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Great Falls Park

Great Falls Park stretches almost 2 miles along the Virginia side of the Potomac River in Fairfax County, providing trails and overlooks from which to view the waterfalls. Today, the waterfalls are admired for their natural beauty and power, but in the mid 1700's they were an obstruction to navigation on the Potomac River. By 1802, the Patowmack Canal was completed allowing navigation for over 200 miles linking the eastern seaboard with land being settled in the Ohio valley.

In the early 1900's, an amusement park was built on the land surrounding the falls. Travelers rode on a trolley from Georgetown in Washington, D.C., to the park to see the spectacular waterfalls. Included in the park were overlook decks, an observation tower, a dance pavilion, a wooden carousel, a lovers lane, a restaurant and an inn. After the invention of the automobile and several floods which severely damaged the park, the amusement park was closed.

Later, the land was bought by the Potomac Edison Power Company (PEPCO) with plans to construct a hydroelectric dam. Due to the hydrology and geology of the area, the site was determined to be unfit for hydroelectric development. Fairfax County Park Authority leased the land and continued operating as a park, allowing the public to visit. In 1968, the visitor center was built.

In following years, 15 miles of trails were constructed. The National Park Service now administers Great Falls Park preserving and protecting the resources and providing for recreation and enjoyment of the park. Numerous recreational activities as bird watching, climbing, cross-country skiing, fishing, hiking, horseback riding, kayaking, nature walks, and whitewater rafting are offered.

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Additional Photos by Betty Jones (BWJ) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Note Writer [C: 473 W: 0 N: 919] (3094)
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