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Difficulty III-IV
Length 4.25 Miles
Gauge SAVAGE RIV BL SAVAGE RIV DAM NEAR BLOOMINGTON, MD
Flow Range 375 - 1800 CFS
Flow Rate as of: 49 minutes ago 319 [CFS]
Next Release
Reach Info Last Updated 01/18/2019 4:13 pm

River Description


The Savage is THE whitewater rocket ride! With an average gradient of 75 feet per mile (with sections exceeding 100 fpm) the action is fast and continuous. The Savage's overall difficulty rating below 800 cfs is Class III-IV. At 800 - 1,200 cfs it is Class IV. Above 1,200 cfs the Savage is the longest Class IV-V rapid in Maryland!! Due to the steep, narrow and unrelenting nature of this run paddlers should be: 1) Well insulated (water temp 46), 2) Adept at fast self-rescue and wave-crest scouting, and 3) In possession of paddling skills commensurate with water levels... below 800 cfs - intermediate to advanced, 800 - 1,200 cfs - advanced to expert, above 1,200 cfs - expert only.

SOURCE: William Nealy's Whitewater Home Companion, Southern Rivers Volume I, which has more on this run. Text used with permission.

Savage River Road follows along the entire 4.25 mile run. At approx. mile 1.5 and just before the swinging bridge that marks the end of the slalom course there is a large undercut rock (House Rock) on river left.

The takeout is on the North Branch of the Potomac just upstream of the confluence. Please respect the locals and refrain from drinking or changing clothes in the open, here. The putin is just minutes up the road and its relative remoteness lends itself to these activities.

Whitewater Releases:

American Whitewater and others worked to obtain regularly scheduled recreational whitewater releases (600 - 1000 cfs) on three weekend days annually, June through September. You can see the upcoming scheduled releases, and unscheduled releases on the dam owners' website. AW volunteers meet with other stakeholders twice each year to coordinate the releases.

Another good source of information about this run is Ed Gertler's Maryland and Delaware Canoe Trails.

Rapid Descriptions

Upper put in

Class - N/A Mile - -0.35
Rapid Thumbnail Missing
Instead of crossing the bridge over the savage, you can hike up the river left side. Go past the gate, then through the field. Stay to the left at the top of the field. This puts you below the spillway on the river left channel a little upstream of the joining of the two channels. Provides you some bonus class 3 boogie. Generally considered not worth the hike.

Bridge Put In

Class - N/A Mile - 0
Rapid Thumbnail Missing
Typical put in location, just upstream of the Savage River Rd bridge (second when going upstream) by the camping and parking area. USGS gauge is located at the end of rapid below the putin and above the bridge

Swinging Bridge Dam

Class - N/A Mile - 0.85
Dam underneath a swinging foot bridge. Marks the end of the slalom course. There are a couple different lines to take.

The standard line is to run the cut out slot on the river left side of the dam. It is a sloping tung of water that ends in a hole that has a tendency to flip boaters and even backender creek boats. One can also boof off the dam into the pool. This is typically done a little to the right of some vegetation growing on the dam to the right of the slot.

The more challenging and interesting lines are on river right. One is to hug close to the river right shore, 3-6 feet off the bank. You drive with right angle, punching through  the hole to get up on the flow. Then either catch the right hand eddy, or keep going following the flow back to the pool below the dam. Another line here is to boof off of the right hand side of the dam into the pool. There is a slight mound that indicates where you should be. Care must be taken, if you go too far right or are sideways you will get worked in the pour over that forms on the dam.

Memorial

Class - N/A Mile - 1.2
Memorial is indicated by the river turning to the right as it meets the road. There will be a very large boulder on the river left side.  The rapid consists of two offset holes with a tongue between them, first one on the right, second in the center. The standard line is down the center, starting center and going to the right on the tongue after you have past the first hole. The sneak line is to stay to river left in the mank and ducking to the left of the rock that forms the scond hole in the center. The advanced line is to boof off the center left of the rock that forms the second (center) hole. It is a very sweet boof, but if can easily be messed up.

Triple Drop

Class - N/A Mile - 1.35
Triple drop has a large boulder in the middle of the river and shelf boulder on river right. The standard line is start center aiming towards the boulder. As you approach it you will go on the right side a couple feet away, driving right. Behind the boulder and in the flow is a hole. The goal when driving right is to miss the hole and catch the eddy. The advanced move here is to boof off of the left side of the river right shelf boulder, landing in the eddy.

Hutch's Demise

Class - N/A Mile - 1.85
The river again come towards the road and follows it to the right at the entrance of the rapid. The main flow stays to the left, there is a very small river right channel, usually with some wood.

It starts off with a 3-4 foot ledge drop. There is a boulder in the center left of the drop that can be boofed off of. Typically this part of the drop is run to the right of the boulder. After this make your way to the left. The center is manky, and even though the rock in it looks like a nice boof it is not. It lands on a rock. There is a boulder on river left forming an eddy, typically you stay in the flow to the right of this and pas the end of the mank/island on the right. This puts you about in the center and lines you up for one more final small hole at the end of the rapid, easily punched.

