Middle Patuxent - Carroll Mill Road to Savage Mill

Middle Patuxent, Maryland, US


Carroll Mill Road to Savage Mill

Usual Difficulty I-II(IV) (for normal flows)
Length 15.3 Miles
Avg. Gradient 15 fpm
Max Gradient 60 fpm

S-turn, Middle Patuxent

S-turn, Middle Patuxent
Photo of PJ Ottenritter by Paul Dobbyn taken 5/01 @ low

Gauge Information

Name Range Difficulty Updated Level
usgs-01594000 4.50 - 6.00 ft I-II(IV) 00h20m 4.05 ft (too low)

River Description

Time: varies wildly with intensity/frequency of strainers and water level. Can be a day trip if the water isn’t high enough.

Difficulty: I-II with some dangerous strainers at higher water and a long IV followed by a longer III after the confluence with the Little.

Fun Factor: This all depends on what your bag is. Whitewater addicts would give it a lower score, until the last couple of miles, while the hardy, explorer types will find it intriguing.

Water Quality: Usually very good, except when it's high enough to run.

Background: When remembering a time where there wasn’t a single home within, in some cases, miles of its banks, it’s staggering to see the development of the past quarter century. This once almost wilderness river now winds through the fields of Howard County and makes its way through the growing metropolis of the Rte 32 corridor and on down under I-95 and into the Little Patuxent where the confluence provides the toughest whitewater of the journey.

Trip Description: The journey can start as high up as the Carroll Mill Bridge, just off Folly Quarter Road, in the shadow of high microwave tower. Determine if the water is at least a foot over the cement bed under the bridge to find out what kind of time you’re going have downstream. From here, the river narrows rapidly and heads directly into several strainers that sometimes are passable, but often require a carry. The river soon begins to cut through the fields of the State Farm, enclosed by 6’ walls of clay on either side, and taking a fascinating, winding course around small grass islands, over clay ledges, and down one short rocky rapid that used to be a small waterfall and has now washed out. Continue under the Folly Quarter bridge and on down to 108, where you’ll likely find yourself in a pretty, woodsy environment with the occasional intrusion of civilization and the constant intrusion of fallen trees and strainers, sometimes hill high. This section definitely demands an adventurous spirit and some patience.

About 3.5 miles from the put in, you’ll pass under the Route 108 bridge, and enjoy fewer strainers for the 3.7 mile trip to the intersection with Pindell School Rd/Cedar Lane and Rte 32. When you get there, notice a small beach on the left side, and some creepy ruins surrounded by fence on river left, actually underneath the overpass. You can also take out here and walk up to a small parking area on top of the hill, accessible off Harriet Tubman Lane which intersects with Cedar Lane. The time sensitive can put in here also to make a more reasonable run to Savage. The next few miles are some of the most beautiful of the day. Pick a route over a 2’ ledge just ahead under an overpass (it can develop a snappy hole at higher levels) and continue on down through a winding, woodsy gorge. There are many interesting class 2- rapids through here, and lots of riffles and narrow chutes, some that like to take you into an obstacle, some that leave you high and dry on a gravel bed. Cross under the double bridges of Rte.29 and Old Columbia Pike and then continue to head deeper into the gorge that features sky high cliffs and rocky outcrops and a beautiful lush surrounding not typically found this close to civilization. The trout are prevalent here, so make sure you avoid bowling into a fisherman on a blind turn.

Below this, the river exits the gorge and goes under Murray Hill Road. One can start at Harriet Tubman Lane and end here for a five mile run through some of the prettiest parts. Those who continue get to ride down the fall line. The going from now on is actually shallower, and not quite as attractive. The journey winds down through some light woods and hidden pastures to the junction with I-95 that marks the beginning of the trip downhill to Savage. Low water will have you cursing for the next mile and half as the bottom transforms from gravelly beds to sharp, craggy rocks that can neither be walked nor boated at normal summer flows. At higher water, however, these form some delightful rapids that bounce you all the way down to the confluence that sneaks up on your left, adding even more water for the rest of the journey. Those uncomfortable with heavy whitewater can take out here, just after the confluence on river right where a trail winds back up through the woods to the parking lot at Savage Mill.

Stay alert and get out on river right to scout the Falls, which really belong to the Little Patuxent, but must be traversed to get to the takeout. The falls is a series of ledges (rated IV in most runnable water conditions) that drops for a total of maybe twenty feet over about 70 yards. Most have pools and eddys below them, but these can wash out in high water. The portage is around the rocks on the left, though it can be run at some levels. Beware of monster pinning rock below the center route of the second ledge, and the last ledge on the far right hand side that forms a nasty hole and shoots almost directly into a possibly undercut rock that usually contains debris. If you do run it, scout very carefully: Some long, narrow shafts of iron have made their way from someplace upstream and now poke out of the river bed several yards before the top of the falls. They may someday try to head downstream.

Below the falls, a large pool makes for a small rest before going down the next rapid, which is an enormously long, fun, fast class III that bounces down around a curving bend and into the final pool below Savage Mill. There is a route that goes underneath one of the old mill ruins that’s often a museum display of nasty strainers, so scout it carefully too. Take out at Foundry Street, next to the old steel bridge and go have a micro brew at the Ram's head tavern in Savage Mill.
StreamTeam Status: Not Verified
Last Updated: 2007-07-16 20:55:21

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.
August 5 2018 (166 days ago)
Thomas DuBoisDetails
We went down from Old Columbia Rd to Savage yesterday at right about 5 feet. Old Columbia to Murray
Hill was mostly flat (maybe 6 rapids, all class I), but with 2 logjam portages. It took nearly 2
hours. After Murray Hill, the river is flat and until just past Rt 95. There was one river-wide
logjam at this level, but it left just enough space to duck under it on the far left. Not long
after 95 it picks up with some class I's leading for easy class II's. After the confluence,
eddy-hop down the left side until just above the big drop before Savage. At this level I'd say it's
solidly class IV because there are 3-4 back-to-back, manky drops of about 4 feet each. Fortunately,
there's a path on river left. My son and I put in and ran the bottom 2 drops on the left side of
the river.
June 4 2018 (228 days ago)
Thomas DuBoisDetails
Ran from Harriet Tubman to Old Columbia at about 430 on the little patuxent gauge (so about half
that here) as an easy stretch close to home. Under rt 32 was the only class II. Though we had to do
duck under several river-wide trees, and there is a massive river-wide log-jam just before rt 29
that would require a portage at any level (river-wide and several feet high).
March 24 2007 (4318 days ago)
Robert FarmerDetails
Can anyone provide directions to the put-in? Like from, say, I-95?
July 18 2001 (6393 days ago)
Ben ParsonsDetails
Way too shallow!!!!! Not even class I. Don't run unless you plan on dragging.