January 2014

Saturday -- January 4, 2014
Water Level at Little Falls: 5.0     Water Temperature: 45

The ferry is closed for one more day.

I've decided that it isn't worth opening the ferry today. Even though the river will be at or slightly below 5 feet I think it's safer if we don't fight it. Especially since the dock is still covered with an inch of rock solid, frozen mud.

It looks like it will warm up by Sunday and that will give me a chance to get things back to normal, or at least back to the way they were before the recent high water.

Monday -- January 6, 2014
Water Level at Little Falls: 4.5     Water Temperature: 45

The ferry is open.

I chipped away all of the frozen mud from the dock and I cleared the ice from the steps. The road to the Island is open. At least for now, who knows what this winter still has in store for us.

Tuesday -- January 7, 2014
Water Level at Little Falls: 4.5     Water Temperature: 31

The ferry is closed on account of ice.

I suppose that I shouldn't have been surprised, but I really did not expect the river to freeze overnight. I thought that it would take a couple of days of this frigid weather to turn the river solid but I guess I should have known better than to underestimate the whims of this river.

Right now I'm more or less trapped on the Island. The ice is too thick to chop a path for the ferry to the mainland and yet not thick enough to walk on. There is some open water at the bottom of the Island but that seems to be shrinking quickly as well. Luckily I have some groceries to last a couple of days.

If I get free I'll have to be sure to bring my ice skates with me. Who knows, maybe we can skate on the canal now!

Friday -- January 10, 2014
Water Level at Little Falls: 4.0     Water Temperature: 32

The channel is still solid ice so the ferry will be closed again tomorrow. I'll try to free it up on Sunday but no promises.

I tried to make my break, literally speaking, by canoeing across the open water at the bottom of the Island. Sadly there was too much thick ice along the shore to reach it. I'm sure I could easily slide off of the ice and into the river but it's the getting back up onto the ice on the opposite shore, that's the hard part. I've decided to make my getaway by pulling myself along the ferry rope in a canoe on top of the ice. I works great when the ice is solid but if the ice breaks, same as above, hard to get back up. So far it looks pretty solid all the way across but the crescent shaped ice dam at the head of the channel is showing signs of breaching so I better get moving.

Sunday -- January 12, 2014
Water Level at Little Falls: 5.2     Water Temperature: 35

All of the ice is gone from the channel, but now the river has gone up above five feet. The ferry will be closed again today and most of tomorrow.

Monday -- January 13, 2014
Water Level at Little Falls: 4.8     Water Temperature: 36

The ferry is open.

The river went down a little faster than predicted so we're back to normal operations.

The weather is supposed to get pretty warm today and I noticed that Goose Creek, that fine little whitewater stream in Loudon County, is up and running, so if I'm not here when you come down, you'll know where I went.

Tuesday -- January 14, 2014
Water Level at Little Falls: 4.6     Water Temperature: 36

We had a spectacular outing yesterday. We took the canoe to Goose Creek and it did not disappoint. Goose Creek is bigger than Seneca Creek, but smaller than the Monacacy and it's not easy to catch it when it's high enough to paddle. Goose Creek used to be an exit off of the C & O Canal. During the heyday of the canals, you could lock out of the C & O, cross the river and follow the canal system up Goose Creek for twelve mile into Virginia!

Basically, we put in about a mile and a half upstream of route 7 (below the bridge of the W & OD) and we took out about a mile and a half down stream of route 7 at the ruins of the old Kephart bridge. In between we enjoyed some sunny flat-water drifting and some exciting whitewater maneuvering.

We planned to do a walking shuttle since it was such a short trip, but he prospect of walking through new, cookie-cutter residential neighborhoods or along narrow-shouldered roads did not thrill us. Happily, for us, we noticed a marked trail in the woods next to the river, we were relieved that the walk back to the van would be a nice nature hike instead of an urban slog.

After taking out, we locked the canoe to a big root and followed the trail back towards the van. The trail wasn't great but we got back to route 7 without too much trouble. After that the trail peetered out into a small game trail and before we knew it we were bushwhacking our way through brambles and fallen trees. Luckily, Mary had our location on her google phone and with only a minor bit of trespassing we were able to find the road and the van. (Next time we may bring our bikes instead.)

It's a great run with lots of history. Here is some background that I pulled off of the American Whitewater website.

This quiet and uncrowded stream is a must for anyone who loves history as well as whitewater. Goose Creek is home to the remains of a 12 mile canal system built by the Little River and Goose Creek Navigation Company between 1849 and 1854. The canal stretched from the Potomac River at Elizabeth Mills all the way to Ball's Mill (now Evergreen Mills) but low water and drought meant that only one boat ever ran the entire length of the system.

The canal's final undoing was the sacking and destruction of the various mills and locks along its length by Union soldiers during the civil war. The ruins can still be seen along the entire watercourse with some of the best examples being the dam and locks at Cooke's Mill (Golf Course Rapid) and Elizabeth's Mill (Old Mill Dam Rapid). Remains of the locks and the bridge that spanned Goose Creek on the famous "Carolina Road" which has since been moved and re-named US-15.

Wednesday -- January 15, 2014
Water Level at Little Falls: 4.6     Water Temperature: 36

It was a nice day today but not one visitor. Things are promised to change though, Gerry says he'll be back on Friday.

