It was a nice warm October day and I wanted to do some paddling. We have had no rain for quite some time, so most of the creeks and small rivers I prefer made for better hikes pulling a boat than paddles. I had never made the short trip down to the Potomac from my house to do some paddling, so I took advantage of the weather to give it a try.
I put in on the Virginia side of the Rt 15 bridge crossing the Potomac, but there is a perfectly good put in on the Maryland side also, both are well marked and have plenty of parking. I paddled about 2.5 miles upstream to the Lander area where a small set of rapids are located. This took the better part of 2 hours paddling hard. The current is deceptively strong on this part of the Potomac and it provides quite a workout. I was able to paddle up above the rapids and took a break for a quick lunch. Not sure how long it would take to get back down to the takeout, I paddled pretty hard on the way back. I was a bit surprised to make the back leg in just a little over 30 minutes.
This part of the Potomac is pretty free of any signs of civilization with lots of trees, clear water, and more fish (big ones) than you can count, I will bring the pole next time. There are a bunch of islands and big rocks in the water to add to the scenery. There were a few other paddlers, fishermen, and cows out in the water, but this is a big river at this point, plenty of room.
I could have paddled downstream a ways past the takeout and back to make the trip a little longer, but I was pretty pooped after 3 hours, so I called it a day. I talked to some folks who had canoed down from Harper's Ferry on an overnighter, sounds like it would be a pretty easy trip for a novice, just some light whitewater along the way.
If you live in the Washington/Baltimore area, this paddle is worth taking some time. Easy to get to, always enough water to paddle, and some good exercise. I would recommend paddling upstream and coming back when you are tired, it could be a long day the other way around.
Look on any map for where Rt 15 crosses the Potomac at Point of Rocks, MD.
Google Earth to get a general idea of the area, as well as some Panoramic pics of the bridge and takeout on the VA side.
Ed Gertler's book on Maryland paddling trails.