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Posted at 10:30 AM ET, 10/ 4/2010

The fall and rise of the Potomac River

By Kevin Ambrose

* Rain to end this afternoon, chilly: Full Forecast | Weather Wall *

What a difference a storm can make to the level of the Potomac River. Left: The water level of the upper Potomac was low for much of the summer, August 22, 2010. Right: The upper Potomac River quickly becomes a fast flowing torrent of water on October 1, 2010, after a tropical storm system drops over 4" of rain across the area.

For those who like to kayak or fish on the Potomac River, just above Washington, the dry, hot summer created challenging conditions on the river. Kayaks dragged bottom on river rocks, tall grass choked many shallow areas of the river, and the lack of current and water depth created difficulty in navigation of the river. That quickly changed with one moist, tropical storm system. The Potomac River was transformed from a wading pool into a raging torrent of water, in just two days.

Keep reading to see the conditions on the Potomac before and after the tropical rain storm.

Fast flowing water at Great Falls after a heavy rain storm, October 1, 2010.

Wade fishing the upper Potomac River near Great Falls, September 6, 2010. The water level was very low due to prolonged drought conditions for much of the late summer.

Rushing water at Great Falls, October 1, 2010, after 4 to 6" of rain fell across the Washington area.

The author catches a smallmouth bass in low water conditions near Great Falls, at River Bend Park, August 28, 2010.

The upper Potomac River, near Great Falls, was very dangerous for boaters or fishermen, October 1, 2010.

By Kevin Ambrose  | October 4, 2010; 10:30 AM ET
Categories:  Photography  
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This was a local rain rather than a mountain rain (or snow melt) so the rise was very fast along with the fall. Near my house the prediction was for a peak on Saturday PM Oct 2nd. Instead the peak came very late Friday night, a day after the rain as opposed to the normal 2-3 days after.

Posted by: eric654 | October 4, 2010 10:49 AM | Report abuse

Can anybody tell me what this means in terms of pollution due to runoff? My dog loves to swim in the river in between Carderock and area near the one lane bridge on MacArthur.

Posted by: Ksdoggie | October 4, 2010 11:44 AM | Report abuse

Hi guys,

Do you think you could write up a report, perhaps providing before and after maps from the US Weather Drought monitor, and break down what spots went from one of the drought conditions to one that was better or even no more dry conditions?

I think the weekly report comes out mid-week.


Posted by: jaybird926 | October 4, 2010 12:24 PM | Report abuse

Nice looking smallie, Kevin - makes me want to get one more fishing trip in (once the Potomac drops down some).

Posted by: frenchyb | October 4, 2010 1:30 PM | Report abuse

Kevin, where is that on the Potomac? Did you get to that spot from the VA or MD side?

Posted by: wrytous | October 4, 2010 2:32 PM | Report abuse

wrytous: The location is River Bend Park, just upstream from Great Falls. I launch the kayaks from the VA side. It's a great location to fish, kayak, and watch wildlife, provided that the river is not too flooded.

Posted by: Kevin-CapitalWeatherGang | October 4, 2010 4:14 PM | Report abuse


Interesting idea. Will see what we can do...

Posted by: Jason-CapitalWeatherGang | October 4, 2010 5:03 PM | Report abuse

Thanks Jason.

Posted by: jaybird926 | October 4, 2010 7:39 PM | Report abuse

Living in Great Falls, I walk, my dog swims nearly daily at the park, and the only time in 8 years he ever got sick was when the river was flooded with goslings in early spring. He got Giardia, which was easily remedited with metronidazole. Met 2 other retriever owners at the vets whose dogs swam in the river that same week! We avoid the river before the spring rains wash the goose waste down river and have never had a problem since. Also avoid when stagnant/low, like most of this summer!

Posted by: gfa21 | October 5, 2010 9:16 AM | Report abuse

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