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TC Stream Sheet - Violettes Loops - GW Canal &...
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Day Trip – Beltway – River – Beltway – 4 hrs.    

Thumbnail – Launch in Maryland just up from Violettes Lock, cross the Potomac 50 yards upstream from the rubble Dam No. 2, enter the GW Canal just down from the golf club, exit and recross the river just below Seneca Breaks – regain the C&O Canal at a large tree with a painted yellow square at Milepost 21/ Blockhouse Point, and paddle back up the Canal. 

Main Features – The GWC is a Class I-II run used for early whitewater training.

Canoe zero (unk., but plenty of water when Little Falls gauge is 3.0 ft) Canal is full when water reaches bottom of second course of stones in back of the Violettes Lock chamber.

Approach – Out River Rd from Potomac, MD – left on Violettes Lock Road 

Put-ins – One is just upstream from the Violettes Feeder Lock Gate. Descend five feet through tree roots and large stones. The other, less involved, is 100 yards up the towpath and features a gravel beach. Several boats can launch simultaneously here.

New Paddlers – The unique feature of this trip is the many new paddlers who come out, it being so accessible to the city, on Sundays, and ideal for training. This means, however, that the coordinator must pay attention to interview them by email or telephone to assess their skills, past paddles, and familiarity with their boat and having the necessary equipment. Loaning equipment is fine but not part of the job! Depending on your own back-up in leading this trip, you may arrange for the newbies to paddle up to Rileys/Seneca Creek – or to be carefully mentored on the GWC Loop. Or, if weather is extreme, particularly cold water, winds, and storm, you may have to suggest they come at a better time. See the Introduction sheet for crazy stuff to watch out for.

Trip Start – Since we have many new people, Introductions and description of the route are particularly important. Encourage them to practice eddy turns and peel-outs and assign mentors if amenable. In the case of absolute beginners send them, with a minder, up the Maryland shore and into the Rileys Lock/ Seneca Creek estuary to work on flatwater maneuvers.

Difficulties – This trip is a starting point for many new paddlers who may lack skills or basic concepts of trip discipline. So trip coordinators need a co-leader also riding herd – ideally as the sweep. Or the TC may ask an experienced paddler to look after one of the noobs and help them progress. The main difficulty is in the middle of the GWC where paddlers can get caught on rocks in Diagonal Rapid. (An easier, straight route runs to the left of this rapid). A safety boat should position itself to one side of the rapid, ready to help. Just below, the GWC splits and since 2018 we avoid using the right fork, where Jacuzzi Rapid – and the dangerous Debris Rapid are. The GWC ends at 30 Eddy Rapid, and boaters must go into the Potomac immediately or risk spending the next three miles on the Virginia side of Watkins Island.  Also, even before the start, boaters may be swept over the lip of the feeder canal. Canoes can also be blown down into Seneca Breaks, so check wind speed and direction before the trip.

Meeting Place – at Violettes Lock – No. 23 on the C&O Canal   Ample parking – portable toilet (39.0695, -77.3413)

Shuttle is usually unnecessary – save when Canal is drained. Check “CHOH Current Park Conditions” at the bottom of which is which levels of the Canal are filled – look for Pennyfield Level 22. If it is empty, set shuttle at Pennyfield Lock (the parking lot is to the right (upstream) as Pennyfield Lock Rd reaches the Canal. 

Bicycle shuttle: up the towpath from Pennyfield parking – 2 miles, 15 mins

Transfer to the C&O Canal – While one can run down the Virginia-side rapid (Cl. II) and paddle across to the trail up to towpath at MP 21, it is more fun to try ferrying across the run-off of Seneca Breaks to the large mid-stream bush with running water beneath. Once past that, a mysterious current wafts boaters directly toward the Maryland shore. Once landed, warn paddlers of heedless bikers whipping down the towpath. Post a lookout on the towpath to warn our members of the wheelmen and vice versa. Park your boats parallel to the Canal – not sticking into the towpath. The turtle count is an integral part of any respectable trip report. Assign this duty to the youngest member of the group.

Guidebooks: Ettinger p. 179,   Gertler, p. 41   American Whitewater – Look here for latest reports on blockages – also at CCA’s recent trip reports. Or ask - - -

Map – Gertler page 128 Need to draw and post one on the CCA Website   


Day Trip – Beltway – River – Beltway – 4 hrs.    

Thumbnail – A loop trip similar to the GWC run, above – use the C&O Canal to return. Very gradual rapid with multiple rocks and routes – Class I, II (II+). Just as easy as the Patowmack Canal, to its right.

Route – Descend over the rubble dam where the water is adequate. Stay to the left of Pond Island, which separates the Po into two parallel streams, the Maryland side being the larger. This gives you more choices for using the many rocks to practice eddy turns and peel-outs. Class I-II, until you reach the final rapids, where a couple of II+ may challenge the very newest of participants.  Old Patowmack Canal – to get to this, which runs diagonally from the Breaks down into the traditionally-run GWC just below Surfers Ledge, ferry across the bottom of the first drop of the old rubble dam and enter (sometimes by lift-over) the opening of the old GWC.

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