Trip report – Great Falls National Park, VA

Hello everyone,

Lasts week I posted Wednesday Inspiration, a wide format image from Great Falls National Park, VA. This park is relatively close to my home in Maryland and is someplace I frequent quite often. Most recently, I met up with a fellow photographer Robert Clark and spent a couple of hours along the river capturing the morning light. We had a great morning shooting different angles of the river as the sun crested and lit up the landscape. You can visit Bob’s website  here, which I highly recommend. His work is amazing and he is an excellent writer to boot.

Great Falls NP  occupies the western side of the Potomac River in northern Virginia. It has numerous hiking trails, an old canal with locks in ruins (locks are used to raise or lower a vessel while traveling up or downstream). The main attraction for visitors are the 3 river overlooks, which give you an excellent vantage point over the mighty Potomac River. All of the overlook locations are just a short walk from the parking area and easily accessible. Each of the locations provides a commanding view of the river from an elevated position. n order to get some of the images I am after, I often hike one of the trails north and then do a little rock hopping. When doing so, I am very careful not too get close to the rivers edge. If you decide to go this route, only do so during dry periods. If there is even a little bit of water on the rocks, they are as slippery as an ice rink. Use extreme caution. With slippery conditions under your feet, you stand a good chance to fall and break an ankle, slam your head or worse, fall into the river. The Great Falls portion of the river is rated as a class 5-6 whitewater according to the International Scale of River Difficulty. This means certain death for anyone who thinks wading or swimming is a good idea. According to the NPS website – 7-10 deaths a year occur here. Most of them are related to drunken stupidity. Take my advice, don’t get too close to the edge. If you fall in, it will be the last thing you do.

Directly across the river is the Maryland side of Great Falls and the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historic Park. This side of the river features access to 6 different canal locks that were built in and in use during  the late 1700’s and was partially funded by George Washington. The project canal system was used to help skirt around the falls and move goods upstream along the Potomac. Use of the canal was abandoned in 1830 with the advent of the U.S. Railroad system. In addition to the canals and historic buildings, there is also a long boardwalk trail that leads out to the river giving you a different angle to view Great Falls.  

For anyone in the Maryland, D.C. or Northern Virginia area, this park is on the list of must see locations. Either side of the river makes a great location for a day trip with the family. The spring and summer weekends are the busiest times, so plan your trip and arrive early. Park hours are from 7am until sunset all year round., but if you are interested in getting there earlier, the gate is normally open at 5:30am.

Here are a couple more shots from my recent trips…

Rivers edge - Great Falls National Park, VA © Rob Loughrey
Rivers edge – Great Falls National Park, VA © Rob Loughrey
Robert Clark hard at work capturing the morning light - Great Falls NP, VA © Rob Loughrey
Robert Clark hard at work capturing the morning light – Great Falls NP, VA © Rob Loughrey

Wednesday inspiration

Hello everyone,

Just wanted to make a quick post and give everyone a little inspiration for the rest of the week. This image is from a recent trip I took to Great Falls, VA with a friend and fellow photographer Bob Clark. As most of you know, I make several trips a year to this location. For me it is a quick getaway and an amazing place to take in the amazing forces of nature. There aren’t any other locations nearby that can rival the mighty Potomac River as it approaches our Nations Capital. Even during spring or early summer, you can get to the park at a reasonable time and get setup prior to sunrise. This coming weekend looks like it would be a great time to visit. Don’t hesitate and get out there early! Hope you enjoy…

Daybreak - Great Falls National Park, VA © Rob Loughrey
Daybreak – Great Falls National Park, VA © Rob Loughrey