Difficulty I-IV(V+)
Length 3.5 Miles
Flow Range 50 - 5000 CFS
Flow Rate as of: 1 day ago 26.5 [CFS]
Reach Info Last Updated 05/14/2019 3:50 pm

River Description

This description is for the section from Burnt Mills to Adelphi Mill. The first, short section is III-IV (V+) and then there are 3 miles of I-II (III).  Many paddlers just do laps on some/all of the first few rapids. The creek can also be run below and above this section; both parts are class I. See Ettinger’s guide book for more details.

Also note that Montgomery County Parks has rules against paddling any of its waterways without permits and there is no system for getting permits. Park police have been seen at the put-in and have, on occasion,  prevented paddlers from putting on. So this description is for reference only.

The main gauge is the Colesville gauge which is a few miles upstream so keep that in mind when watching realtime flow data. The non-USGS gauge at Adelphi Mill was at the take-out but seems to be offline. The intro rapids (the dam to Crusher junior) are runnable from about 50 cfs but most paddlers will want at least around 80 cfs. It's said that the Crusher (V+) is best at at least 200 cfs. Below that, there are too many F-U rocks and exposed sieves. High flows is obviously a judgement call for those capable of running V+. Most paddlers would probably want at least 200 cfs for the run down after After Party.


Rapid Descriptions

Burnt Mills Dam

Class - III Mile - 0
A 20 ft. high dam that is surprisingly easy to run. A little lip kicks you out at the bottom and keeps you from pitoning and instead you ski out over the pool. Amazing fun!


Class - III+ Mile - 0.1
Just beyond the US-29 bridge, there are three ledges, the first is about 3', the second is about 2', and the last only about 1' (3, 2,1 blastoff!). The first has a rock in the middle of the main line that makes a narrow rooster tail that can be boofed. If you’re too far left, it’s easy to get slammed into the left shore. If you’re too far right, it’s easy to run a bad line on the second ledge which is otherwise a straightforward chute into the third.

Crusher Junior

Class - IV Mile - 0.11
Just 10 yards downstream of Countdown, this is a 5’ ledge. There are few different boof lines. The normal line is river left into a mystery move. There are rocks in the run-out at low flows.

Colesville Crusher

Class - 5.1 Mile - 0.2

After Crusher Junior, there is a pool and then the creek turns right and disappears. The lead-in into the Crusher has a river wide hole that is sticky. You do not want swim here so scout carefully. You might also set safety there. One line is catching the right corner of the hole.

Then you’re in the Crusher itself which eventually squeezes the whole river down to a ping-ponging line about boat wide with hidden sieves through-out. You’ll scout this. Non class-V+ paddlers can portage on the river left via the path through the boulders.

Also known as the Great Falls of the Anacostia or the Colesville Cruncher. Theodore Roosevelt wrote: "Excepting Great Falls [of the Potomac], it is the most beautiful place around here."

Teddy's After Party

Class - IV Mile - 0.3
If you portaged the Crusher, you can put-in in the pool below. The After Party is a river wide 6’ ledge with mostly bad landing zones. You’ll scout it. Then a sweeping left-turning chute and the heavy stuff is all done.

Beltway Rapids

Class - III Mile - 1.2
Rapid Thumbnail Missing

Directly under the beltway is a class III boulder garden. Class I-II rapids continue to the take-out. The bike trail is only from here to the take-out. Upstream of here is a rough, foot-only trail.

Adelphi Mill

Class - N/A Mile - 3.5
Rapid Thumbnail Missing

Easy take out in the park by the playground. If you continue on, the reported dam at Ager Rd. seems to be gone but nonetheless keep an eye out.


default user thumbnail
Jared Espley
10 months ago

I've updated the put-in and take-out locations that had been wrong for years (see previous comments). I've also reworked the main description (keeping all the old info and adding to it) and adding individualized descriptions to the rapids.

