History, Vision, & Themes


The Great Falls of the Potomac River is, a beautiful natural wonder only 15 miles from the Washington, D.C. First held in 1988, the Great Falls Race is an annual extreme kayak race that draws spectators and media from around the region. The Potomac Festival has often accompanied the Great Falls Race, which has included events such as up-river (attainment) races, stand-up paddleboard races, community paddling events, and parties to celebrate the Nation’s River. Participants come from the Atlantic seaboard, around the United States, and from other countries.

Each year, a dedicated and capable group of local paddlers and outfitters has come together to plan, organize, sponsor, and manage an outstanding grassroots event. Over that same period, event management priorities, relations with the National Park Service and other regional authorities, and insurance requirements have evolved. So, while we recognize and applaud the efforts of past organizing committees, this new organization was catalyzed by the perceived need to offer a consistent organizational structure and to build on the dynamic community of paddlers who utilize and care for the Potomac River and its surrounding public lands. The Great Falls Foundation provides an enduring and stable platform to stage the annual Potomac Festival and Great Falls Race, as well as other events and activities.

The Foundation was established in November 2015, and received its charitable 501(c)(3) status from the IRS in January 2016.


  • To support advocates of access by demonstrating human-powered recreation as a fundamental purpose of, and facilitator of stewardship of our public lands.
  • To create a public / private alliance between the administrators of public lands (NPS, etc.), recreation groups, and corporate sponsors.
  • To generate stakeholders who value our parks and public spaces through the publicity generated by our events.
  • To protect, enable, and promote whitewater kayaking and other paddlesports competition of the highest caliber on Great Falls of the Potomac River and other world-class streams through stewardship, and cooperation with governing agencies and land-owner interests.
  • To support grassroots river races that showcase the natural wonders of whitewater rivers and the athletes and river ambassadors who organize events that bring positive exposure to our natural sources of recreation.
  • To preserve the right to organize and compete on healthy streams for future generations.
  • To celebrate, preserve, and fund public lands through world class sporting events which showcase our public spaces being enjoyed as originally intended.
  • To create and manage events that are the ultimate expression of the sports being displayed and the venue being utilized.


  • To expose new communities to the National Parks along the Potomac River and to other state and national parks.
  • To produce the annual Potomac Festival & Great Falls Race.
  • To produce other Potomac River-area competitions, such as:
    • Whitewater Races on the Little Falls section of the Potomac
    • Attainment Races through Mather Gorge
    • Canoe/Kayak Stakeout Races on Great Falls and other Potomac Whitewater
    • Standup Paddleboard Races on Widewater of the C&O Canal
    • Standup Paddleboard Competitions on Potomac Whitewater
    • Wildwater Races
    • Paddle/Bike/Run Triathlons & Biathlons
  • To facilitate and/or produce sporting events, competitions, and similar activities in other regions.
  • To organize and facilitate a Mid-Atlantic Race Series.
  • To cooperate with public authorities on issues related to the recreational use of natural resources, such as river safety, conservation, and stewardship.