Patapsco River in Maryland

by  guest-paddler

A self-supported trip created by guest-paddler

Trip Overview

Patapsco River from Woodstock, MD to Daniels Dam

4 hour paddle; longer if you explore some side tributaries possible (sort of, only in high water) Miles: 6.2

Put in off of Woodstock Rd Route 125 and take out at dam at Daniels Rd.

Amenities: take out at Daniels is nicely sloped and there's even a concrete canoe landing but why bother?...

So we wake up to bright autumnal sunshine after three days of more or less steady rain. This summer's draught has been tough on all; farmers, wildlife and paddlers alike. Paddle fever is running high and even though we've only been out of the water for 36 hours, the last wetting of paddles was decidedly FLAT but we made a day of lake side splashing collecting bits of fishing line and lost floats and hooks and even one dandy looking double rigged thing with an amazingly realistic little rubber fish attached.

Back to sunny Saturn's day where we've made no plans at all to paddle but the rain has stopped, the boats are ready and we make a quick call to Big Pauly who infected us with kayak-philia in the first place and has served as mentor, sage and...oh yeah, he's the one with the second pick'em up truck and thus the other half to the all important shuttle. Turns out Big Pauly is in that pick'em up truck rattling for home after working half a day but promises to check the Bible (according to Gertler) and will get back to us as soon as he hits homebase. We hit the deck running, grabbing gear, pushing aside children and small animals and by the time I have a knife in the peanut butter and two swallows of hot joe down my throat Big Pauly is on the horn again conferring with my very much better half. Route numbers, road names and possible put ins whirl around my head as I slap the final slice of whole wheat on the last pbj. Nothing fancy from the chow yak on this trip. No deviled eggs or an antipasta course. If we want river time we gotta go NOW. Big Pauly and Sam (my ever sweet, sweet man) hit the kitchen at the same moment in time to catch me doing a final swipe of mascara across my lashes. Ok, ok, I know. We all have our rituals and hey the stuff really is waterproof and I explained away the "You're putting on make-up to go kayaking?!" I tell 'em that it all has sunscreen with a combined SPF of 37. So there! My yellow Blast and the erstwhile NINETY-five are already tied down to the back of our truck. Gear on or grabbed on the fly. Away we go.

We drive, hopefully and not aimlessly along route 40,then Old Frederick Road (Route 99) crossing the Patapsco at points, pulling off to the side to peer over bridges. The river, after three days of hearty rain is running fast and high. But how to get to it? I'm all for sending a spotter down the bank into the river and the two, remaining topside, chuck the boats over the bridge and the spotter, see catches the boats as they go by and...alright so maybe this is why I'm the chow yak of this team and not the planner organizer map plotter. After a couple of reconnoiters the lads settle on a put in but it'll be a steep drag down a slippery slope. After this season's draught I have become reacquainted with a word I truly haven't heard used (except on "Ice Road Truckers") since American History and the Lewis and Clark expedition. This word is portage. I am not a fan. If I wanted to take something for a drag I'd get a dachshund puppy or put a cat on a leash. (Everyone who has or knows of dachshunds and felines who manage leashes just fine I say bully! I am acquainted with both critters {intimately} and none of 'em have managed any more than a drag unless they themselves otherwise decide.)

Before our meander we'd already left the shuttle vehicle at the take out at Daniels dam. The over run from the dam was impressive. Not a day for canoe fishing from the bottom of the dam as noted on previous visits. We head north to route 125, Woodstock Rd where a cool looking little bar squats, it might be called "The Wooden Nickel" or it might not. (????) There is a handy dandy turn off and parking spot across the road. We unload, we gear up we may even have trespassed (a bit) and yes we even 'portaged' which is to say we each dragged our yaks to the river over a pretty good carpet of leaves brought down by the previous much welcomed three days of rain. We pass a doe grazing in the lowland near the bridge and turn off and down the slope. It is not a steep incline but I do wonder if there is enough leaf and mud cover to ride the Blast to river's edge but no matter, I can hear the water and zip we're there. Final adjustments, a bit of probing for the ledge that Big Pauly swears is there and it is. Today it's under water. I'm first in. Not because I should be, nor because I'm stronger or even the most logical person to test the waters as it were....after all I am the one carrying the food even if it is only some quick slapped together pbjs but in I am and I paddle hard upstream against the current and scoot by while the guys are discussing what to do when getting sucked under a log, and the whorls around boulders and whoa nelly... should I be paying attention to this? I paddle slowly in place as first Big Pauly's long yak and then the NINETY-five enter. As usual we start with me in the middle position. After all, if I go in someone has to save lunch.

The course is fast. Not scary fast, kind of amusement park log flume fast but without any of the state inspections and safety checks. Fast enough. We hit a few riffles. The river's too high to make for anything approaching true rapids but the riffles are enough to lean into and paddle through. The day is warm, the water isn't. Omigod this is so great and we're shoosting out and down and then floating on water as sweet and calm as a baby's bath. Golden shafts of early afternoon sun light filter through the lacey filigree of leaves yet to fall. "If ever there's a life here after... and I'm sure there's going to be" Well you get the idea.

