Great Falls: Water, Color, Kayaks!

Early this afternoon I called up my friend Penny and asked if she wanted to go for a walk in the woods. She did. We headed for the Virginia side of Great Falls park. I’ve written about the Potomac River and the Potomac River Gorge many times. Great Falls is where the Potomac makes a precipitous drop on its way toward the Chesapeake Bay. The park can be accessed from Virginia or Maryland. Penny and I decided to go to the Virginia side.

Looking from Virginia over to Maryland.

Looking from Virginia over to Maryland.

It was a gorgeous drive in a beautiful fall day–warm and a bit overcast. We took a path up river first, enjoying the colors, staying close to the water. It’s quiet here above the falls, and the ducks, geese and occasional herons feed in the quiet shallows.

Two Canada Geese and a Mallard drake.

Two Canada Geese and a Mallard drake.

There is a dam on the river where the water then drops about three feet and we paused there for a while, listening to the water and enjoying the colors. There were several kinds of moss and lichen on the river rocks.

Quartz, moss, lichen...

Quartz, moss, lichen…

We headed back down river, enjoying the woods and our conversation. There are several overlooks for the falls and we stopped at the first two.


The river was low, so the sound of the falls was muted. Still, the power of the water is clear. Β When you look around you can see little beaches scoured out by the water at its height.


At the second overlook, we saw some people standing above the river on a high outcrop. After a while, we figured they were kayakers, and we were right.


There were four of them, using little short, wide, rapid running boats. They were geared up with helmets, wet suits, and the ‘skirts’ that seal up the opening of the kayak.


They were coming down a chute of water and then gathering at the base of the rock outcrop.

The falls to the farthest left was their way down...

The falls to the farthest left was their way down…

Sometimes it looked a bit harrowing, with one of the red kayaks disappearing under the whitewater before popping back up and paddling over to the others. Finally three of them started down the next set of rapids.


We watched them go by, then waited for the green kayak to make another trip down the chute. He did, promptly negotiated the next set and paddled by us.


I don’t know what prompted him to go back for another try. Last weekend the place I kayak from noted the river was 64 degrees. I can’t imagine it was any warmer ten miles upstream, but as I said, these folks were kitted out.

I like flat water myself...

I like flat water myself…

After the excitement of the kayakers, we headed back into Arlington, feeling as though we had taken the best of the day, enjoying the colors on the way home. Back at Penny’s, I scored some tomatoes, as her garden is still going strong. One of them went into tonight’s vegetable saute for dinner.


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54 Responses to Great Falls: Water, Color, Kayaks!

  1. It’s gorgeous! Both peaceful and powerful. I want the last picture as my rockery and fish pond in my garden! Just outside the back door where I do the BBQing!


  2. The colours of autumn are all around you I see. That water looks rough, cold and scary to me. I know you like to kayak and I’m glad to hear you are not tempted by all this derring-do! White water rafting is a popular pastime for people here too – I like to watch, but would never get in.

    I love how moss and lichen look like a tiny forest, a secret world – it brings out all the romanticism in me, especially when set in a quartz surrounding. Now that has to be a little bit of magic right there πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

  3. reocochran says:

    Wow!I loved the view from Virginia to Maryland! I enjoyed the kayaking photos, too. Such an exciting and exhilarating walk you had with Penny.
    My grandkids are fascinated by the lichen and moss on trees struck down by lightning in the forest. They will look at the bugs and grain of grooves in rocks. So cool to be an explorer.


  4. arlingwoman says:

    Thanks! I just love looking at mosses and lichen. They fascinated me when I was a child.


  5. danellajoy says:

    Beautiful walk to be able to take part in Lisa, thank you for sharing.
    I’ve been swinging by your blog regularly now and I am stuck by your powers of observation! I so enjoy the journeys and adventures you embark on. I am a tad envious of all you get to experience but so grateful that you share them all so beautifully in your blog. … till next time! πŸ˜‰


  6. jennypellett says:

    How wonderful to have a place like this within driving distance to walk around. The rock colours are lovely – and capturing those kayakers just adds to the water’s movement.


  7. Fantastic photos! The kayaking looks a little harrowing, think I’ll stick to the flat clear water of Tin Can Bay! πŸ™‚


  8. Beautiful shots of a fascinating trip. I’ll give the kayaking a miss


  9. Anne Wheaton says:

    Dramatic landscape. That kayaking looks fun though I think I’d prefer warmer water.


