Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Paddle Log #33: Potomac River from White's Ford to Goose Creek

Catching up...

After a long, cold, snowy winter, the weather finally turned around, but I wasn't able to get out on the water until the end of June. It wasn't for a lack of trying, mind you. There have been three aborted attempts before this.

First, for Spring Break, we went down to Hilton Head, South Carolina. It was a wonderful vacation, but I wasn't able to get out on the water. I had reservations for a guided paddling excursion in the Pinckney Island Wildlife Refuge, but that day there were very high winds and some significant chop on the water. The tour guide company cancelled the trip due to hazardous weather conditions.

Next, I was scheduled to do the Keep Loudoun Beautiful cleanup event on Goose Creek in May, but the crazy heavy rains we had the week before resulted in some local flooding and hazardous conditions on the creek, so the cleanup event got cancelled.

Then, I was scheduled to go with the Monocacy Canoe Club on a trip down Antietam Creek, but there were severe thunderstorms and rain forecast for that day, so we cancelled.

Plus, it seems like just about every Saturday we have SOMETHING going on, and Sunday we're normally pretty busy with church stuff.

Finally, this weekend we had the rare confluence of both an open schedule on Saturday combined with favorable weather reports, so we finally made it out onto the water.

 * * * * * * * * * * *

I was excited to see in the local news that the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority (NVRPA) opened a new park with water access for canoes and kayaks at White's Ford.  Because it's a new park and new access point to the river, I wanted to provide some details of the logistics here for others who may be looking to try it.

DIRECTIONS!  Now, I didn't realize when I was on the White's Ford Park page, if you click on "hours and directions" it gives you directions how to find it.  I just plugged the address (43646 Hibler Rd, Leesburg, VA 20176) into my GPS and followed the navigation system, but it turns out that isn't the best way to get there.  My GPS had me go north of Leesburg on Rt. 15 and turn off on Rt. 661, which resulted in about 3 miles of bumpy dirt and gravel roads.  Fast forward to the END of the day when I was leaving White's Ford, there is a big sign at the park exit that tells you a better way to get back to Rt. 15.

For those of you looking to go to White's Ford, stay on Rt. 15 north until just before Lucketts, then turn right on Spinks Ferry Road.  That will keep you on pavement and get you much closer to the park.  You'll turn right on Limestone School Road and left on Hibler.  

There is enough parking for about a dozen or so cars.  There is no boat ramp.  There is no restroom or water or other facilities.  There are nice new wood steps and a wood ADA ramp from the parking lot down to the river.

White's Ford Parking

Steps from the parking area down toward the water.
The rail is there to slide your kayak down.

The steps don't go all the way to the water though.

For reference, here's how close the water is 
to the path at a Point of Rocks USGS gage height of 2.35 feet.

Trip Planning:
I foolishly thought I was going to park here, get on the river and paddle upstream aways, then come back and get out at the same spot.

Not so much.

Note this is a ford.  In other words, the water is shallow enough for General Lee and his army to walk across the river here.  So it's shallow, but must still accommodate the much larger volume of water in the deeper parts of the river, so here in the shallow part of the river, the water has to go faster to keep up with the overall flow of the river.  

As I arrived there on the river, a guy was taking his kayak out of the water.  I asked where he went.  He said he tried paddling upstream, but he just couldn't do it.  The water was smooth, but noticeably moving.  So we changed plans to go downstream and have my wonderful wife pick us up someplace.

Right after we got in our kayaks and pushed away from the shore, my GPS said we were moving downstream at 2 mph without any paddling.  (For reference, this was at 5,500 cfs flow rate and 2.35 feet guage height at Point of Rocks USGS station.)  I typically paddle solo around 3 mph, so I suppose I could have paddled upstream at a 1 mph over ground pace, but not with my two sons with me.

