Gwynns Falls - Gwynn Oak Ave. to Wilkens Ave (US 1)


Gwynns Falls, Maryland, US

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Gwynn Oak Ave. to Wilkens Ave (US 1)

Usual Difficulty II-III(IV) (for normal flows)
Length 5.6 Miles
Avg. Gradient 45 fpm
Max Gradient 150 fpm

Gauge Information

Name Range Difficulty Updated Level
GWYNNS FALLS AT VILLA NOVA, MD
usgs-01589300 150 - 500 cfs II-III(IV) 01h27m 25 cfs (too low)


River Description

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.

StreamTeam Status: Not Verified
Last Updated: 2005-05-11 21:25:42

Editors


Rapid Descriptions

icon of message No rapids entered. If you know names, and locations of the rapids please contact and advise the StreamTeam member for this run.

User Comments

Users can submit comments.
October 10 2012 (1718 days ago)
Robert FarmerDetails
The log that C2buck apparently describes, below, has apparently moved, because there is now a
medium-sized tree-with-root ball across Gwynns Falls at the Main Falls, visible from upstream. At
minimum levels, going under it might be possible, but at 5.6 at Washington Blvd, I boofed the main
ledge left of center for the first time, because that log was thoroughly blocking the right side at
that level. Also, as an aside, I seriously doubt that anyone has run the left side of the main
ledge, because it probably requires a mandatory flip, and the top part is artificial and junky,
with some rebar in there, too. Given the water quality, flipping is not recommended. Also, in
general, the best way to portage the pipes is to take out on river left, upstream of Route 40, walk
along the paved trail, and climb down to put in on top of the concrete platform that supports the
pipeline. Seal launch---it's easy! No bushwhacking!! Washington Blvd gauge:
http://waterdata.usgs.gov/nwis/uv?01589352 . Good levels are: 2.5 minimum up to @6.0 or maybe 7.0;
the maximum is more or less undefined, but the "official" maximum is definitely too low. At 5.6 at
Washington Blvd (1200 cfs at Villa Nova), the other day, I could easily paddle over the pipeline,
which is a definite plus; on the other hand, the river was Class 5 in places, whereas it's usually
only Class 3 at low water.
May 22 2012 (1859 days ago)
c2buck (154395)
As of May 21, 2012 at 2pm.......There is a river-wide strainer at the steel pipes, which are
located just below MD-40. The root base of the fallen tree is still attached to the bank on river
left, so it looks like this strainer is here to stay for a while. You may be able to sneak through
on river right at low water. Easy portage is on river right directly under the huge arches of the
MD-40 bridge. Take out amongst a knee high pile of garbage, then climb an easy staircase of broken
discarded concrete, up to the railroad tracks. You can make a steep descent to put in immediately
below the pipes, or continue 100yds further down the RR tracks to where you can easily (and safely)
get down to the water's edge to scout the falls and the ledges just below. The eddys are easy to
find, they are the areas filled with floating, swirling garbage. It's a damn shame this wonderful
river is painted with garbage.
August 22 2011 (2133 days ago)
Robert FarmerDetails
We've been having some intense isolated thunderstorms lately, with hard rain down by the harbor, so
I thought I'd check out Gwynns. I drove to check the gauge at Washington Blvd, and it was at 7.0! I
drove up via Dead Run, and it was raging-----scary-high! I got to the put-in at Dickeyville, and
the water was barely above the minimum. Long story short, most of the water was coming in from Dead
Run and points downstream----Dead Run almost doubled the volume!! From Dead Run downstream, the
level was nice (4.0), above that, it was rocky and abusive. Fun fact! FYI.
April 20 2011 (2257 days ago)
Robert FarmerDetails
I'm not positive, but I think that the piton rock on the right side of Gwynns Falls might have
shifted---it seemed a bit stickier as I slid across it on Saturday at 3.75 at Wash. Blvd. Also, the
next rapid downstream looks a bit different on the right side of Tombstone Rock, although I didn't
look closely (I went left). I'm not even sure why I'm posting this; does anyone besides me ever
paddle this?!
July 16 2010 (2535 days ago)
Robert FarmerDetails
I caught this 7/12/10 at about 3.9 ft. (at Wash. Blvd) The rainfall pattern on this day is kind of
illustrative of a semi-typical summer pattern: The rain started falling pretty hard (2+ inches in
@2.5 hours upstream) after a dry spell at around 2:00 p.m.; at about 4:20, it peaked at 9.3/4600
(Villa Nova peaked at 4.5/800), and by the time when I finished the run (7:38 p.m. at Wash. Blvd.)
after putting on at 6:30, it had dropped to around 3.8---still good, but getting low. Hence, there
