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Shenandoah River in West Virginia

Trip Overview

The Harpers Ferry Section of the Shenandoah is the final section before the river meets the Potomac. The rapids in this section (class I-III) are the most continuous and most difficult of the entire river. The trip is about 6.5 miles from Millville to the Potomac Wayside in Virginia. The beginning of the trip has 1 mile of flat water followed by the first section of rapids which are Entrance (I), Bull Falls (III), Bulls Tail (II), and The Follies (II). Bull falls is the most difficult rapid in the section and can be easily scouted or portaged. The next rapid is Spike Dam (I), be weary of metal spikes left from the original dam construction. A short piece of flat water leads to the Staircase section. Upper Staircase (I) before the RT 340 bridge, Lower Staircase (II), Hesitation Ledge (II+), and swimmers (II) contain lots of play spots. After passing Harpers Ferry National Park on your left, you will leave the Shenandoah and enter the Potomac for the final section of rapids generally run on the left. Wake up call (I), Mad Dog (II) and White Horse (III) also hold play spots. The second hole on the left in White Horse is an especially popular spot.

The National Park Service take out is on the right about 100 yds before the 340 bridge over the Potomac (green).


Harpers Ferry has several hotels including the Comfort Inn. There is camping available at the Harpers Ferry KOA. More upscale accommodations can be found in Shepherdstown at the Bavarian Inn and the Clarion Hotel. The Kayak Shack at River Riders just off of Bloomery RD has any gear or paddling essentials you may need.


No fees or permits are required for private trips. Commercial operations require a $.50 state user fee.


From the DC Area: I-270 north to Frederick, MD. Merge with I-70 at Frederick for about 1/2 a mile, Take Exit 52 - 340 West to Charles Town. Follow US 340 for 16 miles and cross the Potomac River Bridge. Continue 2 miles and cross the Shenandoah River Bridge. Follow 340 to the top of the hill and see Cliffside Motor Inn on the left. Get in the left lane and proceed downhill. At the bottom of the hill, turn left onto Bloomery Road and follow through Millville. The public put in is at the Allegheny Power dam. Arrangements for shuttles and other parking can be made with local outfitters.

From Baltimore: Take I-70 west to Frederick. Take exit 52 onto US 340 West to Charles Town and follow the DC directions from that point.

From Northern VA: Take Rt. 7 (Leesburg Pike) west past Leesburg. Exit onto Rt. 9 West to Charles Town. Follow all the way to Charles Town. (Do not take Rt. 671 to 340.) From Rt. 9 West exit onto 340 North towards Harpers Ferry. Go 3 7/10 miles on US 340 north. Turn right onto Bloomery Road and follow Washington, DC directions.


Put in at Allegheny Power Dam in Millville, WV. Take out is at the Potomac Wayside across from the Amoco in Virginia. It is on RT 340.


River Riders can be contacted at 800 326 7238 for more information or shuttles. The Shenandoah @ Millville gauge is located @


Wild water West Virginia has the details.

  • Duration: Day Trip
  • Water Type: River/Creek (Up to Class II)
  • Group Rates: No

Locations on this Trip