Skip to main content



River Boating & Safety Information


A person aboard a vessel, raft or tube must wear a U.S. Coast Guard Approved Type I, II, III or V life jacket at all times while on the upper Potomac River and its tributaries, between November 15 and the following May 15. This regulation is in addition to class III, IV, V, and VI White Water Stream segment regulations, which require life jackets to be worn at all times.

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 life jacket 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