was only about a 3.5-hour window of runnability, less if you're not willing to paddle crazy-high
water. Also, the log that was on the right side of the first left bend is now about 1/2 mile
downstream on the left. You can get by it, but it is hazardous, so watch out! I paddled from
Dickeyville to Swann Park, near Hanover St. in 1:58, not rushing. It took only 41 minutes to get
from Dickeyville to below the Route 40 ledges, including a portage around the pipelines. A pretty
enjoyable afternoon!
May 25 2010 (2587 days ago)
Robert FarmerDetails
The Washington Blvd gauge can be read online at: http://waterdata.usgs.gov/nwis/uv?01589352. For
those of us who like to paddle down to the harbor sometimes, Swann Park has now been reopened, just
off Hanover St., next to I-95; it makes a good takeout, especially for me, since it's an easy walk
to my house from there.
December 3 2009 (2760 days ago)
x (1)
Robert Farmer---It is probably safest to run the last ledge on the left at high water; you have to
zig and zag a bit. Beware of the next-to-last ledge at all levels---the middle part is a keeper,
and the right side has an extremely narrow line---safest to go left, for sure! Also, watch out for
the piton rock on the right side of The Falls, and there is a barely-submerged rock just downstream
of the landing zone that also should be considered. Watch out for the ledge hydraulic---it is very
grabby at times. Hey, who ran this without me? If anyone wants to run this sometime, call me at
410-624-6421. I'm glad to see that someone else is finally enjoying MY favorite local creek! I
missed it that day. . .
October 28 2009 (2796 days ago)
x (1)
Ran this section on 10-28-09 with relatively high water conditions (400cfs). I'd recommend advanced
boaters to put in just below the dam at Dickeysville as this eliminates all but one portage (the
low pipe below Edmondson Ave) and features the heaviest whitewater section. At this level the right
slot of upper Gwynn's Falls is a safer drop than the left option, just manuver to the left of the
roostertail. The final big riverwide ledge about 1/2 mile further downstream should also be run on
the right about 5-8 feet left of the protruding rock just before the drop itself. You can take out
on Frederick Avenue on the right if you want to avoid the remaining flatwater and don't mind a more
strenuous climb vs. the remaining. takeouts.
October 19 2009 (2805 days ago)
x (1)
Robert Farmer---Gwynns was running all weekend 10/17 and 10/18. On 10/18 (Sunday) it was up around
2000 cfs at Washington Blvd and was quite enjoyable. I portaged the double pipeline on the left,
which seems to be the best way---not the right side, as mentioned on the main page. I put back in
on top of the concrete block that forms the end of the pipeline. Even though I spent about 24
minutes scouting and portaging, the whole trip took only 1:25, so I spent about an hour actually on
the water. It was really very good.
October 16 2009 (2808 days ago)
x (1)
Robert Farmer---I caught this yesterday 10/15/09 after a moderate rain of about 8 hours, with
possible nighttime drizzle of around 12 hours prior to that. I had mistakenly thought the
Washington Blvd gauge read 2.8, with the level rising at Villa Nova, far upstream. I put on at 5:40
p.m. and finished at 6:57 p.m. (Dickeyville to Wash Blvd) for a total low-water time of
1:17---perfect for an afternoon, although everyone else will take a bit longer. (Sunset was at
about 6:28, but I made it past the crux rapid just about then.) The hydraulic at the main ledge
just downstream of Route 40/Edmondson Ave was sticky---I hit it badly, and it was a bit scary, even
at this low level---treat it with respect, always! The level at Washington Blvd when I took out was
2.5, just above the absolute minimum of around 2.3---I had wondered why it seemed awfully rocky for
3.0---it wasn't 3.0! Villa Nova was at around 160. The new gauge system reads much more frequently
than before, and is much more useful. A delightful afternoon!
October 16 2009 (2808 days ago)
x (1)
Robert Farmer---So, the other day, I tried to count and remember the rapids. I counted 25 rapids
from Dickeyville to Washington Blvd---the best section---but I could remember only 21 by the time
when I went to write them down. No matter---there are only a few of significance. You put in to
Rapid #1, below the drowning machine dam at the park at Dickeyville; the best spot is on the left
side of Salamander Run. Currently, there is a log on the right side to watch out for. You pass
under a small bridge and run a small slide (Rapid #2). A couple of small rapids leads to Rapid #5,
the first crux. The creek makes a sharp left turn; start far right at low water and work far left.
