help_outline Skip to main content

Paddling Trips

COVID-ERA TRIPS - Loops, Up & Backs, Bicycle S...
Author Last Post

2020 – Covid Trips  -                             compiled May, 2020, additions in June - rev. 22 June




       This listing of streams was assembled by Ed Gertler, Ron Canter, and Alf Cooley in May, 2020 for publication in the CCA’s Cruiser - at the time boaters were readjusting their itineraries and expectations as the probable length of the oncoming covid epidemic became ever clearer.  Additions in June from Ed Evangelidi and John Roche - through Paddle Prattle.   We’ve consolidated these disparate sources into this on-line booklet, a first attempt to remind paddlers of streams and tidewater where automobile-shuttle-less trips might be run.  It does not purport to describe the streams and inlets themselves.  For this we have the excellent local guidebooks: Gertler’s Maryland and Pennsylvania; Corbett’s and Grove’s Virginia; and Ettinger’s regional whitewater book.   All of these have a bias for whitewater streams; where they include flatwater, the descriptions often lump together long stretches of slackwater and are silent as to the intermediate landing places.   The covid time may be looked on as an excellent opportunity for WW paddlers to “go with the flow” and familiarize themselves with the area’s many fascinating bays, inlets, reservoirs and lakes.  Asterisks on some runs are Steve Ettinger’s 1 to 4 ratings.  Please post further suggestions on Paddle Prattle for all to admire and implement.  SYOTR   Be safe, and have fun!   (see CCA Covid Health Guidelines at the Trip and Events tab)

Other resources include:

  • American Whitewater online,
  • CCA’s on-line Stream-Finder to ascertain current and minimum volumes.   
  • Recent Trip Reports on a few of these streams are on the CCA Trip Reports pages.  If you want to drill down, go to the search function on the top right of the Trip Reports page.  Put in your stream to collect every Trip Report written on it in the last four years. 
  • CCA’s online Maps page (members only) has 40-odd detailed maps by Ron Canter of nearby streams that can be copied and given to your trip participants.
  • Useful tables in the CCA’s 2017 Handbook: Gauge Levels, 68 whitewater rivers, by difficulty, Potomac River, AW Safety Code and Water Levels and Weather. 

*, **, ***, **** refer to Steve Ettinger's rating in his guidebook of the relevant stretch.

The Lower Potomac – Attains and Back – The water levels determine if you can attain the segment or not ! 

/ Little Falls Loop / Lock 8 / Lock 10 / Carderock / Offut Rapid / Anglers / Chutes / Mather / Sandy Beach / Swains / Pennyfield / Seneca Breaks / Violettes-GWCanal Loop  

OR – descend in your canoe with Roller Cart aboard, returning up along the C&O towpath.


  • Accotink Fall Line [Cl. 2+] – bike back up Rolling Rd, St Albans Rd *** (alf)
  • Goose Creek Upper (Golf Course Rapid) - [Cl. 2+] Put-in at Keep Loudoun Beautiful Park (43055 Golf Club Rd, Ashburn) **
  • Goose Creek Lower – [Cl. I] - Put-in at Kephart Bridge Landing (43942 River Point Rd) Paddle to mouth at Potomac and cross to Edwards Ferry.
  • Occoquan Rapid [Cl. 3 (4)] – Ettinger, p. 401 **
  • Pohick Creek – [Cl. 2+] bike-way (upper part only) ****
  • Staircase – B2B – bike or walk ***
  • Cub Run [Cl. 3] – Ettinger, p. 411****
  • Virginia Catoctin Creek [Cl. 1+] - attain & back - Ettinger, p. 339 *


