Gunpowder Falls - 2 - Prettyboy Dam to Falls Road

Gunpowder Falls, Maryland, US


2 - Prettyboy Dam to Falls Road (Gunpowder Gorge)

Usual Difficulty I-III (for normal flows)
Length 1.5 Miles
Avg. Gradient 10 fpm
Max Gradient 40 fpm

Gauge Information

Name Range Difficulty Updated Level
usgs-01581920 88 - 900 cfs I-III 00h32m 620 cfs (running)
Upper Level not clear. Help would be appreciated.

River Description

Currently, my descriptions are limited to the section from Prettyboy Reservoir to Falls Road (1.5 miles). To date, I have not made the run from Falls Road to Phoenix Road (15 miles). I may consider breaking these two sections up, since they are most often run as individual sections.
The runs were broken up by the regional streamkeeper in April 2004

Prettyboy Reservoir to Falls Road Bridge

Put In

Very difficult to put in at the Prettyboy Dam, due to the 100 ft canyon walls and the fact that reservoir personnel frown upon it. I typically put in approximately 0.5 miles downstream of Prettyboy Reservoir. This putin is located approximately 0.5 miles south of the takeout bridge where Falls Road crosses the Gunpowder. When you cross the bridge coming from the North or river left side of the bridge, continue 0.5 miles up the hill. At the crest of the hill on the right side is a small parking area. There is a gated fire road entrance. Follow the fire road until it bears to the right; it then turns into a foot trail. From the gate to the water is approximately a 0.5 mile hike, all downhill. The hike is not bad and the trail is not very steep.

Take Out

The takeout is at the Falls Road bridge, either upstream or downstrream of the bridge on river right. Do not park at the takeout itself. There is a parking lot approximately 1/8 mile up the hill on the right hand side as you walk South on Falls Road. You should have passed it on your way to the Put In.

River Description

The first 0.25 mile is Class I-II warmups. The next mile is Class III. The last 0.25 mile is Class I-II.


You need to watch out for Strainers and Fishermen on this stretch.  This creek is not very wide, and very popular with fishermen.  If possible, try to stay behind them.  So be respectful and friendly in order to to keep this run open.

Reference Maryland and Delaware Canoe Trails, by Ed Gertler, for more details on this section.

Ed Evangelidi testifies:
No question that the short whitewater stretch is also the prettiest part of the run. However, on a hot summer day, it is hard to beat the rest of the run [running down to Big Falls, Blue Mont or Monkton Rds.]. It takes less water to negotiate the shallow spots here and it is in a pretty state park from Falls Road to Big Falls Road. Then comes a stretch through an active quarry with man made Class 2 rapids and finally a very long stretch of fairly easy water but with bikers whizzing by on a nearby bike path and floating tuber congestion in season. The confluence of the creek and Little Falls has a great swimming hole on river left where the cold Gunpowder water mixes with the warmer tributary.

StreamTeam Status: Not Verified
Last Updated: 2018-08-21 11:05:40


Rapid Summary

Mile Rapid Name Class Features (Legend)
0.7"First Drop"II
0.8"Foot Tall"II+
0.8"Triple Drop"III
0.9"Which Way?"III
1.0"Double Ledge"II+
1.1"Chipped Tooth"II
1.3"Spanked Bottom"II
1.4"Whale Rock"I

Rapid Descriptions

"First Drop" (Class II, Mile 0.7)

As of January 2018 a log jam of large tree trunks have blocked the left and center of this rapid.  Until this wood jam clears, there is a nice slot on the far right that avoids this wood.  Stay Right

"Foot Tall" (Class II+, Mile 0.8)

1 ft drop off a river wide ledge.  There's a little "Z" runout on river left that might look tempting, but is too tight to be anything but trouble most of the time.  Just take the plunge off the ledge.

"Triple Drop" (Class III, Mile 0.8)

First drop stay center, second at bottom hit a rock (at lower levels) then (at all levels) make a sharp right turn; at the third drop go center again with a little left angle.  Eddy to left.

"Chainsaw" (Class II+, Mile 0.9)

The name "Chainsaw" does not describe anything about the rapid, but refers to a legendary and unfortunate incident that is not to be discussed here.  Because the right and center of the rapid collects wood, at the top of the rapid, stay to far left.  Then when as far left as possible you're forced to turn right against the left shore.  Make the turn and take a drop and miss vertical log that is slightly left of center.  Because it happens fast just keep going past the log -- usually to the right because that's where you are.  You can also go to the left of the log, if that's where you are.  Just don't panic and hit the log.  The line is mostly the same at higher water, except there's more power in the turn against the left shore, but there's more manuvering room in the turn and the higher it is, the more you'd need to be right of the log.