I startled two deer over near the fire pit late this afternoon. One was a full grown doe, the other was significantly smaller, but bigger than a fawn, with no spots.

The two of them took off running toward the bottom of the Island and I was curious about where they might go since I had seen a doe on the Island just last week. I gave chase and saw them disappear down the trail to the bottom of the Island. I ran down there, watching to make sure that they didn't back-track on me. I got to the treehouse and saw no sign of them. I could see their fresh hoof marks in the mud and I followed them to the shore. I scanned the river where I thought they might be, but to my surprise they had already swam out to the warning buoys in the middle of the river! I guess their swimming skills match their running ability.

I was a little nervous for them as I watch their little heads get smaller and smaller as they swam towards the Virginia shore. The wind was blowing strong downstream and with the water level at 4.6, I thought they were in danger of being washed over the dam. I stood watching and I contemplated running to the house to get the binoculars. Luckily I didn't budge, because before I knew it those spunky little deer were on the opposite shore and flashing those big white tails of their namesake. I could see the white from all the way across the river!

Monday -- January 20, 2014
Water Level at Little Falls: 4.1     Water Temperature: 36

Happy Martin Luther King Jr. Day!

In the spirit of that great man let us all take time to stand up for our rights and...


It's our duty as a Club that values the benefits of clean drinking water and sound environmental practices to stand up and let our voices be heard!

Ten Mile Creek is the last best stream in Montgomery county and it is being threaten by the greed of short-sighted developers! This creek is a major source of water for Little Seneca Lake, a lake that is used as an emergency water supply in times of drought! As recently as 2002 it was necessary to release water from this lake to keep the Potomac at it's minimum flow! Not only does this stream provide low cost drinking water, it also has a greater diversity and abundance of aquatic life than any other stream in the county!

Go to and get all the facts. Better yet go to and tell your council member that


There is no time to waste, the planning board will be voting on this land use proposal this month!

Thursday -- January 23, 2014
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.8     Water Temperature: 32

The ferry is closed, locked in ice like the Endurance.

The strong winds of Tuesday and early Wednesday kept the river from freezing, but as soon as the wind died last night you could watch the water begin to crystallize. Now, the channel is solid ice and the ice is growing from the Island on the Virginia side. The main river isn't frozen yet but thousands of ice-islands are streaming by.

Thankfully, the snow fell before the canal froze so there is no snow in the way of skating on the canal! See you on the ice later today! (If I can find a way off the Island that is.)

Speaking of winter fun, we took the X-country skis out to the tow path yesterday. It was mostly good, but there were some wet spots that gunked up our skis. We also made ski tracks on the Island and it was fun to have the novelty of Island skiing.

It hasn't been all winter fun down here. I've been busy refinishing my coffee table and my foyer table. (They look awesome by the way.) I've also been doing a little reconstructive carpentry on the clubhouse. The siding near my front door was obviously getting wet and starting to rot. I thought it had to do with the lame-o roof but the way that the gutter was set up was very suspicious. I decided to take down the gutter and investigate. It turns out that the gutter was leaking right into the siding and water was getting in behind the siding and rotting the plywood underneath. I ripped out all of the wet siding and the rotted plywood and I was left with a 2'X6' hole on the outside of my apartment. I removed the insulation and let everything dry out. Then I put up a vapor barrier, reinstalled the insulation, along with some spray-foam insulation, and then I installed some fresh plywood on top of that. I'm going to wait to install the new siding until the roof is replaced, but I was real happy to get that hole sealed up before this cold snap hit.

Friday -- January 24, 2014
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.8     Water Temperature: 32

Yesterday I got carried away trying to free the ferry and we actually managed to chop the ice all the way over to the mainland, then it refroze last night. Bummer. If I had only left well enough alone, the ice might be thick enough now to support the weight of a loaded canoe. I guess I'm stuck for a while, waiting until the ice thickens up again.

It can get complicated down here at this time of year but it's neat to be here and watch all of the changes in the river. The tree's and plants may be dormant at this time of year but it seems like the river is more alive than ever! Right now the main channel looks like some kind of giant, frozen lava flow, not our good old Potomac.

Monday -- January 27, 2014
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.5     Water Temperature: ice

Well, without the security of a body of water between me and the outside world, I may have to start locking my doors at night. The ice is so thick that one can simply walk over to the Island. (Although, it is dicey near the shore by the steps where the river never seems to freeze real hard.) Lots of animal tracks on the Island too.

The river ice hasn't been this thick in about 7 years. The last time I walked or skated across the river was in February 2007! The river did freeze real bad in January 2009, (remember the inauguration?), but I was in Park City, Utah that week.

Skating, Skiing, I love polar vortexes!

Tuesday -- January 28, 2014
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.5     Water Temperature: ice

I just learned that Whites Ferry is closed today because of ice.

Check out Sycamore Island on Facebook! I've posted a few pictures there.

Friday -- January 31, 2014
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.5     Water Temperature: ice

The ferry has now been closed because of ice for an entire week! I don't know if that's a record or not but it seems like it's been a long time. They are predicting warmer weather so the ice should start thinning out, which brings it's own set of challenges. Cripes!