  • Anacostia [A] – Gertler, p. 135 – subway & 2 hrs walk
  • Antietam – several sections - attain, or bike, or ask Greg Mallet-Provost **
  • Cabin John Ck – [Cl. 2+] - River Rd to MacArthur Blvd - one [Cl. 3] – bike 7 Locks Rd ****
  • Monocacy River - Greenfield Rapid - [Cl. I] - park and play. From MD 28, drive north on Greenfield Rd, park adjacent to the river.  This was a favorite playspot for Glen Pearcy.
  • Mouth of Monocacy - [Cl. 1] - attain up Monocacy or up Potomac
  • Lower Monocacy - Greenfield Rapid [Cl. 1-2] - see under Canter, below.
  • Little Patuxent [Cl. 2, (3)] – bike up former RR from Savage Mill - *** 
  • Mallows Bay [A]
  • Patapsco - North Branch – Ron Canter map – up + back or walk back up active RR
  • Patapsco - South Branch - [Cl. 2+] Canter map – walk back up active RR ***
  • Patapsco – So Br – [Cl. 3+] McKeldin Falls, see p.6 below
  • Patapsco – Main Stem – Hollofield Gauge to Ellicott City – walk back up active RR ***
  • Patapsco: Ellicott City – [Cl. 2+] – bike or walk ***
  • Patapsco - Ilchester Road to Avalon, bike or hike back along the Grist-MIll Trail (includes the new rapid created with the removal of Bloede Dam)
  • Potomac - Needles and Whitehorse - [Cl. 2] - return by bike 4 miles up the C&O towpath to Dargan Bend - **
  • Paw Paw Bends:  Meet near Paw Paw tunnel on C&O Canal, leave boats & have someone watch the boats for the next 4 hours.  Drop off cars at Little Orleans, MD.  Ride bikes on towpath back to put-in.  Paddle to Little Orleans on Potomac River.  Drive back to pick up bikes.
  • Rock Ck – [Cl. 2+]  Military Rd to Peirce Mill [3] / to Potomac [1+] – bike ***
  • Seneca Creek – Rileys Lock to Berryville Ldg / Rte 28: Dawsonville / Black Rock Mill – bike/walk *

                                                      Far Away – 2, 3 hours


  • Baltimore Harbor – Gertler, p. 164
  • Codorus Creek – Penna.  [Cl. 2+] walk up old RR grade?? - Ron Canter map
  • Little Falls R – Gertler, p. 175 – bike up RR trail - see detail under Rail Trails
  • Little Gunpowder Falls – [Cl. 2+] Gertler, Ron Canter map – CCA Website – Bicycle
  • Lower Yough – Penna. - [Cl 3+] loop, take out at railroad bridge – walk shuttle
  • Muddy Ck – Penna. – [2+ (3)] – Ron Canter map – walk back 
  • Upper Gunpowder Falls – [Cl. 2+] – walk back up from Falls Rd Bridge
  • Toms Creek/Monocacy – see p. 3
  • Upper Monocacy/Marsh Ck Circuit – (two days) Ron Canter map .
  • Sideling Hill Ck – Ron Canter map – walk back – see p. 5 below
  • Casselman – rail-trail – Gertler – Maryland p. 23 Penna p. 391. & see p. 4 below
  • Middle Yough – rail-trail – Gertler - Penna p. 384 – see p. 4 below
  • Lower Yough - bike or walk 
  • Susquehanna – Conewago Falls, Holtwood Dam, Pequea Falls – see p. 6 below


  • Rappahannock - Kellys Ford – attain, or bicycle **
  • Shenandoah So Fk – Bentonville – attain *
  • Rappahannock - Fredericksburg Fall Line [Cl 2-3] – park on Normandy Ave (room for 5-6 cars) for the launch, take out at Old Mill Park, and walk up to launch using paved bike trail (about 1 mile) - roller carts possible.  See also Backside, below – Ron Canter ***   
  • James below Richmond - lower James in RVA-easy bike shuttle without riding on any city streets- Thomas Wood