"Which Way?" (Class III, Mile 0.9)

Three chutes, left, right & center.  Most run either left or right chutes.  Left chute is a straight narrow drop.  Right chute - start right, make a shallow left turn to avoid slanting rock on river right side which will flip you if you get under it and lean away from it.  Center chute is a sloping slide down the rock at lower water, more of an option with more water.  Eddy to left.

"Double Ledge" (Class II+, Mile 1.0)

This rapid is runnable left at all levels. Eddies far left and a surf hole center and left bottom at 250cfs and up. Attainment at all levels at the bottom. 

"Chipped Tooth" (Class II, Mile 1.1)

This rapid consists of a low ledge covering river left to middle with a notch in the left side and a tongue to the right. Good side surfing at minimal Levels and an actual play spot at 280 cfs +.  The river right tongue is a straight chute with a possible attainment at mid levels. 

"Spanked Bottom" (Class II, Mile 1.3)

This rapid consists of a low rocky chute to boogie water at lower levels. At lower water, if too far left, the chute shoals out; if too far right there's a risk of a surprise.  Best run left center. Above 230 cfs it’s a straight shot (not rocky) At 280 is where it becomes a play spot.  Washes out at higher levels.

"Whale Rock" (Class I, Mile 1.4)

There is a blind turn behind the rock that looks like it's going to be a rapid, but it's just a moving water turn.

User Comments

Users can submit comments.
August 5 2018 (168 days ago)
Thomas DuBoisDetails
My son (call him a class II boater) and I ran this in the 200-250 CFS range. This is a particularly
pretty stretch of river. There's a path river right (as well as paths higher up too), and I
recommend it as a hiking spot in addition to a paddling one. At this level there were some
fishermen, but not a lot. They were just getting started at about 10:30. Most of the rapids were
class I or II-, except for a stretch with four creeky-feeling ones in a row that I would call III-.
This would be a really good beginner river if there was a little more recovery space between them.
April 29 2014 (1727 days ago)
Cagg1271 (153409)
HAs anyone run this since the fall? Any wood of concern?
August 15 2013 (1984 days ago)
mbfox13 (155817)
Paddled this yesterday at around 2.4. Just a warning, right after the first drop there is some wood
blocking river left. The log extends about halfway through the creek, and its avoidable if you run
on river right. There is a tree branch overhanging the clear right section that isn't a problem
now, but may be a potential strainer at higher water level.
July 21 2011 (2740 days ago)
RyanSpahn (153341)
Does anyone know who created this post about this portion of the Gunpowder? I created a river
tubing MD resource and I'm looking to add water level information to the
site for this location and other tubing MD locations. I see this site has pulled in this data and
is displaying it and I wonder where I can find this data? MOre specifically is their an API for me
to the pull water level data for this point and display it on my site. thank you, ryan spahn
September 27 2010 (3037 days ago)
mab108 (152449)
Ran this two days ago and the level was around 2.00. Not many strainers at all except an angry
beaver (tried to attack a boater and then pursued us for about 100 yards). A little scrapey at some
spots but fun none-the-less.
July 19 2010 (3107 days ago)
jjscouts (150813)
ran it 7/18/2010 masemore to bluemount. it was listed L8 but it was a good run did not have to do
any hiking it was deep enough and only 2 small log jams
March 9 2007 (4335 days ago)
George BrewerDetails
I have got nothing but the best to say for this little creek. Absolutely beatiful. I have gotten
into kayaking probably about 8 months ago and this was def a fun run. Beware of log jam after
triplet. I was there the first weekend of march 2007 and it was there. It is easily portaged on the
right after the first two drops.
June 3 2004 (5344 days ago)
tom reschDetails
Group of us from the GBCC ran this section tonight the level was 1.60 on the Falls Road gauge.
There were no strainers to worry about and the scenery was excellant. Only my second time down this
strecth and cant wait to run it again>
April 4 2004 (5404 days ago)
I wished to pass on info about the Gunpowder at Prettyboy Dam. I just finished paddling it Sat 3Apr
The level according to the gauge is 2.75 water is being released from one of the 2 tubes and water
is cascading over the top. We put in at the dam. There is a strainer that crosses the entire stream
, it is approx. 800 ft. from the area that you can launch your boat, but you can't see it until you
go around the first bend.
I have been paddling this stream for 4 years and have never been told the names of these drops or
rapids, so maybe some one should photograph them, and name them. If you are interested I have a
group of people that would like to do this.
Stewart Thrasher