After Rapid #7, you come to Windsor Mill Rd bridge. Rapid #8 is immediately downstream, and has a
bridge pier just left of center, which is submerged at higher levels. Rapid #9 is a potentially
DANGEROUS ledge, probably man-made, where you should stay left; the right side has a bad hole. At
the bottom, Dead Run enters on the right. Soon, you pass under Franklintown Rd. bridge. Rapid #11
has an island---stay left; the right side is too shallow. After a 90-degree left turn, you come to
a 90-degree right turn where logs tend to create hazards---currently, it is open. Now, if I've
counted correctly, Rapid #12 is a pipeline immediately downstream of the Route 40/Edmondson Ave
bridge that you should be very careful about. I've described it elsewhere, below; currently the
left and right slots are open, but not the center. Scout! Rapid #13 is the crux, a 5-6-foot ledge
that is serious almost all of the time---Class 4-to-7, depending on the level. The hydraulic is
very sticky. Scout carefully. There is a piton rock on the right side, and the launch current kicks
leftward, encouraging a stay in the hole, which could easily be fatal at most levels. On my most
recent trip, I screwed this up, when I should have known better; I made it through---just not
gracefully. Rapid #14 is just downstream---a tombstone-shaped rock sits blocking the middle of the
river. I always eddy left, then, at low water, I ferry to the right, while at higher levels, you
can go left or right. Downstream a few hundred yards are 2 ledges---Rapids #15 & #16. The first one
is safest on the left, although it can also be run TIGHT right; Do NOT Go Down The Middle!!! That
hole definitely looks very dangerous!! At the second ledge, I boof the right side at lower levels,
and run the far left at scary-high levels. Scout! Soon you come to a rapid underneath the Baltimore
St. bridge. Everything from here on down should be self-explanatory. Have fun! I hope to see some
other paddling party on this run someday!!
March 30 2009 (3008 days ago)
x (1)
Robert Farmer-- I caught this the other day when the Villa Nova gauge (I found out later) indicated
around 1.25 ft/ 50 cfs; this turned out to be an abusive minimum. Total time from Dickeyville to
Wash. Blvd.: @3 hours. I paddled it once before at @70 cfs at VN; this was slightly less abusive.
An acceptable level for many people might be around 100 cfs, but the gauge is far upstream, so this
is only a rough indicator rather than a true water level. The stated minimum of 150 would be
well-padded, but less frequent. I noticed a new visual gauge at Washington Blvd---the only visual
gauge that I know of. The abusive-minimum level here is 2.5. A good minimum would probably be 2.75.
4.2 is very nice. Because the telemetric gauges are read only once a day, and the creek can easily
rise and fall in 6 hours, the telemetric gauges are often not helpful, except for later reference,
which is why the Wash. Blvd. gauge is very useful. Otherwise, the only good place to check the
creek visually is at Windsor Mill Rd bridge, where the rapids can give one a rough idea of the
level, although there is no gauge there. The best rapids are 1)downstream of Dickeyville and 2) the
ledges section downstream of Route 40. The Washington Blvd gauge can be read online at:
http://waterdata.usgs.gov/nwis/uv?01589352.
November 15 2008 (3143 days ago)
x (1)
Robert Farmer---Sept 6,2008: Caught it at @3.7/535 cfs at Villa Nova. Until proven otherwise, I
declare this to be the lower end of perfect. The rapids were great fun, no portages, and I could
scrape over the double pipeline---however, this would change if someone were to remove the enormous
amount of trash that causes a backup of the water there. (If you do decide to portage the main
drop, scout from river left at Route 40 first, then portage the big ledge on the right; the left
side is a cliff.) I hit @ 7-8 rocks, total---hardly any! Also, there is a new USGS gauge just
upstream of Washington Blvd: the level there was @4.2 or so. I paddled down to the harbor and had a
lovely dinner at Nick's Fish House, where I took out. It was a very nice day. Total time to
takeout: @2 hours and 15 minutes. Also, the best put-in is off of Forest Park Dr.---Take Pickwick
Rd. down to the park at Dickeyville on river right; put in below the drowning machine dam. This
put-in results in at least one less portage. Takeout at Washington Blvd, unless you want to paddle
down to the harbor and probably see more birds. P.S. I noticed that it comes up with about an inch
of rain in 12 hours or so.
September 9 2008 (3210 days ago)
x (1)
Caught Dead Run Sat, 9/02/06, at somewhere between 80-200 cfs and dropping sharply, according to
the USGS site
(http://waterdata.usgs.gov/md/nwis/uv?cb_00060=on&cb_00065=on&format=gif&period=7&site_no=01589330).

