Self-Guided Opportunities
Canoeing and Kayaking
Location Gunpowder Falls State Park in Northern Baltimore County, Falls Road to Big Falls Road
Gunpowder Falls State Park, 410-592-2897.
Access Site Access the creek from Falls Road where it crosses the Big Gunpowder Falls. To reach Falls Road take I-83 to exit 27, turn left onto Mount Carmel Road, turn right onto Evna Road, then right onto Falls Road. There is no parking right at the creek. You will need to unload your canoe, then park at the lot on Falls Road, one quarter mile south of the creek.

Kayakers may be interested in paddling the section between Prettyboy Dam and Falls Road. While the river is inaccessible from the dam, you may access it by parking at the gated fire road on Falls Road and carrying your kayak one-quarter mile along the Highland Trail to the river. This puts you one-half mile downstream of the dam at the end of a long straightaway. If parking is a problem, there is also the option of shortening the trip and putting in at Masemore Road 0.8 mile downstream. Parking there is available streamside.

Take-out at Big Falls Road, which is reached via a right turn onto York Road from Mount Carmel Road, a left turn from York Road onto Monkton Road, and a left turn onto Big Falls Road. All other road crossings for take-outs farther downstream are on private property until you reach Sparks Road.

River Trip Distance 4.1 miles
Time 1.5 hours
Water Conditions Canoeable winter and spring within three or four days of a hard rain. Sometimes canoeable in early summer, provided that the Prettyboy Reservoir is full. During dry spells, the amount of river flow from the dam is not sufficient for boating. However, the City of Baltimore will release water to fill the Loch Raven Reservoir further downstream if the dry spells are prolonged. This typically occurs in late August. There is no provision for public notification of these releases. The creek provides riffles and fast-moving flatwater that in themselves are not difficult; however, the twisting and turning of the creek requires great maneuverability in the upper sections. The segment between the Prettyboy Dam and Falls Road (for experienced kayakers only) is a wild, steep wooded gorge with almost continuous boulder gardens and broken ledges through the tightest of chutes.
Skill Level Moderate difficulty (should have experience on moving water)
Suitable For Families? Yes, with older children
Hazards/Restrictions Fallen trees can obstruct the stream. Be wary of oncoming traffic while unloading canoes at Falls Road. Do not block the narrow roadway. Pull onto the shoulder or parking pull-outs to unload. The water temperature is extremely cold (55 degrees) due to dam releases from the bottom of the reservoir. Be careful of hypothermia and wear water-wicking clothing.
Potable Water Carry in your own water.
Natural Features The Big Gunpowder Falls flows through calm sections and a series of bouldery rapids through hard, erosion-resistant mica schist rock.
Habitat for trees is adapted to cool hillsides and floodplains, including river birch, cherries, oaks, hemlocks, mountain laurel, dogwood, spicebush and witch hazel.
Early spring wildflower displays include hepatica, bloodroot, spring beauty, rue anemone and pink ladies slippers. Late summer flowers include goldenrod, asters and woodland sunflowers.
Beaver activity in the river, evidenced by gnawed trees, is common. Numerous brown trout thrive in pools in the cool water. This section of the stream valley is particularly attractive, with scenery reminiscent of western Maryland.
Historic/Cultural Features The stream passes historic Foster's Mill, now a park-owned private residence on Masemore Road.
Guiding Ultimate Watersports (410-666-WIND) provides sit-on-top kayaking excursions.
Rentals Canoes can be rented in Jarrettsville, Monkton, Timonium and Towson. Kayaks can be rented in Chase from Ultimate Watersports, 410-666-WIND.
Camping Organized youth group camping is available at nearby Camp Wood on Bunker Hill Road. Call the park for reservations at 410-592-2897. A private recreation park offering camping is located in the Hereford Area.
Other Points of Interest Many trails are located in the Hereford Wildlands and also surround Prettyboy Reservoir. Fly-fishing for trout is a popular activity in the river. Kayakers, canoeists and tubers test their skills in the swift water.
Other Accommodations The Mill Pond Cottage, a quaint park-owned home located on Masemore Road, has been renovated for overnight rental accommodations. Call 410-592-2897. A bed and breakfast is located in Parkton.
Fees or Permits A service charge is in effect for youth group camping.
Description The Gunpowder Falls rises in the hills along the Pennsylvania line and meanders southeastward through beautiful upper Baltimore County before tumbling over the Fall Line to the tidal Gunpowder River in eastern Baltimore County. This river is contained by two reservoirs along its path to tidewater, because the stream provides most of metropolitan Baltimore's water supply. The trips offered on the upper Gunpowder are particularly attractive, because of their scenic beauty, proximity to Baltimore and the longer-lasting paddling season than other streams in the region.
This trip has exciting twists and turns along the narrow wooded gorge below the Prettyboy Reservoir. The scenery in this section is reminiscent of western Maryland, with its hemlocks and mountain laurels on the cool hillsides. The section above Falls Road, accessible only by a one-quarter mile carry in, provides a challenge for experienced whitewater paddlers. This section of stream tumbles and dashes through continuous boulder gardens, broken ledges and the tightest of chutes. For paddlers starting their trip at Falls Road, expect riffles, mild rock gardens and fast-moving flatwater through most of the trip.

  • Maryland and Delaware Canoe Trails (Edward Gertler)
  • Gunpowder Falls State Park trail map and guide, available from the park office
  • Hiking, Cycling and Canoeing in Maryland (Bryan MacKay)
  • Gunpowder Falls State Park homepage
Recommended Gear and Safety Tips
  • Spare paddles
  • Knee pads
  • Hat
  • Water
  • Insect repellant
  • Canoe or kayak
  • Personal flotation devices (life jackets)
  • Appropriate shoes that can get wet
  • Throw ropes and a bowline