Gwynns Falls, Maryland, US
Gwynn Oak Ave. to Wilkens Ave (US 1)
||II-III(IV) (for normal flows)
This long and challenging trip would be outstanding were it not for the water quality and the
visible trash (including plastic growing on the trees), which undermines the otherwise pleasant
parkland scenery. The first mile, to Forest Park Avenue, starts off class II-, but gradually
steepens to class III-. This section can be scouted from Purnell Drive on the north (where you can
park to put in) and Cedar and Pickwick Drives on the south. Below Forest Park Avenue, by the
restored mill town of Dickeysville, a 10-foot dam must be portaged. The class II-III rapids then
resume, and two-thirds of a mile after the dam comes a tricky class III at the bottom of a long
rock garden. This section can be scouted from Wetheredsville Road. Dead Run enters from the right
midway through the trip, marked by a pair of small ledges. Three-fourths of a mile later, at Hilton
Street, some apparently untreated sewerage seeps in from the left. Shortly below, the creek braids;
the left channel has a class III- ending.
In another half mile, the stream flows below Edmondson Avenue (US 40), and you need to be alert.
First, there is an iron pipe across the creek, at the end of a short straight section. Scout from
the eddy on the right. In very low water you can slip beneath it; otherwise, portage on the right.
Then, 200 yards below, is Gwynns Falls, a five-foot drop. In low water, you can scout from the rock
ledge in the middle. The right channel is precipitous, with unseen shallow rocks just below that
make this short drop a class IV-, while the left chute is a very narrow and twisty class IV. A
short portage over the middle ledge is often the best alternative, especially given the water
quality. This is followed immediately by a delightful class III rock garden, and soon thereafter by
a four-foot, class III ledge (easiest on the right, in low water), followed by a long class II rock
garden that continues down to W. Baltimore St. Below, the gradient eases up, although there are
still some easy rapids, including one nice wave train. Take out by the park on river right upstream
of the Wilkins Avenue (US 1) bridge; park on the street.
You could continue another mile to the Gwynns Falls Trailhead parking area by the Carroll Park Golf
Course, just off Washington Boulevard, but neither the gradient (20 ft/mile) nor the scenery
(awful) justify that. Below Washington Boulevard, Gwynns Falls is tidal for its final two miles,
before entering the Middle Branch of the Patapsco River estuary, 1.5 miles southwest of the mouth
of Jones Falls, and 1.5 miles northwest of the mouth of the flowing Patapsco River.
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Last Updated: 2005-05-11 21:25:42