  10. What a lovely day! Isn’t fall the best time of the year to go for walks. The canoe people are indeed daredevils…that is not my cuppa tea either but I love watching them. xo Johanna


  11. Sylvie G says:

    Your friend Penny is a lucky woman. What a beautiful day πŸ™‚


  12. Lisa, what a perfect fall day. I’m struck, time and again, how beautiful this time of year is on your coast, and frankly beautiful year round. I didn’t know you were a kayaker. It sounds like fun, but as Pauline says, on smoother waters. I went white water rafting once many years ago as a company event. It was fun, but bitter cold. It rained the entire weekend. I’m more of a fair-weather adventurer I think.

    Beautiful pictures.


    • arlingwoman says:

      Yes, I’m a warm weather sports person, though I hike in the winter (no bugs). Even if flat, that water might have been too cold for me, though probably not far from the water temp at Point Reyes or coastal Maine in the summer!


  13. Eliza Waters says:

    Wonderful falls – I can’t imagine how they must pound in the spring! A beautiful hike on such a beautiful autumn day!

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Monica says:

    I love this place! I want there, too! It is so beautiful….


  15. starkwe says:

    Ahh, it seems that autumn is a time for memories for me; first my trip to Pensacola, then your post on Great Falls! It’s such a great place to get out and get around; when I was little we’d sometimes go for the carousel. My first date was rock climbing at Great Falls. Not real rock climbing with gear, but scrambling around on the rocks and enjoying the sights and sounds.


  16. starkwe says:

    I had to look it up; the one I remember was destroyed in Agnes when I was really young. I do still have some carousel Christmas ornaments from Glen Echo.


  17. Boomdeeadda says:

    !!! Exciting stuff Lisa πŸ˜€
    I was here with Julia this spring and can imagine it all again while I read your post. I had a glorious visit with Julia before I hooked up with the other gals. Kayaking rapids ‘looks’ fun but I don’t think I’d need that kind of adrenaline in my day, LOL. Correction, I *definitely* don’t :), but the thought of gliding along a still lake sounds great. I didn’t know you were a kayaker. Where do you store that thing?
    We were gifted tomatoes from my girlfriends garden and enjoyed them with some balsamic (also gifted). I love tomatoes! In salad, on toast, in sauce and almost anyway, any day. I think they may be my favourite veggie. Or are they a fruit? I forget.
    Sounds like you had ‘my kind of day’. I could imagine you walking along, filling the time with interesting and articulate stories. I like that word ‘precipitous’, how can I work that into a Boomtown post? HA! I wish I could stay and read some more of yours, I’m terribly behind. But I have to come back. Until then, cheers my dear xo K


    • arlingwoman says:

      Julia took you everywhere!!! What a hostess! Yes, Penny and I had lots to talk about–most of it fairly ordinary life in middle-aged ladies. Hmm, some of it maybe not. But aren’t girlfriends the best? I didn’t used to think so, preferring men, until I found some gems that I’ve held onto for years.
      And aren’t some words just delicious? I liked your precipitous driving in your little van on your last Kelly’s Korner post. I must figure out how to comment again! I did it once. I can do it again! Take care and stay warm!!!!


  18. Robin says:

    The place looks familiar although I don’t know if it’s the same place along the Potomac that I once visited with friends (that was a few years ago). Beautiful outing. I love the shot with the moss and lichens.


  19. Oh you are so lucky to be able to just drive to suck a stunning place for a walk! So lucky. Thank you so much for the pictures.. c


  20. KerryCan says:

    I cannot believe those kayakers went over waterfalls! I went white water rafting once and we tipped over multiple times and had to be rescued–a nightmare! I like my kayaking very tame. Your walk looks like a perfect fall outing!


    • arlingwoman says:

      I have been white watering in a canoe, which was exciting, but not something I rushed out to do again. The kayaking, for me, is best experienced in calm water when you can glide along silently and the wildlife thinks you’re a big harmless water creature. But it’s fun to watch these folks!


  21. Thank you, thank you, thank you for taking us with you on your hike. What an absolutely stunning landscape, especially dressed in its autumn colours. (But I can see why it was a little nerve-wracking watching those kayakers.)


  22. Pingback: Canal, River, Falls and a Walk | arlingwords

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