Bridge

Class - N/A Mile - 3.25
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As things calm down you come to the first (when driving upstream) bridge. Right above this is a very small low head dam type feature. Easy to run river left as it has been broken down on that side. On river right it is retentive and potentially makes a surf spot depending on levels. Small amount of parking here, can potentially be used as a take out

Island 1

Class - N/A Mile - 3.9
Rapid Thumbnail Missing
Typically run river right. Left channel is smaller, may collect wood, and has an abrasive concrete boulder in it.

Island 2

Class - N/A Mile - 4.07
Rapid Thumbnail Missing
Typically run river left, right side collects wood. After the island all the flow slams into an undercut wall river right. Catch the eddy on river left. This sets you up for the last rapid. Typically run on the center left side. There is a very level dependent boof in the river right mank. However, if the level isn't correct you will land on a rock, possibly pinning.

Takeout

Class - N/A Mile - 4.35
Rapid Thumbnail Missing
The bridge over the Savage at MD-135, immediately above the NB Potomac confluence is the takeout. There is an eddy at the end of the river right abutment and trail up to the road. During release, one typically paddles down the right channel and then slightly upstream to take out by the abandoned bridge on the NB.

Comments

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Colin Abernethy
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4 years ago

Ran this reach during the release on 05/29/15. Log mentioned by the previous commenter at memorial rock had been removed by the ASCI crew prior to the event. Great run even though the release was 600CFS less than last year. The shuttle lines were extremely long and the release was only 4 hours, so you had to get on early to get two or more runs in. Full-length video of our first run can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nr1kkONLEVo

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n/a
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10 years ago

Right now its up to 400cfs...I've run it between 350 and 450 cfs back in June...most of the run is clean (the dam looks sketchy), its not til the last third when the river braids a bit that it gets scrapy at all. At 250cfs it'd probably be turning into a rock fest...but at 350 we did multiple laps and it was worth it

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10 years ago

With the construction stalling releases can anyone local or with experience give us a description around ~250? AW now shows it as green. Are we talking a fun ELF or ass scraping level 2? I've run the Savage once during a release weekend and it's a hell of a ride. What's it like at lower levels?

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11 years ago

Steve Ettinger: Don't take the 349 cfs indicated as the real zero level. It can be run comfortably down to around 250 cfs, as indicated in the rankings of river difficulties accessible from the MCC home page, and from the earlier comment posted here about recreational releases of 300 cfs.

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Robert Farmer
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13 years ago

A few years ago, the old lady who lives near the dam (the dam-keeper's wife?) screamed at me that she would call the police if I tried to put in below the dam. What's with that?! Just FYI. I put in lower.

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BradR
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15 years ago

The North Branch Potomac Whitewater Release Schedule for 2004<br />
<br />
April 10 and 11<br />
April 24 and 25<br />
May 8 and 9<br />
May 22 and 23 <br />
Large releases suitable for whitewater recreation may be scheduled for several other weekends during the summer and fall, provided sufficient water is available. These weekends will be announced about two to four weeks in advance on this website, or on a telephone recording at (410) 962-7687.<br />
<br />
<br />
<br />
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------<br />
NEW<br />
There are plans for an Artificially Varied Flow (AVF) release beginning on August 14, 2004 at 10 AM and lasting until August 15, 2004 at noon. AVF flows are scheduled periodically to help improve downstream habitat. The release rate will be 850 cfs from Jennings Randolph Lake,<b> with a corresponding release of 350 cfs from Savage River Dam.<br /></b>
Additional AVF releases are being considered for September 11-12 and October 9-10, 2004. More information will be provided here at a later date.<br />
The Thursday afternoon releases have been cancelled due to lack of interest!<br />
Smaller recreational releases of 300 cubic feet per second are scheduled to occur from 10:30 AM until 2:30 PM each Thursday from July 15 until August 26.<br />
<br />
Additionally, attempts will be made to avoid large releases during selected weekends, unless such releases are required as a result of highwater conditions, downstream water supply needs, or unforeseen circumstances. These weekends are as follows: April 3-4 and 17-18; May 1-2, 15-16, and 29-30; June 12-13 and 26-27; July 10-11 and 24-25; August 7-8 and 21-22; September 4-5 and 18-19; and October 2-3 and 23-24. <br />
Releases from Jennings Randolph Lake are made for a variety of purposes and are subject to increase or decrease without prior notice. <br />
<br />
The whitewater releases are sponsored by the Mineral County Parks and Recreation Commission. They can be reached for further information at (304) 788-5732.<br />

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BradR
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15 years ago

A group from DC recently ran the Savage on a release of 350cfs and found the stream navigable. The paddled creekboats.

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Mike Croak
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15 years ago

Paddled the Savage 5/22/04 at 1000 cfs. Dangerous strainers approximately 1/4 downstream of 5' dam (in middle of run). Trees down on each side of the river give the false appearance that the middle line might runnable. It's not. Eddy out before you get to these trees. There is another tree in the water behind them that you cannot see until it is too late.

