We paddled the Patapsco River at Daniel’s Area. This area of Patapsco Valley State Park is on the border of Howard and Baltimore Counties. This is the flat water section above Daniels Dam. The parking area is listed as 2090 Daniels Road, Ellicott City, MD. There is space for maybe 6-8 cars in the parking area. The rest of us parked along Daniels Road, which is acceptable. This was a popular area on a beautiful Saturday afternoon. There are boaters, hikers and cyclists all using the area. July 2015 Update. The parks have put up numerous No Parking signs along Daniel’s Road near the dam. If you don’t get one of the coveted parking spots, you are no longer able to park close to the put in on the road, so be prepared to have to walk from considerably further away.
There are no facilities, no restrooms, no canoe/ kayak livery, but still the area is quite popular. According to the Department of Resources officer I talked with, this area was discovered by people about 4 or 5 years ago.
When the water is higher, one can paddle from Woodstock Road/ Old Court Road down to Daniel’s Area. The paddle is about 4.7 miles of flat water. According to American Whitewater Organization, the Patapsco from Woodstock to Elkridge was at a lower runnable level the day we did it. It is only after Daniel’s Dam that the whitewater starts. And according to the DNR officer the 4.7 mile run was runnable with 2 shallow areas where boaters had to drag their boats across a short way.
I had hoped to run the entire flat water area and I was all set to do it, but I don’t think my kid would tolerate being in a canoe for so long, so we opted to put in and take out at the Daniel’s Area. We paddled up for 1/2 hour had lunch and found some shallow places to play in the water. Then we paddled back a ways and found another shallow place to play in the water. There are many places where the bottom is sandy and nice for swimming. There is a nice swimming area, on the opposite side of the river as the first railroad bridge. It is not far from the put in/takeout. I say “first” because there may be others but we didn’t go far enough to find out if there were others. We did get a chance to see and hear the freight train which travels on the opposite shore as the putin all along the river.
The most important thing about this area is they allow swimming! There is no lifeguard, but there are many shallow areas of the river that are perfect for a dip or wading or playing in the river.
I would like to note that in Maryland, life vests are required for all boaters. And children under age 13 must wear their Coast Guard approved life vest. I could not find a web reference but all boaters must have a life vest. I don’t know if adults have to have them on, or just with them. We always boat with life vests on, both adult and children. And in talking to the officer at Daniel’s Area, she was patrolling the area looking for people who did not have life vests on in boats. I asked the fine for not having a life vest and the officer said $85 for the incident and $5 per person. So that would be $105 for a party of 4. Because our kid and his friend were wearing life jackets, she gave each one a gift certificate for Rita’s Water Ice to thank them for wearing a life vest. (It is not like either one would be allowed in our boat without a life vest, but the adults didn’t get the gift certificate.)
This is a nice place to paddle, I would love to do the whitewater section below the dam, but alas, I am paddling flat water these of days. According to this officer the whitewater section is a lot of rock gardens below the dam which require quite a bit of maneuvering. If you don’t know what a rock garden is in a river then chances are you probably should not be trying the section.
She gave me some other ideas of where to paddle along the Patapsco River and I will look at my guide books and maps and see about doing some of them.