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What’s Afloat on The Monocacy

Blair Garrett

The perfect relaxing day for an August Day Trip lies in the heart of the Catoctin area.

With the sun beating down, not much feels better than sitting on the water surrounded by good people. Fortunately, the Monocacy River is a natural lazy river, which flows from the Mason-Dixon Line around Frederick and all the way to the much larger Potomac River at Dickerson, Maryland. The river bridges Frederick and Carroll Counties, allowing all local kayakers and floaters a short drive for some fun in the sun.

The pace of the river is leisurely to say the least, so for kayakers or those fearful of rapids, the Monocacy is a great place to start learning or adapting to all of your water adventures.

There are entry points scattered throughout nearly every twist and turn, but the farther north in the river that you hop on, the longer the potential float. Popular drop spots include the MD 77 access point, the Creagerstown Boat Launch, Devilbiss Bridge, Biggs Ford Road, and Riverside Park Boat Ramp. Each of these locations grant riders easy access to smooth waters on a sunny day.

The process is easy and a blast with a great group of people. One person parks at an entry point, and one parks at the finish line, so the whole group can hitch a ride at the start on their tubes or kayaks and make it to the end point with a ride back to their cars or back home.

The trip itself can take several hours, or much less depending on where you want to end your ride. Floating is simple, though, and a great way to spend some time with family and friends. Grabbing a few tubes, stringing them together and playing some music while taking an easy stroll down the Monocacy can provide hours of entertainment, and the atmosphere is unbeatable on a nice day.

It’s not uncommon to see families with a big tube in the middle, packed with coolers filled with drinks and snacks, but don’t forget to bring sunscreen and plenty of water to combat those hot August days.

The river flows at an average speed of 2-3 mph, and despite the trees surrounding the river providing shade toward the edges, there is plenty of room in the middle with direct sunlight. So, whether or not you plan on catching some rays, make sure to protect yourself from getting a nasty sunburn.

Depending on recent rainfall, the river may run much faster and may have deeper waters, so it’s important to be prepared and cautious for your day trip on the water. There are few if any rapids at all over the course of the Monocacy, but significant rainfall can and does affect the speed and intensity of the river.

The Monocacy passes plenty of beautiful landscapes and farmlands, but it also runs past a few points of interest that can be seen and heard during a typical floating trip on the northern half of the waterway. The river runs right by the Thurmont Sportsman Club, where they often have competitions and events at their gun range. 

The river also flows under Old Links Bridge, where you may just be able to take a pit stop and grab a bottle of wine from Links Bridge Winery.

Of course, the best part about the Monocacy River float is shutting out the rest of the world and enjoying quality time with loved ones and some of the freshest air Maryland has to offer.

Over the course of the Monocacy’s 58 mile stretch from PA/MD border to the Potomac River, there are plenty of places to fish or swim, so even if a long tube ride isn’t your cup of tea, there’s surely something to do for everyone. The river is also home to several species of bass, trout and sunfish, with each fish posing a different challenge to catch.

With the mountainous and forested landscape covering much of southern Pennsylvania and Northern Maryland, there are plenty of rivers, streams and tributaries that offer the public a great way to cool off over the summer. The Monocacy is just one of a few popular floating destinations in the area. For those of us north of the PA/MD border, the Conococheague Creek is another similar experience for adventurers to have a fun day on the water.

The Conococheague is a tributary in the Potomac River system, running 80 miles from start to finish. The majority of the creek lies in Pennsylvania, with prime floating locations near Greencastle, PA. Just 12 percent of the creek resides in Maryland before connecting to the Potomac River.

While both the Monocacy and the Conococheague eventually connect to the Potomac River, many of the sights to see and points of interest on the Monocacy tour are in and around the greater Frederick Area.

Historic locations like the Buckeystown Dam and the Monocacy National Battlefield run with the river, so a quick detour to do some exploring and to take in the history is an option worth checking out.

Whatever it is that draws you to the water, the Monocacy River float is a day trip the whole family can enjoy. Check out a location near you and grab a tube before the summer is over!

Wade and Alison McGahen kick back for a day of fun in the sun on the Monocacy River.

A group of friends hits the Monocacy waters with their favorite tubes on a hot summer day.

Accesses & Points Along the Monocacy