Heading out from White's Ford, 
looking downstream on the Potomac

IN HINDSIGHT, I see two options for using this White's Ford Park:

1.  Put-in upstream at either Point of Rocks 9.5 miles upstream or at the Monocacy River Aqueduct 3.5 miles upstream and get OUT at White's Ford.  The challenge would be the finding White's Ford.  You'll be moving through the area pretty quick on the current and there's not a lot on the shore to alert you to the location of the take-out.

2.  Put-in at White's Ford and get OUT downstream... but where? 
- White's Ferry 3 miles downstream will charge you a fee to use their facilities, and only river LEFT on the Maryland side.  They won't let you use their ramp on the Virginia side.
- Kephart Bridge Landing on Goose Creek 9 miles downstream.  This is what we did, and it worked out well until about the last hundred yards.  Goose Creek was at 200 cfs flow rate and 1.95 feet gage height at the Leesburg Goose Creek USGS station, and the water was very calm and easy to paddle upstream.  However, about a hundred yards from the take-out, the water got too shallow and there were too many small rocks and ripples for us to paddle any farther.  We had to get out and walk on slippery rocks pulling our kayaks behind us to get to the take-out where my wife was waiting.  I slipped pretty bad and landed pretty hard with a big rock in the middle of my lower back.  I'm lucky I didn't break anything.  In hindsight... not so smart.
- Note:  There is a very nice dock for taking canoes and kayaks out right at the mouth of Goose Creek, but that is part of a private gated community.  You won't be able to use that unless you have access to the gated community.
- Algonkian Regional Park 14 miles downstream, which makes for a pretty long day on the water.
- I'm not very familiar with the Maryland side of the river, so I'm not sure if there are any other opportunities to take-out on that side.

All that being said, we had a very nice trip (except for the part where I slipped and banged my lower back on a rock on Goose Creek).  It was a gorgeous sunny day in the low 80s, and the water was fantastically warm at 81F.

We dragged our feet in the water for a while, and got out a few times to stretch our legs.  Most places the water was only a few feet deep and you could see the bottom.  When we stood up in the water, the fish were nibbling at our ankles and toes.  It tickled and it was fun to watch.

We saw bald eagles, great blue herons, white egrets, deer, butterflies, and dragonflies, and then...

...I suddenly had an urge to eat more chikin.

Thankfully, my awesome wife came and met us at White's Ferry and brought us lunch from Chick-fil-a.  We sat on the side of the river and ate lunch together before continuing our trek toward Goose Creek.
This is where the water got too shallow on Goose Creek for us to paddle any farther and we had to get out and walk to the take-out ahead on the left of this picture.

Stats for the paddle log:
  • Date: Saturday, 28 June 2014
  • Time In: 11:17 a.m.
  • Time Out: 4:10 p.m. (based on time-stamp on my camera)
  • Elapsed:  4 hrs 40 min (based on GPS)
  • Moving Time (GPS): 3 hours 33 min
  • Stopped Time (GPS):  1 hour 7 min
  • Mileage (GPS): 10.12 miles
  • Sea State: 0
  • Winds: 0 kts
  • Air Temp:  78F on the car when we parked climbing to the low 80s
  • Water Temp: 81F
  • Current:  2 mph at White's Ford, nearly still in deeper / wider parts of the river.
  • Tides: N/A
  • Avg Speed (GPS):  2.9 mph
  • Max Speed by (GPS):  5.3 mph
  • Rapids?  None. 
  • Hazards?  Not much.
  • Kit: My youngest son and I in our Ocean Kayak Malibu Two XL, and my eldest son in his Perception Acadia Scout.  He's almost too big for it.  Flop hat, NRS paddling gloves, short sleeve shirt, swim trunks, Keen Newport sandals.
  • Configuration:
  • Route:  Put-in at the White's Ford Regional Park and paddled 9 miles downstream to Goose Creek.  Took a right and paddled a mile upstream on Goose Creek to the Kephart Bridge take-out.  
  • Other comments (such as wildlife spotted): Bald eagles, Great Blue Herons, white egrets, deer, cows, butterflies, dragonflies, fish.

No comments: