The North Branch defines the border between Maryland and West Virginia until its confluence with the South Branch in Old Town, creating the main branch of the Potomac River. This branch of the Potomac has something for all levels of paddlers, a long Class-4+ run, a delightful Class 2–3 trip, and a mostly swift-water paddle that has beautiful scenery mixed in with more developed areas, including the industrial city of Cumberland.
This is the ledgiest river you will ever encounter, and there must be at least a thousand hydraulics. The first mile below Steyer is a very peaceful descent over Class 1–2 rapids. Every once in a while, a rather juicy drop through a narrow channel dampens your navel, until, without much warning, you are into it up to your eyeballs, and you realize that the gradient is really picking up.
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