Potomac River

Water Levels

Telephone Level Readings:
USGS: (703) 260-0305 (recorded)
Army Corps, North Branch: (410) 962-7687 (recorded)
Bloomington Dam: (304) 355-2346 (live)

Online Levels:
Savage River below Dam
Paw Paw
Little Falls

River Description

Click for a overview map.

Great web site of the Potomac by a local paddler - a lot of maps, rapid descriptions and photos.

North Branch: Steyer, Md to Kitzmiller, Md
13 miles of continuous class III to IV. Ledgy and rocky up to the junction of the Stoney, then the water volume and gradient increases. Continous action with very few eddies, so be sure you got plenty of sleep the night before. Runnable in the spring, or after rainfall. Gauge on Md side of bridge pier at Kitzmiller. 4.5 to 6 foot is the optimum level.

North Branch: Bloomington, Md to Keyser, W.Va.
Class II run through Dans Mountain Gorge. Attractive scenery once you leave the Westernport town area. Coordinate your run with a release from the Bloomington or Savage River Dam. Cumberland gauge should be above 3 foot.

North Fork of South Branch: Dolly Camp Grounds to Smoke Hole Caverns
5 miles of class II-III rapids though the Hopeville Canyon. A dozen and a half rapids providing a chance to practice your boat control. Runnable levels are 2.3-5 foot on the Petersburg gauge.

South Branch: US 220 to Smoke Hole Campgrounds
A senic 5 mile run of class II-III, with a possible portage at the start of the canyon. Continue down below this run for more good scenery, but lesser rapids. The Petersburg gauge should be at least 3 foot.

Harpers Ferry to Point of Rocks
13 miles of class I - III. Major rapids are a ledgy staircase called the Needles, and a series of ledges (the second of which is Whitehorse rapids) after the Shenandoah enters. Runnable all summer long, with the Needles becoming scratchy in a dry summer. Levels over 5' on Hancock gauge indicates high water.

Great Falls to Washington, D.C.
Excellent metropolitan boating. Highlights include Mather Gorge, Rocky Island Rapid, Wet Bottom Chute, Yellow Falls, and Stubblefield Falls down to Brookmont Dam. The drop down Little Falls to Chain Bridge takeout puts you in the tidal section of the Potomac. Take a look at the Great Falls at put-in and try to imagine the annual Great Falls downriver race. 3.5-4.5 on the Brookmont gauge give the best ride above Brookmont, but levels under 3.2 is safest for Little Falls.

This information is my opinion only
and may not reflect actual conditions.
It is based on my usually hazy memory,
and should not be used to decide whether
you or your guides are qualified to run the river. 
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