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Sam mershon
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16 years ago

STRAINER ALERT!!! Towards the end of this run there is a rapid with an island in the middle. both channels are blocked with wood. You can identify this rapid by a blue warehouse on river left. I highly suggest scouting this from the bank or the road. unless conditions improve it is highly advisable to walk this one.

Release Schedule

More Information

We have had releases on this reach but don't show any currently. This information is gathered by the public. If you know about releases then contact us about them. If you would volunteer to enter the releases, then reach out to us.

Gage Descriptions

Note that the Savage River has three scheduled releases annually, but also runs occasionally following significant rain events.

Directions Description


We have no additional detail on this route. Use the map below to calculate how to arrive to the main town from your zipcode.

Date Flow Result Factor  
2006-05-28 Medium Near Miss/Rescue Other Read More
1997-05-06 Medium Fatality Other Read More
1990-07-02 Medium Near Miss/Rescue Cold Water Read More
1976-09-05 n/a Near Miss/Rescue Cold Water Read More

Alerts

 

News

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Three Savage River Releases Scheduled for this Summer

6/1/2012
Charlie Walbridge

The Upper Potomac River Commission has announced three recreational whitewater releases from Savage River Reservoir in Western Maryland this summer. The releases, based on water availability, will take place June 3, July 1 and Sept. 29. The river, which hosted the 1989 World Slalom and Whitewater Championships, offers five miles of very continuous Class III-IV whitewater. Adventure Sports International has been working with a variety of agencies to manage the difficulties challenging access issues connected with the release. They are running a shuttle service on release days. Their work deserve the support of all Savage River paddlers; please check in with them and contribute generously to their shuttle operations.

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Changes for 2011 Savage River Releases (MD)

1/5/2011
Kevin Colburn

Changes were just announced for the 2011 Savage River release program, which provides three recreational releases each year.  The changes are intended to increase the storage of cold water for downstream sport fishing, and thus reduce the chances of releases being cancelled.    

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8/25/2010
Kevin Colburn

The Savage River release originally planned for early September will be resceduled for later in the month.  Read more to find out how you can take advantage of this great paddling opportunity. 

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Savage River Release July 4th!

6/14/2010
Kevin Colburn

The Army Corps of Engineers announced late last week that they are planning a whitewater release on the Savage River for Sunday, July 4, 2010.  Their tentative plan is to release 1000 cfs from 9am to 3pm, and changes to the flow rate or duration are possible if hydrologic conditions change.  

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Strainers, Large Woody Debris, Removal, and Ecology

1/7/2002
Jason Robertson

1197thumb.jpg Strainers, filters, sweepers, log sieves, log jams, do you have a chill running down your spine yet? Logs are generally disliked by boaters; their importance to the ecosystem is completely misunderstood; they are removed whenever possible; and if one is ever implicated in the injury or death of a human it is ceremoniously destroyed. Here are some considerations to think about before removing a log for safety, or prior to placing one in the stream for fish habitat.
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MD: Savage River News

7/9/2001
Jason Robertson

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MD: Response to UPRC (June, 2001)

7/9/2001
Jason Robertson

The UPRC's attorneys responded to American Whitewater in May, 2001. Our response and rebuttal of claims is attached. In brief, the UPRC failed to explain why there were no recreational releases on the Savage in 2000.
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MD: Savage Visitation Survey (June, 2001)

7/9/2001
Jason Robertson

American Whitewater surveyed 131 paddlers and found that 97% would plan on visiting the Savage River if there were reliably scheduled releases. Though 83% of the paddlers had heard of the Savage, only 26% had visited the river. 69% reported that the greatest deterrent from visiting the river was the lack of reliably scheduled releases. Safety, whitewater difficulty, and travel distances were of minimal deterrence to the boaters.
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MD: Letter to Governor Glendening (July, 2001)

7/9/2001
Jason Robertson

American Whitewater sample letter seeking Governor Glendening's assistance obtaining whitewater releases on the Savage River.
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What Does the Future Hold for Savage River Releases?

5/2/2001
Jason Robertson

On April 4th, 2001 American Whitewater wrote the Upper Potomac River Commission requesting a meeting to discuss the future of whitewater releases on the Savage River. A copy of this letter is attached. As of May 2nd, the UPRC has failed to respond to this or earlier requests, and has not returned our phone calls.
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Tony Allred Jr

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Mark Healey

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Liam Oliver

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Matt Muir

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Kevin Colburn

Revisions

Revision #Revision DateAuthorComment
1208777 01/18/18 Tony Allred Jr 1-18-2018 - corrected river length
1190542 03/19/09 Mark Healey n/a
1195575 06/27/09 Liam Oliver
1199167 01/20/11 Matt Muir 1-17-2018 - Cleanup
1210856 01/18/19 Kevin Colburn Description Update
1210233 08/14/18 Tony Allred Jr 8-8-2018 - cleanup