Potomac River Campsites?

I’ll be doing a +/- 40 mile kayaking trip from just north of Harper’s Ferry, WV to Algonkian Park in Sterling, VA. We expect to camp overnight twice during the trip.

My questions for the community:

  • Who owns the islands in the middle of the Potomac, are they ok to camp in? (Of course we would not have a fire and leave no trace that we were there).
  • Specifically Heater’s Island near Point of Rocks, MD. Has anyone camped there, or found decent islands with enough of a clearing to set up a few tents?
  • Same question for a camp location near Balls Bluff or Noland’s Ferry?


Dam #3 above Harpers to 340 bridge …
… is considered a class lll WW section . It’s also considered hazardous . Don’t get those two confused as if they mean the same thing exacly .

The bottom of that section has many very deep rock ridges and canyons with crazy under water currents much differnt than what you see on top … some of them are 25’-30’ and maybe deeper down under .

I’ve heard of large suck holes that tunnel below the river bed , seriuos undercuts , and frankly because of the 20 or more times I’ve been up there all day fishing and just hanging out in general , the place intimidates me a little bit when I think about running a canoe on it … hence , I’ve not run it and have no intention to do so … I suppose as long as you stay on top the water and can keep breathing you win . I know someone personally who got taken for a loooong swim down through that section and he got beat to hell , but he’s still breathing today .

Here’s the same links I posted in reply to your other post about safe gage levels and camp for Potomac .



ps., … Harpers Ferry USGS gage hasn’t been operational for some years now .

Heaters Island

– Last Updated: Jun-08-11 12:41 AM EST –

apparently is a WMA... hunting is allowed there, not sure about camping; it is prohibited in some other WMA's. there's a number you can call at

I would not hesitate to camp on most any of the small primitive islands as long as they're not posted. (you might want to take a machete along, the nettles and other undergrowth can get pretty thick in the summer on those islands.)

you also have the option of camping at designated C&O hiker/biker sites on the MD side.

Both Grove's and Corbett's books on Virginia rivers cover this section of the Potomac in detail. To partly answer your question in the other thread, Grove provides some info on how to run the Dam #3/Needles/Whitehorse rapids.