Brought to you by the Great Falls Foundation

The Great Falls Race

Saturday, September 10, 2016

The festival's most dramatic and dazzling event is the Great Falls Race. This downriver race is a quick, adrenaline-packed descent of 60 vertical feet through the Potomac's spectacular Class V+ Great Falls. Watch top kayakers from around the nation dash down the falls and compete for the Great Falls Race trophy. RACERS MUST REGISTER ONLINE PRIOR TO 11:59 PM ON THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 8. THERE WILL BE NO RACE-DAY REGISTRATIONS.

Background: The Great Falls Race was one of the original extreme whitewater competitions, and nearly 30 years later, it will still be one of the most challenging. The premiere event of the Potomac Festival is a sub-60 second sprint down through the powerful cataracts dropping nearly 60 vertical feet. Only experts may compete, but the entire paddling community is welcome to watch and volunteer.

2016 Results

Geoff CalhounK1M84.50362.2156.511
Bryan KirkK1M81.12161.4659.312
Pat KellerK1M89.001063.2459.553
Aaron MannK1MDNS 62.4559.684
Jason BeakesK1M84.50362.3060.655
Danny StockK1M85.00562.4661.436
Scott MannK1M93.121460.9361.497
Ian Van WingertK1M94.001560.9461.878
Wyatt HyndmanK1M85.12660.9362.819
Hunter CooperK1M101.062063.2766.5010
Brad McMillanK1M92.061263.67 11
Andrew McEwanK1M85.31763.98 12
Bobby MillerK1M98.001964.05 13
Cooper SalladeK1M112.502865.05 14
Tyler UthusK1M84.00266.44 15
Nic WilliamsK1M96.101867.06 16
Toby McDermottK1MDNS 67.10 17
Jordan Poffenberger*C1M132.2531 (2)67.17 18 (1)
Steven McKoneK1M101.442267.46 19
Julio Danger KrinskyK1MDNS 68.32 20
Seth Chappelle*C1M101.3121 (1)68.39 21 (2)
Robert Ben GordonK1M111.062768.50 22
George BossK1M94.501669.11 23
Mathys HuvelinK1M86.12869.20 24
Scott ParsonsK1M92.001169.99 25
Isaac HullK1MDNS 70.24 26
Collin SwanK1M92.621370.33 27
Brett MayerK1M109.192670.94 28
Wade HarrisonK1MDNS 71.18 29
Andrew HiltbrandK1MDNS 71.24 30
Taylor PittmanK1M95.311771.63 31
Micheal McWhirterK1M105.562571.78 32
Thomas FrancoK1MDNS 72.30 33
Jake GreenbaumK1M88.00972.33 34
Rich HardyK1MDNS 72.70 35
Jacob SiegleK1M102.122373.55 36
Connor LairdK1M104.002475.62 37
Erin Savage*K1WDNS 78.12 38
Paul GolubK1M122.023080.00 39
Danny KaufmanK1MDNS 80.19 40
Eric HansonK1MDNF 80.37 41
Moriah Heaney*K1W213.0032 (1)83.31 42 (1)
Mike ConnollyK1MDNS 95.00 43
Matthew HansonK1M113.0029DNS 

Race Types:

CLASSIC - Downriver race. The Great Falls Race demands a paddler to be steady yet dynamic and can reward or punish a racer for choosing an aggressive line. A section of the Falls will be chosen for the race based on our Water Levels Chart and common consensus. Competitors will be allowed 1 race run in their fast boat of choice, and the top 10 times will qualify for the Finals. The fastest Finals run wins the Cup!

SLALOM - The local kayaking community has long blended slalom moves in Class V whitewater. So, based on our 2015 success, the Potomac Festival will once again have a judged slalom event in addition to the classic downriver race. The slalom course will be 2-5 gates, buoys, mandatory channels, and rock touches. Race staff will set the course during the week of the event, dictated by water levels to showcase the best moves on the river and reward the most adaptable technical paddlers in 8-9 foot creek boats.


Race Registration: All participants in the GFR are required to pre-register. Registration will be conducted on-line, outside of the National Parks, and prior to race day. There will be no race-day registration, and no fees collected within the National Parks.

Racer Meeting & Safety Briefing: On the morning of race, the GFR staff will hold a safety staff meeting and racer meeting near the Great Falls Tavern on the Maryland side. At the volunteer meeting, the staff will go over the race course, the start and finish lines, the positioning of safety boats and throw ropes, how to stop the race in case of a problem, and how to contact help in case of emergency. In the racer meeting, the start and finish lines, the rules of the race, any up-to-date safety considerations will be covered.

Racer Skills Assessments: The GFR staff are responsible for determining whether appropriate skill level is present for each racer. As specified on the website, all racers must be able to attest to their experience paddling Class V whitewater, provide a detailed paddling history, and be familiar with the lines on Great Falls. Racers will be screened by the race staff on their capability to adequately paddle and race Great Falls. Each participant’s involvement in the race is subject to the race director’s approval. If there is any doubt about a racer competing in a safe manner, that racer will not be allowed to enter.

The exact course depends on the water level, but will take place on one of the following:

Center Lines: 3.4-3.79 feet

The Classic start for this complex course is on the Virginia shore (river right) just upstream of the large square slab rock. Racers will ferry left above U-Hole, (the Virginia Lines) and the tip of Flake Island and navigate Grace Under Pressure - the furthest river right entrance drop into the middle channel of the Falls. Racers then navigate the maze of ledges leading to The Fingers. The Fingers is five-channel, 20 foot drop, with some of the channels being trickier than others, so choosing a good line is critical. The finish line will be a rock in a eddy river left of The Fingers near Horseshoe on the Maryland side.

Slalom here would involve an up left below Grace, a mandatory series of moves in the ledges and a drop Angel Hair (Pinky Finger), a very narrow waterfall. If that weren't enough, expect the finish line to be an upstream ferry above a boulder (similar to the 2014 race).

Bridge Channel: 5.0-6.5 feet

This high water line through Olmsted Island starts with one of the steepest drops on the falls, a three tiered slide into a hole. The finish line will be below the Class IV runout, in an eddy at the confluence with the main channel. The format of the race may be simplified or shortened, depending on specific river conditions.

High water > 6.5 feet

The race may move to Mather Gorge if the level is above preferred Great Falls water levels. Start would be in the area of O-Deck and finish would be near/on Rocky Island.

The race may be cancelled if the level is rising rapidly above the preferred race lines, or conditions degrade the safety or integrity of the event.

Recommendations and Notes for Spectators

The final course will determine if it will be possible to view the race from both Great Falls, VA and the Great Falls Overlook, C&O National Historical Park, MD. Check back here the week of the race for a final recommendation. We encourage spectators to view the race from one of the 3 overlooks at Great Falls, VA. There is only one overlook at the C&O National Historical Park (Great Falls, MD)

Plan to arrive early—depending on the number of park visitors and spectators, there can be a line that forms at the entrance to the park. In addition, some of the prime viewing areas fill up quickly.

National Park Fee—There is a $10 fee to enter the park. On sunny days there can be a line to get into the park. Please plan accordingly. Note that, effective June 1st, 2015 the 3 day entrance fee is no longer valid for both the C&O Canal and Great Falls Park, VA so you will need to pay separate entry fees if you plan to visit both parks.