Potomac River Access
It is a favorite past time to grab an inner-tube, canoe, or kayak and hop on the Potomac River for a lazy float down the water.
ABOUT THE POTOMAC RIVER WATER TRAIL
Forming the entire southern border of the county, the Potomac River provides a cherished recreational amenity with stunning scenery of sandstone and shale cliffs, small islands, rock ledges, Paw Paw trees, the C&O Canal, and aqueducts. The mild rapids make for an easy float or paddle for just about any level of paddler. Whether you bring your own vessels or need to rent, outfitters are available to help you plan your itinerary, set up shuttles to put-in and take-out locations, and outfit you for an enjoyable experience. If you are an angler, be sure to bring your pole, as there are great fishing spots along many of these routes.
Separated into three sections throughout the county, the public access points give varying lengths of rides from short two-hour trips to all-day excursions.
WESTERNPORT, MD TO DAWSON, MD
Small rapids, rocky river bottom, and rolling waters make this section of the North Branch exciting and swift. Features along this area include a series of small islands and railroad bridges as well as the biggest landmarks such as the Stony Run bridge and the town of Keyser. Paddlers should be aware that the Savage River Dam is located approximately 7 miles upstream of the Westernport Boat Access. Releases from the dam can affect river levels unexpectedly. Paddling distances from the Westernport to McCoole boat access is approximately 4.3 miles. The McCoole to Black Oak Bottom Boat access is approximately 6 miles.
DAWSON, MD TO CUMBERLAND, MD (ABOVE THE BLUE BRIDGE DAM)
- Black Oak Bottom Boat Access
- Allegany County Fairgrounds Boat Access
- Upper Potomac Industrial Park Boat Access
This stretch of the North Branch of the Potomac River takes boaters through the beautiful and isolated gorge between Dan's Mountain and Knobly Mountain. Steep cliffs of sandstone and shale tower above the meandering water below and long, mild rapids, rock ledges, and small islands provide added interest. Wildlife viewing and fishing are very good in this area. As boaters make their way towards Cumberland, the surrounding landscape transitions from the quiet solitude of forests, farmland, and mountain views into the more populated, industrial area surrounding the historic city of Cumberland. Be aware that public access points beyond Black Oak Bottom are scarce. All boaters should take along adequate provisions and be prepared for extended paddling time. Just past the fairgrounds, boaters will encounter about three miles of slack water. All boats must exit the river and portage around the Blue Bridge Dam. Watch closely for visual landmarks and signage that indicate you are nearing the dam.
CUMBERLAND, MD (BELOW THE BLUE BRIDGE DAM) TO LITTLE ORLEANS, MD
- Mason Complex Boat Access
- Spring Gap Boat Access
- Town Creek Aqueduct Boat Access
- Bonds Landing Boat Access
- Fifteen Mile Creek Boat Access
Following the C&O Canal, this stretch of the Potomac River encounters historical towns and landmarks such as the Town Creek Aqueduct, the Fifteen Mile Creek Aqueduct, the Paw Paw Tunnel, Oldtown, MD, and Little Orleans, MD. The Western Maryland Railway tracks cross the bending river six times between Oldtown, MD, and Little Orleans, MD, providing convenient landmarks for paddlers. In addition to the C&O Canal, the river skirts Green Ridge State Forest. Downstream of Oldtown, the waters of the South Branch Potomac meet the North Branch to form the true mainstream of the Potomac River.
Before any planned float or paddle, always be sure to check that river conditions are safe.