By Julia LeDoux, Pentagram Staff WriterMay 25, 2016
With the return of the sun and warm temperatures, Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall community members are beginning to turn their attention to one of the summer's biggest pleasures -- the water and water sports that can be enjoyed in the Potomac River.
Still, there are specific sections of the river that community members are reminded to stay out off -- the Potomac River at Great Falls Park.
"The Potomac River is a deep river with powerful currents and jagged rocky bottoms with whirlpool suction," explained JBM-HH Physical Security Specialist Tracie Miller. "Where the river is deep, there are strong downward currents that push and pull you to the bottom of the river."
The section of water from the Sycamore Island area running four-tenths of a mile from the Little Falls Dam to Chain Bridge is off-limits to all swimmers and waders. In addition, water activities in the Great Falls/Potomac River Gorge are against Maryland, Virginia and District of Columbia law and are also prohibited by a directive issued by the Military District of Washington in 1994.
In June 2013, an Old Guard Solider drowned in the waters of Great Falls, and between 2001 and 2014, the area saw 24 drownings. Back in 1984, Fort Myer lost seven Soldiers due to water-related accidents in the falls area. According to the National Park Service, 51 percent of all river-related accidents in the Potomac River Gorge area are fatal, while 72 percent of river-related accidents in the area are the result of shoreline activities like hiking and fishing.
Not all portions of the river are off-limits, however. Visit www.nps.gov.grfa/planyourvisit/kayaking.htm to learn where kayaking and other paddling activities are permitted. You can also visit such sites as potomacpaddlesports.com to check water levels and safely plan your trip.
"Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall Directorate of Emergency Services encourages community members to take advantage of the beauty and activities available at Great Falls Park," said Miller. "However, we wish for personnel to do so in a safe and responsible manner."
Miller encouraged community members to educate themselves about all Great Falls has to offer before making a visit to the area. For more information on Great Falls Park, visit www.nps.gov/grfa/index.htm.