on the Upper River
by Paul H. Cathcart
[This article appeared in the May, 1923 issue
of the Sycamore Islander.]
Of prime importance on a camping trip, whether it be a long one or a short one, is the assurance that you will have plenty of pure drinking water at all times. As the Potomac River water cannot be used for drinking and our supply of water on the Island is limited, those of us who go up the river must know where the springs are located.
If you go up the Canal you can get water from the Glen Echo Lock (Schaffers) or from a spring at the base of the first rocky headland on the right after passing over Cabin John Creek on the Glen Echo level. Then by inquiries at the other locks it is always easy to ascertain at which locks springs or wells are located.
When going up the river most of the springs will be found on the Virginia shore. We all know where Mr. Johnson goes for water on the Virginia shore just a little below Sycamore and there is another spring that can be reached from Broadwater by landing at or near Beall's shack, where the fast water begins, and follow the path that goes up the hillside towards Leiter's big house.
The next place where water is available is at Three Springs. This, is about a mile and a half upriver and is a favorite objective for many of our paddlers. Here you will find good water, a good place to picnic, and there is just enough work to make you hungry and thirsty. It is just at the foot of Cabin John Riffle and unless the river is high there is no "going" any harder than through the White Rock Riffles.
About two miles further up the Virginia shore in a pretty little meadow just below Stubblefield Falls there are two fine springs and a first-class camping site. From the river a path can be seen leading through a fringe of young willow trees that line the bank and as an added guide there are four large rocks near the landing place which are noticeably detached from the large rock masses closed to the falls.
If you have gotten above Stubblefield Falls or are coming down the river the next spring is at the foot of the steep rocky headland on the Virginia shore just below Calico Rapids [Yellow Falls, today] and facing Scott's [Turkey] Island. This spring is very close to the river and just about six feet above normal river level, but some people have experienced trouble in finding it. There is another spring near here that the writer has never tried to locate. It is on the opposite side of the river just across from the lower end of Herzog's [Vasso] Island.
Above this the spring on Difficult Run is the best and nearest source of good drinking water. To find it you must go up the left-hand bank of Difficult nearly to the big bend toward the right. A branch of a path will be found leading to the left along the little rill that comes from the spring, which is about fifty feet farther back in the woods.
There may be other springs and there are houses and places where "pop" can be bought at various distances from the river, but the true lover of the outdoors would much prefer to depend on Nature's springs for his drinking water and if this article helps even one Sycamorean to find one of these springs and enjoy its fine cool water, as I have done so often, this will not have been in vain.