Pimmit Run Paddling Report
- Jim Egenrieder, Adventure Sports of Arlington

Fellow Arlingtonian Doug Smith and I ran most of Pimmit Run’s canoeable portion on Saturday, May 26.I had hiked along this stream for the last 12 years and wondered about running it in a boat every time, and then a brief MCC Paddle Praddle exchange with Ed Evangelidi in March convinced me to get ready for the next opportunity.

We put in at Pimmit Bend Park (near Brookhaven and Chesterbrook Estates at 38o55’56”77o09’46” ) just below a huge log jam.Doug paddled an EZ and I paddled an X-boat, but I wished I had gone smaller.There are many opportunities for splats, splat-wheels and mini-boofs.

Like Four Mile Run in Arlington and Rock Creek in the District, this is really only runnable within an hour or so of good rain, except that Pimmit Run is less polluted. (It drains McLean, which is generally industry-free but has lots of well-manicured lawns subject to pesticide and fertilizer abuse.) Pimmit Run is the only Arlington stream in which my students and I can regularly find fish (spotfin shiners, killifish, eels, suckers, sunfish, redfin shiners, dace and others).Scenery is good to very good – mostly parkland and wooded, but occasional well-maintained homes and mansions in some sections.  It has the second highest rating for Riparian buffers in Fairfax County (see http://www.tjhsst.edu/~kkeranen/ffcws99/trees.html) and it has the highest water quality of any Arlington County stream.  With Fort Marcy along the trip, you can imagine there was a lot of colonial history and Civil War activity all along the stream, if you’re moved by visions of such things. Samuel Adams had several grist mills along its banks, and you all may remember the recent Clinton Administration stories there.   Click on “History” in the frame to the left for info provided by Pimmit Run Research.

Ed Gertler rates this Class II/III, which seems accurate, although there were many strainers and pinning opportunities that could be troubling-to-lethal for un-shepherded novices. There was one deadly low-water bridge in Chesterbrook Estates (probably lethal at ALL levels), and then there is a lethal drop if you venture below the Glebe Road/Chain Bridge intersection. The gradient is 160 feet over 3.5 miles, with the Arlington section above Glebe Road dropping 50 feet over just 0.5 miles.The section from Glebe Road drops another 50 feet over 300 yards.Send me a report if you survive it!  Check the stream map and profile link on the left frame.

I’m trying to figure out a way to predict when Pimmit Run is runnable.We could probably use some combination of rainfall that week (saturation) and then rainfall within the last 12 hours.We put in at 12:15pm and probably missed the best water by just one hour.The heaviest rain slowed to drizzle between 10:15 and 10:45.Doug found several spots deep enough for cartwheels but they were few and far between toward the end of the run.Muddy puddles and ponds adjacent to the stream suggested the water had been as much as 18–24 inches higher that morning.Any wisdom from you folks would be welcomed – maybe you know of nearby streams of similar watersheds that have gauges.

Trails follow most of Pimmit Run except for the portion through the humongous houses downstream of Kirby Road.(There were some wonderful, more-modest homes with streamside locations only a real-estate agent would know were there.)The Potomac Heritage Trail follows the Arlington portion from Chain Bridge to Fort Marcy (see http://www.deepwater.org/trails), and there is also a steep road (bike route) straight up the hill from Chain Bridge and a walking path into Arlingwood that allows for a no-shuttle run through the best gradient.

The run was certainly fun enough to do again, and particularly wonderful for paddling inside the beltway.The dangers change with water level, and the stream is VERY winding, so pay attention.The only thing I didn’t like about the run was Doug whining about the scrapes on his new Wavesport EZ.River trash quality was excellent – a football, soccer balls, and even a 1/3 scale kids’ lawn tractor!

The best part of going to paddle Pimmit Run is that if it’s too low, you’re only one-two miles from the second-largest rapids on the Potomac (Little Falls in Arlington), which are runnable at even record low summer levels.

Let me know if you want to go next time – jim@deepwater.org .