The Potomac River boiled, churned and even exploded into the air at Great Falls on Monday afternoon. Occasionally, spray from the river would land on the people watching from Overlook #1 at Great Falls Park. The crowd would cheer for the particularly big explosions of water. I have never seen the river appear so violent.

I photographed Great Falls late Monday afternoon not long before it crested Tuesday morning. While I photographed, the water level was slowly approaching the base of Overlook #1 but was not expected to rise above the overlook. National Park Service rangers on the scene told me they were considering closing the overlook later in the day because water could push up through the drainage system.


Floodwater explodes into the air at Great Falls on Monday. (Kevin Ambrose)

The water level at nearby Little Falls crested at 12.38 feet Tuesday morning, which is considered a moderate flood for that section of the Potomac River. It was well below the historic levels from past floods, however. The water level ranked 36th highest in records dating back to the 1930s.

Below is a photo from the flood of 1996, the fifth biggest on record, for comparison. During the 1996 flood, the river pushed well above all of the overlooks at the park.


The 1996 flood at Great Falls on the Potomac River. (National Park Service)

Downstream, in Georgetown, the Potomac River crested at 9.63 feet Tuesday morning, more than 3.5 feet above flood stage, which is the highest level since March 15, 2010. It ranks as the 17th highest level in records that go back to the late 1800s.


(National Weather Service)

The Potomac rose to these high levels because of an onslaught of heavy rain storms since the second week of May. Rainfall amounts reached 8 to 15 inches throughout the region, more than twice the normal.

Rivers levels are forecast to remain above flood stage through Tuesday night or early Wednesday but have mostly begun receding.

Below, find photos and video of the swollen Potomac River, both that I took and several from Capital Weather Gang readers.

Photos and video

Great Falls


Park Rangers survey Great Falls from Overlook #1. They told me they were considering closing the outlook at 6 p.m. Monday as a result of rising water. This photo was taken at 4:33 p.m., June 4. (Kevin Ambrose)

Water boils and explodes at Great Falls. (Kevin Ambrose)

The Potomac River appeared angry and violent at Great Falls Monday afternoon. (Kevin Ambrose)

A wide view of Great Falls on Monday afternoon. (Kevin Ambrose)

An explosion of water. (Kevin Ambrose)

A close-up photo showing a log trapped against the only rock remaining above water at Great Falls. (Kevin Ambrose)

This photo was taken from Overlook #1 and shows the water level approaching the base of the overlook. (Kevin Ambrose)

In the District

Other sections of the Potomac upstream of the District

Capital Weather Gang’s Jason Samenow contributed to this post.