The roaring sound of the river greeted visitors to Great Falls on Sunday. It was a loud and constant sound, and it could be heard clearly from the parking lot at the visitor’s center. The Potomac River was approaching flood stage and had transformed the falls into a boiling, churning set of rapids.

Many days of rain had swollen the Potomac River to near-flood stage at Little Falls and flooded other areas upstream and downstream from Great Falls, including the Tidal Basin.

I arrived at Great Falls a few minutes after sunrise and photographed it from the Virginia side. A few breaks in the cloud cover allowed early morning sunlight to filter through and accentuate wave tops and spray on the river. It was a dramatic scene.

Flooding on the Potomac River to the level we saw over the weekend is not uncommon. On May 17, 2014, we experienced similar water levels at Great Falls. On Oct. 31, 2012, the flooding from Superstorm Sandy was also comparable. On Feb. 4, 2013, melting led to this, as well.

After photographing Great Falls, I drove to D.C. to check out the river conditions downstream. At the 14th Street Bridge, the water was fast-flowing and filled with debris. At the Tidal Basin, the water was over its banks and even touched the lower branches of a few cherry trees. It was quite a different scene from the blowout of the Potomac River on March 3 of this year.


According to observations from the USGS at Little Falls, the Potomac River approached flood stage Sunday. (NOAA)

I photographed a few scenes of the flooded Tidal Basin then relaxed on a park bench, soaking in the sunshine that we’ve missed out on for so many days. I even dipped my toes into the water because the bench was at the water’s edge.

Let us know if you got a chance to see Great Falls over the weekend.  If not, the water level will be very high for the next several days, and it’s certainly a sight worth checking out.


Raging water at Great Falls on Sunday. (Kevin Ambrose)

A view of fast moving water over Great Falls. River spray filled the air. (Kevin Ambrose)

Comparing low water to high water at Great Falls. The top photo was taken Sept. 8, 2015, and the bottom photo on Sunday. (Kevin Ambrose)

Comparing Great Falls in the winter and spring. The top photo was taken Dec. 30, and the bottom photo was taken on Sunday. (Kevin Ambrose)

A close-up view of Great Falls on Sunday morning shows the few rocks that remained above water. (Kevin Ambrose)

Mather Gorge was filled with fast flowing water Sunday. (Kevin Ambrose)

The Potomac River was muddy and filled with debris near the 14th Street Bridge on Sunday morning. (Kevin Ambrose)

The Tidal Basin was over its banks Sunday morning. (Kevin Ambrose)

The water level at the Tidal Basin approached the lower branches of cherry trees. (Kevin Ambrose)

The author relaxes at the Tidal Basin after the photo shoot. The sunshine felt great after many days of chilly, rainy weather. (Dennis Govoni)