by Ed Gertler

       The most current edition of Maryland and Delaware Canoe Trails covers all of the tidal Potomac in detail, both Maryland and Virginia sides, and both sides' tidal tributaries. It is getting a bit dated, especially regarding Mallows Bay, but still mostly a good resource. That edition also covers all of the tidal Patuxent and Chesapeake coast of St. Mary's and Calvert counties. Lots of Delmarva stuff too. One nice nearby outing not yet included (next edition) is Otter Point Creek, just northeast of Baltimore. It is the estuary of Winters Run. Nice place to poke about marshes. In Virginia, I am a huge fan of the tidal Rappahannock, especially between Port Royal and Tappahannock. The main river is beautiful and relatively undeveloped and it is endowed with lots of lovely tidal tribs, most of which remain wild. If I had to choose a favorite, I would name Mount Landing Creek, just upstream of Tappahannock. As on the Potomac and Patuxent, tidal currents are relatively gentle, making up and back paddling tolerable. On Patuxent recently, I put in at the Patuxent Riverkeeper's place in Nottingham. $5 donation requested for non-members, but nobody there to take it.


Surfing the DNREC website to update myself on Delaware Bay accesses, the message was that non-residents had to quarantine for 14 days before using these facilities. You think we have it tough around here!   Ed


    So on Sunday I resorted to using the old bike for a run on Toms Creek and the Monocacy. Not a bad deal -- 11-mile shuttle on fairly flat terrain got me 21 miles of river. The best deal though is using US Rte 11 for the N. Fk. Shenandoah, where the river to road ratio is about 3:1. Still, whenever I road bike, especially on shoulderless roads, I feel like I am playing Russian roulette. That is why I prefer rail trails.

As the Cruiser was being put to bed, this last minute contribution from Ed Gertler came bouncing in over the transom.  We offer these suggestions with the caveat that this individual is infamous for lengthy often dawn-to-dusk paddles, extreme stamina, and a high tolerance for solo expeditions.  It is probable that the ordinary run of paddler may find some of these to be a bit of a challenge, particularly in the long drives involved.  We thank Ed for his contribution and ask adventurers using these bike-trails after their paddles to send in a trip report confirming their successes.  The Editor


By Ed Gertler        RAIL TRAILS

        A few late comments on trips not using two-car shuttles. This concerns rail trails, some of which may have already been suggested.

In mountainous areas, railroads follow rivers. So their conversion to rail trails has created an opportunity for paddlers. They are safe and relatively level. Great for non-serious bikers.

North Central Rail Trail: This is good for running Gunpowder Falls and its Little Falls tributary in MD. Also good for S. Br. Codorus Cr. in PA, though few would care to do this creek.  Added by Brian MacKay: Gunpowder Falls (Upper Gunpowder), northern Baltimore County MD. Lock your bike at either Phoenix pond on the NCR Trail or 1.5 miles upstream at Sparks Rd. Drive to put in at Blue Mount Mount Rd or Monkton Rd. Paddle downriver - I recommend at least 150 cfs on the Glencoe gauge. About 8 miles, Blue Mount to Sparks, or almost 10 to Phoenix. Virtually all state park the whole way. Lock your boat and gear up, return to your car on the NCR rail trail. Mostly flat flowing water, maybe one or two Class I's.

Great Allegheny Passage (GAP): The GAP follows the Casselman from near Meyersdale to its mouth, and the Yough from Confluence to its mouth. I have used it for shuttles for segments from Garrett to Confluence, and I recommend all of these segments for paddling.  This is an easy shuttle for the Middle Yough. As for Lower Yough, it depends on whether paddlers are allowed to drive in to Bruner Run. The road is usually open to private drivers from early fall to late spring. Perhaps this summer, if commercial rafting is suspended, they will keep it open. I have used the GAP for all lower reaches of the Yough, and all are worthwhile, especially Bruner to Connellsville.

Lehigh: The Lehigh Gorge begs a bike shuttle. The trail goes from Jim Thorpe to White Haven.

Ghost Town Trail: This runs along Blacklick Creek, in western PA. This is a superb whitewater run from Heshbon to Josephine.

Frankstown Branch Juniata R.: Located just this side of Altoona, this is a lovely Class 1 route. There is a rail trail from above Williamsburg to Alexandria.

