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Potomac River Regulations & Safety Tips

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A person aboard a vessel, raft or tube shall wear a U.S. Coast Guard Approved Type I, II, III or V personal flotation device (PFD) at all times while on the upper Potomac River and its tributaries, during the period beginning at 12:01 a.m. each November 15, and ending at 12 midnight each succeeding May 15. This regulation is in addition to class III, IV, and VI White Water Stream segment regulations which require PFDs to be worn.

Class III rapids (hazardous)
Dam # 3 to Knoxville Falls.

Class IV rapids (significant hazard
to life)
Great Falls (foot of falls) to Chain Bridge

Class VI rapids (extreme risk to life)
Great Falls area from the base of the aqueduct dam to a line from the foot of the main falls on the Virginia shoreline to the Maryland shoreline below Olmstead Island.

Safety Tips
ALWAYS wear an approved personal flotation device while on the Potomac.

Leave a float plan with someone at home describing where you are going, who you’re with and when you expect to return. Know the weather predictions for the area.

REMEMBER the river currents are strong and unpredictable, especially after heavy rains.

Wading should NOT be attempted when the river levels exceed the normal level.

River Flow Information

  • Jennings Randolph Lake (North Branch Potomac) and Savage River Dam projected releases — 410-962-7687 or online:
  • Potomac River flow at Hagerstown — 301-223-6377
  • Youghiogheny River white water release schedule—315-413-2823 or online:
  • Susquehanna riverflow at Conowingo — 888-457-4076
  • Conowingo Dam spill hotline — 877-457-2525
  • U.S. Geological Survey flow information for all Maryland water —

Photo: © Mark Vandyke |

Regulations in red are new this year.

Purple text indicates an important note.

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