulder. If you swim in the pocket, there's a small underwater ledge against the Flake that you can stand on while awaing a rope and figuring out your next move.
Make SURE you know which slot to take. there are no arrows painted on the rocks and the wrong choice at the wrong level could be fatal.