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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

Blair Garrett

The 55th Annual Catoctin Colorfest may have been rainy, but it did not stop lovers of arts, crafts, and great food from flooding the streets of Thurmont.

Business owners and Colorfest workers trekked through the mud during the peak hours of the morning to bring one of the East Coast’s biggest craft shows to life for the people of the Catoctin Area. Locals and visitors poured in from dusk until dark, grabbing the best deals they could find from their favorite vendors.

Even with the overcast skies and muddy terrain, nothing was going to stop Thurmont visitors and residents alike from picking up their favorite hand-crafted carvings and ornaments.

From turkey legs to airbrushed paintings, Colorfest offered something for everyone to enjoy. It also offered an engaging experience for patrons to discover the talented works of local business owners.

One family business, in particular, makes gel-based candles that resemble fan favorite food and drinks. Between delectable apple pies or gallon-sized pitchers of beer, Jeff Bartos’ candles smell as good as they look. Bartos and his wife Donna have been making candles for decades under the business name “D.J. Flickers Candles,” finding the perfect fusion of realistic looking desserts and fragrant aromas to make a candle that lights up a room.

The Bartos family took quite the route to finding their way to becoming a mainstay at the annual Colorfest. Jeff was a truck driver, and Donna was the head designer of a candle company. Donna eventually split from her company, and the pair created a candle shop in the garage of their house.

“She was doing little craft shows on the weekend, and I was still driving trucks,” Bartos said. “You make three times what I make just doing the craft shows. This is what we’re going to do for a living, and we’ve done it for a living for the last twenty-four years.”

The Bartos’s story is one that many families who make up the vendors of Colorfest have lived. Taking a chance on their dream to produce something they love to make for a living is what keeps Colorfest thriving year after year, and it is what keeps locals and visitors coming back for more.

There is no shortage of variety among the hundreds of vendors showing off their products, as well as the broad variety of great food and dessert choices found at Colorfest. With two days to travel across all the parks and streets, event goers can discover the many amazing talents of artists while having a tasty meal with the kids in an environment perfectly suited to satisfy your hunger and your sweet tooth.

Colorfest not only offers families from around the East Coast to get out and have some fun, but it also allows them to tap into a piece of the local culture of the greater Catoctin area, which is a big reason why the event is an annual smash hit.

From stand to stand and person to person, there is a story to be told. Vendors may have gotten their starts in different ways, and may have vastly different industries, but everyone has one common goal in mind: to put on a great show for the community.

Though the streets are no longer be filled with fine arts and trademark foods until next year’s Colorfest, our local residents have the lasting keepsakes and memories from another successful Colorfest.

Scouts pose for a picture with Mayor John Kinnaird at their booth in front of the American Legion, selling popcorn, beef sticks, drinks, and candy bars to help support their camping adventures.


The folks from Mason Dixon Hydro Dipping show off their colorful, handcrafted tumblers.

The Catoctin Banner invites our area’s movers and shakers to help bring a new one-stop, comprehensive reference calendar of events to life. CatoctinEvents.com will be THE place online and in print to reference when seeking an accurate calendar of classes, programs, concerts, special events, hikes, festivals, sports, games, and activities.

In order to implement this in the most comprehensive manner, we are creating a volunteer brigade that will reach out to the many businesses, schools, non-profit groups, sports providers, and coordinators, who provide these opportunities. The volunteers will also work to keep the website up-to-date and visually pleasing.

There’s so much to do in, and around, the Catoctin area! We want everyone to be informed. This initiative will showcase these offerings.

Please call 301-271-1050 or email news@thecatoctinbanner.com for more information.