Thursday, May 26, 2011

Great Falls National Park

For those of you that have never visited Washington, DC, or have, but only the city proper, you may be surprised that Wilson's photos yesterday were taken just a short 20 minute drive outside the city. Eh, well, it should be a 20 minute drive, but DC area traffic being what it is, it could take 20 minutes or an hour and 20 minutes! The views of Wilson were taken at Great Falls National Park . This is a lovely, large park situated along the Potomac River upriver of the city. It contains miles of walking trails, bridle paths, remains of the old Patowmack Canal locks, and lots of picnic areas.

This time of year with the spring rains (which we have had an over-abundance of!), the Potomac often reaches flood stage. This was the case this visit. The main waterfall is usually much rockier, with a more pronounced and dramatic drop, when the water level is lower. This trip, I could hear the roar of the river as soon as I got out of the car, although I could not see the river yet. Wilson was sure I had brought him here to go swimming and began to drag me to the river. Much to his chagrin, swimming was not on the agenda. The river current was probably running at Class V level  rapids. No one was going in the water!

As you saw with Wilson's photo yesterday, the boys were able to get a good view from one of the observation decks. They were both very curious to see what the noise was, and hopped up on their own to see over the railing.

Jim taking in the view
 More views of the wild ride that is the Potomac in spring......

This is why there is no swimming!

Even w/o the flood conditions, this section of the river is always dangerous.

Happily posing for a treat
All along the river shore are nice walking trails. Most of them are high above the water and there are some pretty big cliffs. These are popular with rock climbers and amazingly, the park allows the activity. I find it surprising that such rugged terrain is so close to our capital when you consider how flat the city is!

 The trail can be quite a challenge to navigate when you are a short-legged dog!

Just 'cause I like it!

Jimmy and Wilson, high above the river, posing on rocky terrain.

Jimmy, surveying his realm, in mountain lion fashion. Maybe in his case, black panther!

Wilson: I don't even need to ask! I KNOW this picture makes my head look HUGE!

I do believe Jimmy's tongue is bigger than his ears!
The boys were quite hot from walking on all those sun-exposed rocks and luckily the trail dipped into some deeper woods. This little stream flowed out of the woods through a small ravine and out into the raging Potomac. It was mere inches deep, nice and clear, and the boys enjoyed a much needed cool drink. The expressions on their faces is priceless to me. They can see the river, and really, really want to swim. It wasn't going to happen!

But, Mom, it's just right there! Why can't we take a dip?
With reluctance, we moved on from this little oasis. Our next photo-op was at the remains of the locks for the Patowmack Canal. This canal was built on the wishes of George Washington, as it was his vision to make the Potomac a navigable river all the way to the Ohio River Valley.

Watching an endless parade of hikers going by
 We walked on a bit longer, but the trail came back into the sun and rocks. I could tell the boys were getting tired and hot so we turned around and followed a more direct trail back to the main park area. Near the observation decks is this high water marker. So despite the fact the river was at flood stage, in the past it had been much worse. Where I took the picture from, as well as the decks, would have been under water with these previous floods!

Wow! That's some serious overflow!

I went to the park early in the day. I wanted to walk the boys at the coolest point of the day.  But, also, I knew from past experience, how busy and full the park gets. I arrived at 9ish and parked about midway back in the lot. By the time I returned to the car at 11:30, there were no spots left and people in cars were following the walkers, hoping they were leaving. As I drove out the gate, there was a long line of cars waiting to get in!


  1. Wow! The river is raging. What a great place to take the boys. I am jealous!

  2. Great pictures! We've never been there before, we'll have to add that to our list of places to go.

  3. I'm one of those folks who's never heard of this place before. (I bet my Hubby has, though.) I was only kind of joking about the whitewater rafting in my last comment. The Hubby took me rafting on the New River in WV once (my first rafting trip) and there were a couple Class IV rapids. I was scared out of my freaking mind. :( I did actually enjoy the gentler rapids. :)

    This looks like a place we'd enjoy with the family. Thanks for sharing!


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