help_outline Skip to main content

Paddle Posts

Lower C&O Canal - Which Sections are Watered? ...
Author Last Post
(updated 11 Jan 2020)  What's Up?  On 19 Dec  Level 4/ Georgetown was low but navigable - 4 3/4".   On 28 Dec, Larry Lempert reported the top of Level 22/ Pennyfield to Violettes as barely navigable - And the perennial Widewater/upper Level 14 is navigable (but not down to Anglers bridge).
==================================================

Below is record of levels on Bill Endicott's gauge for Level 4, for the 4-mile reach above Lock 4 in Georgetown up to Lock 5.  20 inches would mean about half full - sufficient for WW boats returning from a Little Falls run, but a bit problematic for racing sculls.  Right now it's a sevenh of that.

This is to keep track of what the Park Service is doing, with a view of getting them to inform the CCA of changes they're going to make.  So we don't get skunked and can pass the word on to the paddling public.
===================================================

Georgetown Reach/ Level 4 - Dec 15 - 4.75" (low - navigable)
2019 - July 29- 22"    30th-21"    Aug 1st-4th- 22"    6th - 22.5"  24-29th - 18"   Sept 5th - 18"    11th- 15.5"    18th-10.5"      Oct 23d- 15"   27th- 26"   Nov 3d- 11.5"  Nov 8th- 7"     10th - 6"  15th-21st - 4.5"   25th - 3"    Dec 4 - 15"   8th - 6"    15 - 4.75"  (for the C&O Canal Park's winter plans - see below) 

The authorities have a gauge at the 31st St Bridge repair project whose high point is 4 feet.  Since cattails and reeds hinder paddlers from getting there often, (but see Trip Report for 24 Oct 2019) readings are far less frequent.    Aug 6 - 2' 8"    Oct 24 - 2' 5"

- Level 5 is very low, Level 6 almost empty - green with algae and many fallen branches in it. (Aug 29) 

- Level 14/ Widewater - Widewater at the top of the 4-mile Level 14 is half full, but the water doesn't extend back to Anglers bridge.

- Levels 19 and 20 (by Great Falls Tavern) and above and below Swains Lock are empty. since the waste weir at Swains Lock blew out in Nov 1's downpour.   3 new lock-gate sets on Locks 17, 18, 19.  (Aug 23) 

Pennyfield to Violettes/ Level 22 - As of 11 Jan - Very Low since the beginning of May 2019 

C&O Park's Plans for the Winter
         The Park plans to
 buy a machine to cut vegetation in the Georgetown Reach for Jan 2020.   Then they will lower the water so they can clear debris and do other projects.   They plan to keep people updated by adding something to the NHP (National Historic Park) website and sending out social media posts and a press release.  The park wants to keep the Georgetown Reach filled from late March 2020 until January 2021. 

You may want to check the Park's website on current conditions: https://www.nps.gov/choh/planyourvisit/conditions.htm  and go to the bottom to see if the reach is watered or not - without water levels, which you'll find only here.  

  
Please send newer info to AlfCooley@gmail.com - or post it yourself.

CCA Letter to the C&O Park Asking for Notice of Water-Level Changes - Nov 17, 2019

  I'm writing again to inquire about how we get the word out to paddlers about changes in the level in the Georgetown Reach/ Level 4 of the Canal.   Users of that section reported that it had gone down precipitously and was nearly non-navigable (was 26 inches on Oct 27 - now 6 inches).  I went down the towpath by bike on the 9th and found the waste weir at Foundry Branch (Mile 1.52) is letting all the water out the side.  This was for the authorities to remove a small tree fallen into the Canal at 31st Street in Georgetown.      

   The Potomac's level at Little Falls is now down at 3.0 feet, so we're back on that popular rapid (yes, we paddle in these conditions).  And so it would be nice if we could warn paddlers on the Paddle Prattle forum that the way back up the Canal is problematical.   On the NHP website, one finds no indication that anything is amiss with the water level.  What one sees is:

at "Alerts in Effect" - Lock 3 & 4 - simply photos of past construction.

and at "Current Conditions" - - - drilling down past Locks 4-5, at the bottom of the webpage one comes to "Water levels in the Lower Sections of the Canal" - where it states that if the Feeder Canal is open, then water levels are sufficient for boating.
As mentioned above, although the Brookmont feeder is open, we know that all the water is running out the side of the canal at Foundry Branch.

    May we suggest the following:

1 - At "Alerts" please include info about regularly watered sections of the canal being non-navigable, and if possible why, and when restoration is likely.

2 - At the top of "Current Conditions" put "for Water Levels please look at the bottom of this page."

3 - At that point place correct information (i.e., not about a feeder gate's being open, but that the canal section below is actually watered.)

4 - When levels are changed in the Canal, please send notice to trips@canoecruisersassociation.org  so we can inform the paddling community through Paddle Prattle, the DC area boaters' online open forum.  

For our part, we won't be shy in notifying you when the Canal is low.

Many thanks for your labors which enable paddling this wonderful local resource.

Alford Cooley 
Access Committee
Canoe Cruisers Association
 

 
Return to Forum