We paddled, we coasted, we hit a couple of dicey places where the course ran as a possible left or right make a decision fast and inexplicably I am out in front 'leading'. Sorry boys,that's the way the river flows and of we three I'm the lightest and the skeg on the yellow Blast tracks through water slick as a lick. Left, right, tree down on the right, Left LEFT pull LEFT and on the left I'm going fast and fast is fine, its better than fine it's...and there's a tree down on the left. This is a joke right? Whup down. Remember to paddle through the rapids. Paddle, paddle and while this isn't so bad it is a trifle difficult paddling with my nose pressed into my knees. The branches of the downed tree scratch greedily at the back of my yellow pfd and zoom I'm through and free. Coming up fast on my right, having chosen the opposite fork is Big Pauly laughing his head off.

"I chose the path less taken..." oh shut up, Robert Frost.

Hard and fast behind is the NINETY-five and zzzwoop we're all safely in the shallows again caught in the steady running course of the river.

We have, on previous outings, paddled from the dam at Daniels up river against the current. Not hard usually. Good cardio workout and all that. Enough to get the blood pumping and the breaths deep. On this day, with the water high and fast it would have been a tiring and tedious slog. Glad we're going the other way. We start trying to spot landmarks, the beach we pick-nicked last trip, the little marker of piled stones we'd left. Is that it? It might be. Hard to say. Everything looks so different with the river so fulsomely plump and in her glory.

What on earth is that? We pause for a time watching a snapping turtle taking the sun on a downed tree. The turtle idly watches us. He's enormous. Twenty pounds? Bright green moss growing on his shell. His armoring and talons and protuberant beak make him look positively prehistoric. Which of course he is. As well as a tad skittish. I don't think he liked the looks of the NINETY-five or maybe he'd heard how The Cap'n (Sam's father, back in the days of "The Imp")used to make a fine snapper stew. The snapper moves with alarming speed for someone who looks like he's known dinosaurs personally.

We float and coast down river and are greeted by a friendly Blue Heron. We spot him from upstream and as we course toward him expecting the bird to bolt he holds and holds, staying until we are just up to him and then in an effortless graceful way propels himself into leisurely flight; the elongated grey body slipping through the air in languid elegance. (Thankyou for the gift of this day, these people, this place. Thankyou Thankyou)

A few more bumpy riffles. Fast but fun and nothing really, truely scarey but worth the price of admission. Oh wait, this is free. What a country! Really, truely now wasn't that the beach we stopped to eat last time? No, there were rocks remember. We couldn't get any farther up stream.

Rocks? I remember boulders the size of washing machines and a couple of places they were the size of SUVs but isn't that the... and this is how high the river has risen; we are floating and paddling OVER the boulders(rocks) around and between which we had portaged just weeks before. How cool is that? We did find the beach where we'd eaten lunch on the prior trip. We paddled over it. Our stacked stone pile is currently covered but will reappear all too soon.We continue under a railroad bridge and around several more bends. The herron picks us up again, waiting statue still until we get just close enough and then with a single one note bark he swoops into flight and even after he is out of sight that single bark comes back to us, a sharp call of herron laughter.

We visit the beaver den. There are several beaver spots along this stretch of river. My favorite is what must be a viewing place on the bank. There's a worn mud slide in the grass, a quick beaver get away to the water. While the beavers do live nearby, the mud slide isn't so much a den as kind of observation spot, a place to sit, contemplate life, the beaver universe and watch the river flow by. The sun is low by the time we clear the final bend just before the dam and while this fall has been unseasonably warm the lengthening shadows urge us to pull jackets from water tights and slip into the delicious warmth of dry clothes. Well dry clothes on the top. Those of us who started the day in shorts (me) and are still currently damp, no wet (also me) may never again have feeling from the waist down. All too soon its over and we're pulling out and miracle of miracles I can so still walk and have not once left my kayak (except voluntarily). Not a bad day on the water considering we didn't plan it, we started late and had no idea where we were going until we got there. Nossir. Not a bad day at all. (Note to self: Next time leave dry long pants in TAKE OUT truck and not put in truck.)


Woodstock Tavern at RR tracks




North on Route 29 to dead end; left on Route 99. 3-5 miles right on Woodstock Rd (Route 125), cross RR tracks, cross bridge, parking on left for put-in (long walk from parking to the river).

Take out: North end of Route 29, right to circle at Frederick Rd, left on Old Frederick Rd. Left on Daniels Rd, parking & take out on left.


Ed Gertlaer's guide and

Trip Details

  • Sport/Activity: Canoeing
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Water Type: River/Creek (Up to Class II)

Trip Location