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Great Falls (Potomac River)

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Title: Great Falls (Potomac River)  
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Subject: Potomac River, Atlantic Seaboard fall line, Waterfalls of Maryland, Waterfalls of Virginia, Congressional Airport
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Great Falls (Potomac River)

Great Falls
View of the Great Falls from Virginia
Location Potomac River
Type Cascade
Total height 76 ft
Watercourse Potomac River
Great Falls in black and white.
The falls in about 1897

The Great Falls of the Potomac River are located above the fall line of the Potomac River, 14 miles (23 km) upstream from Washington, D.C. Great Falls Park, operated by the National Park Service, is located on the southern banks in Virginia, while Chesapeake and Ohio Canal parkland is located along the northern banks of the river in Maryland. The Potomac and the falls themselves are within Maryland.

Scenic views are offered on both the Maryland side and the Virginia side. The Billy Goat Trail on Bear Island, accessible from Maryland, offers scenic views of the Great Falls, as do vantage points on Olmsted Island (also accessible from Maryland). There are overlook points on the Virginia side.

The Great Falls area is popular for outdoor activities such as kayaking, whitewater rafting, rock climbing, and hiking.


  • History 1
  • Multimedia 2
  • Canals 3
  • See also 4
  • Notes 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7


Roughly 35,000 years ago, the Potomac River began carving out the Great Falls of the Potomac. The river cascades over a series of 20-foot (6.1 m) falls, falling a total of 76 feet (23 m) in elevation over a distance of less than 1 mile (1.6 km), making the Great Falls the steepest fall line rapids of any river in the eastern United States.[1]

The Potomac narrows significantly as it passes over the falls and through 1936 Potomac Flood.

The rocks which form the falls and river gorge are a strongly metamorphized schist.


Great Falls of the Potomac River, between Virginia and Maryland in the United States. January 1, 2014


Remains of the feeder dam, for the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal, at Great Falls

Various attempts to build canals around Great Falls were undertaken. The remains of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal was built on the Maryland side of the falls, and ultimately connected the Potomac tidewater with Cumberland, Maryland. The Chesapeake and Ohio also used the Great Falls as a feeder (now abandoned) to supply water for its own use.

See also


  1. ^ "Great Falls of the Potomac : Image of the Day".  


  • "Great Falls of the Potomac".  

External links

  • Great Falls Visitor Center official site
  • Great Falls Park official site
  • Satellite imagery of Great Falls on Google Maps

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