Farther afield:
PA’s Pine Creek (Grand Canyon of PA): An excellent and scenic rail trail runs through the canyon and for many miles below. This is a classic PA run.

Greenbrier R. Trail: This 80-mile trail in WV is good for segments of this beautiful river between Cass and near Lewisburg. Some of it is pretty primitive, but still passable on a street bike.

Redbank Creek: This is pretty far away, in NW PA, but it is a scenic Class 1 river with a good, fairly new rail trail between Brookville to its mouth.

Hudson River Walkway: I know I getting absurd now, but I cannot recommend highly enough a trip to the Big Apple to paddle the Hudson past scenery like nowhere else. Just time the tides right, and you will travel faster than on many whitewater rivers. The walkway follows the New Jersey shore from Statue of Liberty to George Washington Bridge. Try it.

Finally, for easy biking through flat country with roads that usually have nice shoulders, use this as an excuse to try to some of Maryland’s and Delaware’s eastern shore swamp rivers like Tuckahoe Creek, Choptank R., Marshyhope Cr., and Pocomoke R.


And finally, Ed writes:  On Sunday I resorted to using the old bike for a run on Toms Creek and the Monocacy. Not a bad deal -- 11-mile shuttle on fairly flat terrain got me 21 miles of river. The best deal though is using US Rte 11 for the N. Fk. Shenandoah, where the river to road ratio is about 3:1. Still, whenever I road bike, especially on shoulderless roads, I feel like I am playing Russian roulette. That is why I like rail trails.  


(ed.  For the uninitiated, Ed has written fine guidebooks for Penna and Maryland, replete with detailed maps for these streams.)


    More Covid Trips – by Ron Canter – 16 May 2020

Here are a few more possibilities for paddling sans car-shuttle. Most are short, but not all. Bring a cable lock for those with walking shuttles.  And be aware that individual State lock-down orders may limit access to a few of these.  (Ed:  Most of these have a map by Ron on the CCA Website.  Go to Member's Only à Documents à Maps


(by Mike Martin - Monocacy: Greenfield Rapid - [Cl. 1-2] The Mon would need to be bone dry for it to be too low, and I've run it at a much higher level when Bob Foote moved his canoe class from the Po due to high water. John and I paddled it several times with Glen Pearcy when he was recovering from surgery and chemo.  A fine spot for noodling around. Paddle a few hundred yards upstream from the MD DNR boat ramp on Park Mills road (a few miles N. from its intersection with MD Rt. 28).     Ed Gertler adds At 1,200 then 550 cfs at Jug Bridge it's not worth visiting just to play. It is a short ledgy stretch forming two short riffles.    John Snitzer maintains:  It is best accessed from Greenfield Rd.  No idea what canoe zero is--that magical point at which one less cfs would make it completely unrunnable.  Safe to assume, I assume, that it is zero on such a flat stretch of river.    The sweet spot there is roughly 600-1500 cfs.  Above that it is washed out fast water.  Below that you bang over rocks to get to the next pool.  In that interval there are numerous opportunities to catch eddies and small waves, to practice turns and ferries.  It is a fine stretch of stream for attaining.  (Alf C:  As JS is a local and frequent Greenfield paddler, his is perhaps the worthier opinion.) 

Potomac - Needles/ Whitehorse - Most surefire bet is Dargans bend to Weverton Ledges.  You can bike shuttle back up on flat, even towpath.  If you get to Weverton early there is parking.  You can take a right at the Harpers Ferry RR bridge and paddle up the Shenandoah to the last rapid on the Staircase to do some surfing.  At the right level maybe even make it to the next rapid upstream.  There's always parking at Dargans.  - John Roche

South Branch - McKeldin Falls. a down-and back trip  Ron Canter Map **

From Marriottsville Road paddle down 0.8 mile of nearly-slack river to Cl. 4 McKeldin Falls. Run the shallow, sloping falls into a big pool. Take out on left below the next rapid, a Cl.2 ledge, and carry back uphill on a good park trail to the head of the falls. Round trip: 2 Mi.

