Self-Guided Opportunities
Canoeing and Kayaking
Location Gunpowder Falls State Park in Northern Baltimore County, Jones Road to Marriner Park
Gunpowder Falls State Park, 410-592-2897.
Access Site Access the river from the trailhead parking lot off of Jones Road. This parking lot is reached via Route 40 East. Jones Road is the first left turn after crossing the Big Gunpowder Falls on Route 40 East. The parking lot will be on the left. There is a 200-yard carry from the parking lot down the trail to the water's edge. Take out at Marriner Point Park in Joppatowne. Marriner Point Park can be reached from Route 40 East by taking the first right onto Joppa Farm Road after crossing the Little Gunpowder Falls. From Joppa Farm Road turn right onto Kearney Drive and follow it until it ends in Marriner Point Park.
River Trip Distance 4.1 miles
Time 2 hours
Water Conditions Flow is dependent upon the conditions of Loch Raven and Prettyboy Reservoirs. In dry weather there may be very little flow, only that from side streams. Check the water level from Route 40. If levels are low, start at Marriners Point Park and return via the same route for a circuit trip. The lower reaches of this trip are influenced by tides and will usually have decent water levels. Be wary of strong winds and outgoing tides, which can combine to push water out of the tidal flats at the river delta.
Skill Level Easy
Suitable For Families? Yes, with older children
Hazards/Restrictions Be aware of powerboat traffic coming into and out of Marriner Point Park. Strong winds and open water can create difficult paddling conditions. Check the tide charts if you are paddling upriver. A good map is recommended, because the many braided fingers of the river delta can becoming confusing, especially if you are paddling upriver.
Potable Water Carry in your own water.
Natural Features The Big Gunpowder Falls flows through flat coastal plain woodland, enters a freshwater marsh, then splits into a number of braids, creating Maryland's only river delta. Waterfowl find protected habitat here. Wildlife include great blue heron, muskrat and plenty of white-tailed deer. A pair of bald eagles have also nested in the area. Numerous fish species find protected coves among the river delta for spawning. By summer, the river banks show a display of wildflowers, including jewelweed, woodland sunflower, joe-pye weed, boneset and asters.
Historic/Cultural Features Captain John Smith sailed into this area in the 1600's during his exploration of the Chesapeake Bay and found such abundant fish and wildlife that settlements were formed here on the coastal plains. The first economy was hunting and trapping, which later turned to farming as more land was "civilized." This river delta area near Joppa was once the county seat for Baltimore County.
Ocean going sloops drawing 30 or more feet of water would sail up the Gunpowder, then much deeper, and dock just above the B&O Railroad Bridge to load and unload their cargo. In the 17th and 18th centuries, local tobacco farmers would roll their "hogsheads" (large barrels) full of tobacco to the then deepwater port of Joppa for export to England. The river has since silted in due to erosion.
Guiding Check the calendar of park events for guided canoe trips in nearby Days Cove, 410-592-2897.
Rentals Canoes can be rented in Jarrettsville, Monkton, Timonium and Towson. Kayaks can be rented in Chase from Ultimate Watersports, 410-666-WIND.
Camping None available.
Other Points of Interest Many trails are located along the riverbanks. Days Cove Environmental Center is open by appointment only for guided tours for groups. The park calendar of events lists night hikes, campfires and canoe trips that are offered in this area for the public. Registration is required.
Other Accommodations Motels are available in White Marsh, Perry Hall and Edgewood.
Fees or Permits None
Description The Gunpowder Falls rises in the hills along the Pennsylvania line and meanders southeastward through beautiful upper Baltimore County before tumbling over the Fall Line to the tidal Gunpowder River in eastern Baltimore County. This river is contained by two reservoirs along its path to tidewater, because the stream provides most of metropolitan Baltimore's water supply.
This section of the river is below the geological "fall line," where the water drops from the rolling piedmont to the flat coastal plain, which means that this trip is on easy flat water in tidal sections of the river. During dry seasons the water levels near Route 40 still may be low, but further on downstream water should not be a problem where the tides come in. (Be sure to check tide charts.)

Most of this trip visits coastal plain forest and ends in a brackish marsh at the mouth of the river. Once past the shallows at the mouth, bear left to the take-out at Marriner Point Park Marina.

  • Maryland and Delaware Canoe Trails (Edward Gertler)
  • Hiking, Cycling and Canoeing in Maryland (Bryan MacKay)
  • Gunpowder Falls State Park trail map and guide, available from the park office
  • Gunpowder Falls State Park homepage
Recommended Gear and Safety Tips
  • Spare paddles
  • Knee pads
  • Hat
  • Water
  • Insect repellant
  • Canoe or kayak
  • Personal flotation devices (life jackets)
  • Appropriate shoes that can get wet
  • Throw ropes and a bowline