Monday, February 12, 2007


Another nice cold February weekend. After getting turned away from Dickerson (something about not having a stupid sticker!) Scott and I were quite determined to paddle something! So instead of driving all the way back to the power plant we decided just to head to Great Falls. We checked the gauge reading on the way. With the ice out there the gauge had been showing fluctuating readings for some time. We were not sure what the level would be. 3.1 would be an upper limit for me to hit the VA lines. But it could be 3.3 for all we knew. We decided that the Fishladder would be a safer bet. Entirely scoutable with no commitment and likely to be mostly ice free.

Sure enough after looking at the falls it seemed like there would be too much ice out there, and not being experts on level we couldn't really tell. Looked higher than 3.1. Since you can't see the VA lines from the MD side it was a moot point given the ice (not to mention 32 degree water). So we went on and scouted the Fishladder.

I had run the 5th (last) slide a few years ago but neither of us had done any of the rest. We knew the third and 4th slides were out due to the log jam between them. After taking a look we could clearly see that the log jam had actually increased in size and now was channel wide and also covered in ice. So clearly we would be portaging around these two. No problem the top two slides looked good as did the boof and the last slide.

First and second slides

We opted to run the first slide left of center to avoid the recirculating eddy on the right. The line looked good but as we each discovered it pushed pretty hard left. Normally would not be much of a problem but there was a bit of slightly overhanging ice along the water line. I watched Scott run the line from above and saw him get caught up for moment. He seemed to continue on fine though so i headed down. As i hit the hole i realized i should have stayed more to the right as all the water pushed into the ice. Didn't take much to get around it ultimately but after this we decided it would be wise to set safety for the 2nd slide. That one was supposed to be the sticker of the two. I grabbed my rope and watched as Scott come down. He punched the hole with no problems. I followed and had a great line as well. It was surprising to find the 2nd slide to be easier.

Scott punching the hole at the 2nd slide

We got out above the bridge and proceeded to walk down to the trash compactor and put in below the third slide.

Third slide with ice

Fourth slide

Fourth slide and log / ice jam

The 5th slide is definitely the most fun of the three we ran so we decided to stay there and run a few laps. 3 laps on just the slide. 2 laps running the boof and then pealing out into the slide, and one last boof run to takeout on the left. Good times and a beautiful sunny day on the Potomac. Definitely a great day of winter paddling.

Scott running 5th slide

Maggie at bottom of 5th slide

Maggie surfing across the 5th slide hole

Ice above the dam

Maggie running the 5th slide

Maggie running the 5th slide

Scott running the 5th slide

Check of my Fishladder Gallery for more photos

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