Sideling Hill Creek - a long 8 mi. downriver run with a 3.5 mi. walking shuttle. Ron Canter Map

I’ve done this one and it works well. Because of the big bends in the creek, paddling distance is over twice the walking path length.  Start from High Germany Road at Bellegrove just N of I-68, not the usual put-in at Old US 40.  Paddle 8 miles down the creek through its most remote and scenic part. Where the creek comes back to the road, take out at the ford.

Lock up your boat and walk 3 ½ miles back via low-traffic roads: Swain Hollow Road, Swain Road, a short piece of Old US 40, and High Germany Road (which allows you to safely cross

I-68). See Google Earth or Gertler’s Maryland, p. 90 for details.


Little Falls of the Shenandoah – (Half Mile above Millville Dam)  A short loop trip with a shorter carry - Ron Canter Map

Start at Big Eddy Access Area, which is just upstream of Class 2-3 Little Falls, a wide rapid with multiple options. For a ledgy Class 3, run the left side; for Class 2 rock gardens and low ledges, run more to the right.  On river left, drag your boat up the last Class 2 rapids to reach a good trail along an abandoned canal. Carry 500 feet back to the parking area. Try a couple of runs before moving on.

Cacapon River - up and back from Forks to Caudys Castle  Ron Canter Map ***

From the parking area just off Route 29/127 at Forks of Cacapon, paddle upstream for 2 1/2 miles.   The river is slack at first, but there are several riffles and two easy Class 2 rapids to attain in the last mile. Caudys Castle Ledge is an easy carry on river left for one or more runs in the shadow of towering Caudys Castle.


Conewago Falls on the Susquehanna

From Falmouth Landing on Route 441 (river left) paddle out to the foot of Conewago Falls to play the waves and eddies.

Or, cross the river, carry 1/4 mile around the hydro to the pool above Safe Harbor Dam, paddle upriver 3/4 mile (staying as far from the dam as possible) to the southern tip of Three Mile Island. Carry the dam and run all 3/4 miles of Conewago Falls.  The falls change drastically as the water level changes: Class 3-4, Class 3, or dry. In the Spring they are one big, long wave train. In the summer, when Safe Harbor Dam diverts all the water through the hydro, the “falls” are just a maze of giant, dry potholes.

Holtwood Whitewater Park

Various channels among the rock islands above Normanwood Bridge offer play spots from Class 2 to 4 when the water level is right. Access is from the right shore above the bridge. See the AW link.The 19th century name for the rapids was “Cullys Falls”.

Pequea Falls (left side of the Susquehanna)  Ron Canter Map

Pequea Creek has only one noteworthy rapid, but it is a good one. Half a mile upstream from Fox Hollow Road is seven foot high Pequea Falls, a Class 3 double drop, followed by a couple of Class 2s. All are within a narrow, hemlock-lined gorge.  Carry up from Fox Hollow Road on a good, level trail above the left shore, and then run back down.

Lower Yough - from David on Paddle Prattle.   For those who don't mind a ~5.7 mile walk/run; you can do the full lower yough run. Taking the Sugar Run Trail to the Jonathan Run Trail to the Great Alleghany Passage is ~2 miles, then you have 3.7 miles along the Great Alleghany Passage into Ohiopyle. We've done it during this Covid period and it has not been bad.  Biking may also be an option for this route, but Sugar Run Trail has several trees down across the whole trail and is not very bike friendly.


Rappahannock Fall Line (Fredericksburg) – Backside Channel  Ron Canter Map ***

(You need 2,000 cfs to get into this.) Start at Normandy Ave, but paddle upriver for half a mile. It is flowing flatwater with a few riffles.  Turn right, behind Laucks Island, into the Backside Channel. Run two good Class 2-3s, “Backside” and “Bobs Glasses,” before rejoining the main  river.  Continue downriver to Old Mill Park.  Total paddling distance 1 3/4 miles

Return to Forum