Tubing on the Potomac near Paw Paw and Western Maryland Rail Trail

Tubing on the Potomac near Paw Paw

View Tubing on the Potomac North of Paw Paw in a larger map

Ever since I bought my tube float a few weeks ago I wanted to think if there was a way to incorporate a bike ride with a trip down a river. I also wanted an excuse to explore the Green Ridge State. I had had such a good time at Paw Paw, WV 2 weeks ago I wanted to return and spend some more time in that region. I left Saturday morning with a couple of day’s worth of food, my tube, my bike, a tent and minimal gear.

The forest is a set of small hills and valleys with a labyrinth of logging roads crisscrossing it. The ride through was a little treacherous. Even though there were lots of official Maryland State campsites sprinkle among the trees, almost nobody was camping. I decided Paw Paw was to be my tubing endpoint destination and I dropped my bike off near the tunnel and proceeded up the road about 6 miles at a place called Town Creek Aqueduct.

Within seconds of my arrival I had locked my car and popped my tube in the Potomac and I was off. I waved to some local boys who had set up camp. It took me 3 hours to go 6 miles in the river, where I hit about 3 sets of Class I&II rapids otherwise my trip down river was pretty uneventful.

I found my bike and switched the lock to the tube and PFD. This is where it gets interesting. For some reason I got it into my head that the Paw Paw Tunnel was north of this point, so I strapped on my headlamp and headed through the tunnel without thinking. It took me about two miles after I left the exit of the tunnel to ponder why the canal was on the left of me and the river on the right, this didn’t make sense. After I thought about it awhile I concluded I was going in the wrong direction. This snafu necessitated a U-turn and a trip back through the tunnel, and then 6 more miles in the right direction. Mind you, I dislike getting anywhere near the C&O towpath, it looks to me like a 184-mile long malaria breeding pit.

When I returned to my car the local boys whom I had met at the put-in offered me to share their stealth camp-site off the river. I thought about spending the night at the river but I knew it would rain hard so I politely declined. I drove the minivan back through the Green Ridge Forest via a cumbersome but fun logging road. I found myself motoring through a ravine when the sky broke loose with thunder and lightening so I drove under a set of trees and spent the night there.

The next morning I decided to take a bike ride and drove to Hancock, MD which is home to the Western Maryland Rail Trail. I ate a hearty breakfast at Weaver’s Restaurant and the kind waitress pointed me in the direction of the trail, which turned out to be directly in back of the restaurant. Duh!

To all bike trail users: The western half of this trail is one of the nicest I have ever ridden, it’s wide, freshly asphalted, has beautiful views of the Potomac and you enter and exit the road gates centrally which is really really nice. Also, instead of having the usual Civil War signs (At this site in 1863 General Stonewall Jackson looked at General George McClellan sideways blah, blah, blah) or environmental signs (Pond scum is the dominant plant-life here in the canal) the trail has informative descriptions about the little businesses that happened along the canal and railroad like apple farms, concrete and sand companies. It is worth stopping and reading.

After I got done with this portion I headed south and did an up and back of 20 miles on the southern segment. This segment is directly adjacent to I-70, it is forgettable and should be avoided unless you are very interested in Little Pool.

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