Those of you living in or near Washington, DC, are fortunate to have a truly precious spot to visit to see the Potomac River at its best — Mather Gorge. Appropriately named after Stephen Mather, the first director of the National Park Service, the site can be reached from either Virginia’s Great Falls Park or Maryland’s Bear Island, which is in the C&O National Historical Park.
Why do we love the place? Whitewater kayaking and canoeing! From Great Falls to the Difficult Run Rapids, the river features Class I to Class IV rapids. Not for the timid or unskilled, so be prepared, wear safety gear, and go with a friend.
Many of us also enjoy the location by hiking, especially the Billy Goat Trail on the Maryland side, or rock and rope climbing, which are more popular on the Virginia side below the Observation Decks. it is possible to access the river at the Old Angler’s Inn put in.
The photo is of when Dean Naujoks, Potomac Riverkeeper, and Alan Lehman, Program Manager, paddled down the entire Potomac in 2015! Three weeks, 300 miles. Hurricane Joaquin was sitting over DC dumping rain. Calleva School provided a raft and two guides to help get them downriver on a 44 degree, rainy day at 7 feet and rising. Little Falls was absolutely terrifying! Alan was actually taking pictures as they went through, right of the island (bad side), at the top of Little Falls where the fastest land speed record for water was clocked back in 1936 (and still stands to this day). It was a fast and scary ride.