Service members in the Military District of Washington are being reminded that recreational swimming, diving and wading are prohibited in the Great Falls and gorge areas of the Potomac River.
The Potomac River Gorge is 14-mile stretch of the Potomac River extending from the Key Bridge in the District of Columbia north to the Great Falls of the Potomac.
The waters from the Sycamore Island area to Chain Bridge are prohibited to all swimmers, waders and cliff divers.
The cliffs surrounding the Potomac and dangerous currents and rapids are a danger to all who enter the water.
“The undertows in the water are dangerous around the Brookmont dam,” Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall Safety Officer Lenny Davis said. “They (the undertow and current) will suck you underneath, and it is pretty hard to recover. Swimming up in that area is off limits.”
Certain sections of the riverbank area are continuously patrolled by the National Park Service police while the United States Coast Guard air patrol watches the river from the air.
Entering the waters in the area can also result in fatalities. The JBM-HH Safety Office also noted fast-moving water through the rapids, debris and boulders create possible dangerous and fatal outcomes.
A directive against water activities in Great Falls was issued by the Military District of Washington in 1984. That year, seven Fort Myer Soldiers died due to water-related accidents in the falls area.
The same directive still stands today.
In June 2013, an Old Guard Soldier drowned in the Great Falls area.
According to Davis, the Washington Channel waters and the Anacostia River surrounding Fort McNair are also off-limits to service member swimmers.
The information on the off-limits area is being shared through a summer safety campaign targeted toward 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) Soldiers and Henderson Hall Marines and all Military District of Washington service members based or visiting the National Capital Region.
For additional information on summer safety, go to https://safety.army.mil/MEDIA/Seasonal-Safety-Campaigns/Summer-Safety-2019.
Pentagram Staff Writer Jim Dresbach can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.