It was slightly scrapy, but not too bad. Would have been better with 50 cfs more. The 2 scrapiest
sections are within sight of the road. I put in behind the former seafood restaurant, below the
dam, for maximum convenience; the owners were cool--they waved at me, although I hadn't asked
permission. I took out on Gwynns Falls, below the parkway bridge. There is a sliding ledge hole
below the last bridge above the confluence that was fun, but was also the hardest rapid on the run.
I'll call the run Class 2-3, possibly easier with more water. There were numerous birds that I
couldn't identify--my ornithological knowledge is severely limited--including a large raptor,
possibly a sea-eagle or osprey. It was an enjoyable trip, but it often drops very quickly, so
you've got to get there quickly, usually.---Robert Farmer

Who the hell is philippe damiano? And why is his name appearing on this posting?
June 5 2006 (4037 days ago)
Robert FarmerDetails
At higher water levels, the ledge below Route 40 becomes Class 5-6 (at 5.0+ and 1000+ or so cfs).
It was awkward hauling my boat up a jagged concrete pouring on the right to the railroad tracks.
The day before, the body of a boy who fell in the creek was snagged/recycled here and recovered
after a big rescue effort (it was on tv). Be careful of this drop. Also, I paddled down to the
harbor, and I didn't think it was as bad as described above. I enjoyed it, but there was a lot of
trash--some of it usable! As far as takeout parking, the Carroll Park Golf Course may have less
crime than the Wilkins Ave location. Even safer would be to paddle down to the harbor (eg Harbor
Hospital). While riding my bike here in 2007, I noticed that the pipeline immediately downstream of
Route 40 is actually two pipes side-by-side horizontally; at 1000 cfs, I never saw them (well, they
seemed like an old dam), but I would say definitely take out on river left above the rapids at the
Route 40 bridge to scout or portage--these pipes could be extremely dangerous. The right slot has a
good bit of debris hanging from it; the far left may be open (at least at below-minimum level); the
center slot has the body of what appears to be a construction crane (amazing!) in it. There is a
concrete support in midstream that kind of makes it look like a dam. Also, the trash on the banks
has gotten much worse than before.


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