Note: read below and/or click the Map tab to see the multiple access points for this section.
The put in is at Marriottsville Road at the Carroll County-Howard County line. Proceed from here with caution, for just a few hundred yards downstream lies McKeldin Falls, the largest single rapid on the Patapsco River. It's a solid class 4, quadruple-ledge drop that falls a total of about 12 feet over 20 yards. When the hills on river left become high and canyonesque, listen for it, and get out (river left) to scout. The portage is a wickedly steep climb up the hill/cliff on the left, and then around to a large pool at the bottom. For the experienced, a variety of routes can be used depending on water level, but beware of small sieves against either shore, and a very wide, flat, mildly undercut rock (usually submerged and creating a strange looking hydraulic) at the dead center of the river near the bottom. It looks as if it would love to eat the nice flat bow of a playboat.
From here, the river calms again for the next 3/4 mile to the confluence with the N. Branch Patapsco. There is no road access here, so you'd either need to enter the McKeldin area of Patapsco State Park and just run McKeldin Falls or paddle enother 2 miles of mostly flatwater to the takeout at Woodstock Road (steep climb out on the right) to the parking lot across from a roadside bar. Don't miss this high overpass: Daniel's Dam is the next best takeout, after a further five miles (of mostly flat water) downstream.
If you'd like to run just the McKeldin Falls, for a charge of $2.00 weekdays or $3.00 weekends, you can enter the McKeldin area of Patapsco State Park and follow the signs to the McKeldin Falls parking area to park and have a short carry directly to the Falls.
BTW: McKeldin Falls was created sometime between 1830 (when the B&O Railroad was started) and 1851 (when Howard County was created from a portion of Anne Arundel County) when the B&O railroad decided to cut through a loop in the S. Br. Patapsco. It was more convenient to move the river than to build two bridges. You can see evidence of this today, both on Google Maps or on the ground, as there is still a faint oxbow marking the original channel behind the railroad grade.
McKeldin Falls is the largest single rapid on the Patapsco River. It's a solid class 4, quadruple ledge drop that falls a total of about 12 feet over 20 yards. When the hills on river left become high and canyonesque, listen for it, and get out (river left) to scout. The portage is a wickedly steep climb up the hill/cliff on the left, and then around to a large pool at the bottom. For the experienced, a variety of routes can be used depending on water level, but beware of small sieves against either shore, and a very wide, flat, mildly undercut rock (usually submerged and creating a strange looking hydraulic) at the dead center of the river near the bottom. It looks as if it would love to eat the nice flat bow of a playboat.
Lat/longitude coords are approximate, from online maps.
I've split the Gaither Gorge section from the McKendin Falls section, so some of the following comments may refer to the other Patapsco, S. Branch section.
S. Br. Patapsco from Gaither Rd. to Henryton Rd. today with Tony during rain with snow melt, it was high and brown. Hollofield 2,130 cfs and 4.27, Cedarhurst 1,120 cfs, Unity 546 cfs. Least that's what it said when we got back, Gauges were 1/2 lower early morning before leaving home. No strainers to portage. A lot of play was washed out. 4-5 good rapids with 2/3 moves to miss holes, with no terminal holes. Intermediate run. Most of the rocks you would normally see around Sykesville were submerged.
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We ran from Skyesville to McKeldin Falls on 25Oct09. It had poured the night before and the Cedarhurst NB Patapsco gauge peaked at 870 cfs. However, looking at it after the fact, it looks like that by the time we ran it that it had dropped to 108 cfs. The section was barely runnable but we still were happy to be out on a beautiful fall day. We never had to walk but we did get temporarily stuck on gravel bars several times. Mckeldin was runnable but boney. Given the same level again, if it was a choice between not paddling and doing this, I'd paddle this. But if there were anything else you could paddle I'd probably recommend that.
Ran this with about 180 cfs on the Little Patuxent guage, 60 on NB at Cedarhurst. Level was pretty low, but passable and still fun on the bigger rapids. The rapids below McKeldin Falls to the confluence are alot of fun too, making it worthwhile to go down to Woodstock. Aside from the class IV McKeldin Falls, the toughest rapids seem to be the three steep, bouldery drops past that barn.
Paddle from Gaither Rd. to Henryton Rd. on April 3, 2004, No river wide strainers, was a branch in the second part of No Way Out rapid no problem just keep to left of it. Level was around 3.50' on the Hollifield Gauge about 1300cfs
Ran Gaither Road to McKeldon, 4 hours, on 11/2/03 at 2.6. Scrapey but runnable. Another 6" - 1' on the guage would be ideal for passing through all the rock gardens. Whatever log jam used to be is no longer there. Had to portage 2 riverwide strainers, both in flat water, - 1 just below Gaither Rd and the other in the park.
The Hollofield gauge would be the best choice for this section, but at this time we don't have a good handle on the paddling min from this gauge. When/if you paddle it, please add a comment, listing the level and your impression of what would be a good level at which to run this.
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Thunderstorm brings over 1200 cfs
Strainers Strainers Strainers
Drop below McKeldon
Bruce Pumphrey Out of Site, McKeldon Falls
mckeldon falls perspective
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