Last week a friend asked to go on a short kayak paddle with me, nothing great but she wanted to get out on the water. Great!, but where to go was the question. The forecast was sunny in the morning and a chance of thunder storms in the afternoon. I’d heard of a river close to home and wanted to see what it was like. We brought water, but no lunch as we would be finished fairly early.
So off we went to the Potapsco River starting just above the dam at Daniels.See the map Zoom out on the map to see where this really is.
The paddle was about 1.8 miles each way, an easy upstream at first then as we approached the turnaround point the water became swifter. But the ride home was a pleasant drift.
To get to the put-in from almost anywhere head north on US-29 from I-70, this close to Ellicott City. In about 1/2 mile US-29 comes to it’s northern end. Turn right on MD-99 and in about 1 mile take the 2nd exit from the ‘Round About’ onto Old Frederick Rd. After about 1 mile on Old Frederick Rd. turn left onto Daniels Rd. This will lead down hill into Potapsco Parkwhere you will find a small parking area on the left, probably big enough for half a dozen cars, and you will be able to see the water from there. Another 1/4 mile would bring you to the dam, and a bit further to and industrial area which is in bad disrepair and a church high up on your right.
Ok, back at the parking ‘lot’ the water is only about 50′ away, an easy carry for even sea kayaks. On weekends you may see many white water boats here as well as some ‘flat water’ boats. The first time I looked at this spot with an eye to kayaking was on a Sunday evening, there were half a dozen white water boats waiting to head back upstream. This bend in the river also seems to be popular for wading and fishing. Launch, and head upstream, away from the dam. The water at the beach is quite shallow so you may have to walk out a fair distance before you are fully afloat.
The day I was there we say many Herons, probably Green Herons, and Kingfishers. None of the herons looked big enough to be Great Blue Herons, but as we were in the middle of the river I could be wrong. On your left while heading upstream is a branch of CSX so the natural quiet may be broken by the occasional train. Go back and look at the Google Satellite view again. What might pass as a powerboat heading upstream not far from the put-in is a bridge pier, I’m not sure if it was for a road or a railroad, but the bridge abutments are still visible on both shores behind the trees and undergrowth. What follows is what I glean from the satellite view, I was too busy enjoying the trip to take notes and remember the exact directions. Back to the Google map, follow the river upstream till the railroad enters a tunnel and you will be heading SSW. You are nearing the end of where the river is navigable by sea kayak. As you round the bend and start to head north again you will come to a large boulders and some shallow spots. Note where they are as you can still paddle another 0.1 mile or so. We pressed on, in one place we had to put some power into our paddles just to make any headway before breaking into a rather still pool. That’s the end for sea kayaks, however I was told that white water kayaks will put in another couple miles upstream, where Woodstock Rd. crosses the river and railroad. They will come down the river all the way, and even paddle back up.
I didn’t feel like scraping up the bottom of my Manitou so I said this was the turn-around point. The paddle back downstream was fairly easy after missing the couple boulders hidden under the water and missing the shallow banks. For those of you that have not paddled in rivers yet, the outside of the bends, with steep banks, are the deep part of the river. The inside of the bend with sandy beaches are shallow with sandbars that can extend far out into the river.
More birds were visible, maybe they were the same ones again but they were scouting for fish along the banks. Then from the tracks, now on our left, we heard a small engine. It wasn’t moving fast but did sound strange, not quite a train. When we got within sight of it, we discovered that it was a work engine of some sort with what looked like huge ‘weed whackers’ clearing the right-of-way for the trains, interesting. But for that distraction this is a very pleasant paddle, and close to home so I will back some evening to do it again.