default user thumbnail
Peter Abeles
7 years ago

Yeah the directions appear to be a bit off. Here is the dam https://maps.google.com/?ll=39.030648,-77.005931&spn=0.003492,0.008256

default user thumbnail
Nick Lipkowski
9 years ago

Can the stream keeper please correct the map and directions? The map indicates the put in on Sligo Creek! If necessary please reply to nicoli282000@yahoo.com. Thank you.

default user thumbnail
George Brewer
13 years ago

This is a very disgusting section of water to paddle. ive scouted it at lower levels twice and the trash in the water is repulsive. It smells like sewer and as one of my non kayaking friends put it, "looks like theres aids in the water." However if you can put up with this it is worth a paddle (a vey short paddle) For starters run the colesville road damn a couple times (cheap thrill and best run river left.) Procceed under the bridge when ever your ready. There will be a 3 or four foot drop coming up ( i dont remember the best line, so be sure to scout) after that little drop the stram makes an abrupt change. The only way to get a sence of how weird a rapid this is, is to watch the video in the link from the other user.

default user thumbnail
15 years ago

From the Luke Hopkins page:

From there we drove only a few exits away to the Colesville exit on route 29 and headed north. After about a mile, 29 will cross a creek, which is the North Branch of the Anacostia River. Once crossing the river, park in the parking lot on the right. This is the put-in and take-out for a really fun run that is a section of the North Branch called the Colesville Crusher. From the parking lot you can walk upstream and cross back over route 29 with your boat and continue upstream for another 100 yards or so.

This is the best part, here you can put in above the world easiest 20-foot high drop. Check out the video of this drop below, "PutInDrop". The drop is about 60 feet wide and is a man made dam that has a lip at the bottom that kicks you out and you will ski across the pool. Greg even ran the drop backwards. We ran the drop a number of times and it was really fun to say the least. After that drop the river goes under the rt. 29 bridge. The next drop is about a 100 yards past the bridge and is about 6 feet tall, and is probably best run on the left. Following that drop about 100 yards further down stream is the pinnacle of the Colesville Crusher run and is the only class V+ rapid. The rapid is about 50 yards long and starts with entrance splish splash and then a 4-5 foot ledge, which is then followed by a another ledge that is a couple of feet, and then the big squeeze move. This is where I got worked and Greg got pin balled. The level on the USGS North Branch gauge on the Anacostia was 2.0 feet.

The river necks down and drops about 10 feet through a slot that at the bottom and is only about 2 feet wide. I went down first and probed the right line. Half way down the drop I hit the main seam in the slot and mystery moved (disappeared) and came up at the bottom upside down. It wasn't over yet because then I hit the wall just down stream which the whole river plows into and got stuck there for a second. Then I came off that and rolled up. Pretty much I got a marginal crushing. After seeing that line Greg ran the rapid a little left of the seam that got me and deflected off a rock under the surface on the right and then soared over and deflected off the wall on the right, and then landed at the bottom. His line was like a pinball and probably was the best line possible. The video below called "Colesville Crux" show my beating and Greg getting pin balled by the walls.

The last rapid we ran was a sweet 5-6 foot boof with a shallow landing. It was a fun rapid also. If you live in the DC area and the creeks are running this is fun place to paddle and the put-in water fall/dam is like an amusement park.

Gage Descriptions

Tell us about this gauge by leaving a comment.

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




Jared Espley


Stephen J. Ettinger


Revision #Revision DateAuthorComment
1212270 05/09/19 Jared Espley updated description
1212273 05/09/19 Jared Espley updated name
1212274 05/09/19 Jared Espley updated name
1212275 05/09/19 Jared Espley updated name
1212276 05/09/19 Jared Espley updated description
1212277 05/09/19 Jared Espley updated image position
1212297 05/09/19 Jared Espley updated description
1212344 05/14/19 Jared Espley updated description
1212298 05/09/19 Jared Espley updated image position
1190500 03/19/09 Stephen J. Ettinger Added photo
1212267 05/09/19 Jared Espley updated description
1212272 05/09/19 Jared Espley updated description
1212264 05/09/19 Jared Espley updated description
1212265 05/09/19 Jared Espley updated stats
1212271 05/09/19 Jared Espley updated description