The West Virginia. Cyclopedia

Potomac River

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The Potomac River has its head at Fairfax Stone, which the extreme southwestern corner of Maryland and which marks the point from which the western boundary of Maryland was surveyed. It follows in a northeasterly direction for a distance of about 100 miles until it join the South Branch. The South Branch rises in Highland County, Virginia, and flows northeastward for a distance of 200 miles to its junction with the North Branch near Green Spring, WV, in Hampshire County. At that point the Potomac flows eastward and then southeastwardly for a distance of about 100 miles to Harpers Ferry, WV, and from there flows southeasterly into the Chesapeake Bay south of Point Lookout, in Virginia.

The drainage area of the Potomac River is about 14,500 square miles, of which 3,480 square miles, or 24 per cent, are in West Virginia.


Topo Map (Head)
Topo Map (Mouth)


The most important tributaries of the North Branch and the main stream in West Virginia are Patterson Creek, Little Cacapon River, Cacapon River, Back Creek, Opequon Creek and Shenandoah River; only the lower 19 miles of the Shenahdoah are in West Virginia. The more important tributaries of the South Branch of the Potomac River are North Fork South Branch Potomac River, Luray Creek, and Moorefield River.

Name Origin

Some sources claim the origin of the name, Potomac, is from the name given the river by a (unidentified) Native American tribe, that means "burning pines."

Variant Names

Cheneoow-quoquey, Co-hon-go-roo-ta River, Co-hon-go-ru-ta River, Cohongaroota River, Cohongoluta River, Cohongoronta River, Cohongoronto River, Cohongoroota River, Cohongorooto River, Cohongoruton River, Elisabeth River, Elizabeth River, Kahongoronton River, Maryland River, Pataromerke River, Patawmack River, Patawomeck River, Patawomecke River, Patawomek River, Patawomeke River, Patomack River, Patomacke River, Patomak River, Patomake River, Patomeck River, Patomecke River, Patomeke River, Patoumak River, Patowmack River, Patowmacke River, Patowmec River, Patowmeck Flu, Patowmeck River, Patowomeck River, Patowomek River, Pawtomack River, Pokomoach River, Potamack River, Potamak River, Potawmack River, Potomack River, Potomacke River, Potomak River, Potomeack River, Potomock River, Potomoke River, Potomuck River, Potomucke River, Potowmac River, Potowmack River, Potowmak River, Potowomek River, Pottomock River, Powtowmac River, Powtowmack River, Quattaro, Qui-o-riough River, Quiriough River, River Potowmack, Riviere de Coturki, Saint Gregories River, Saint Gregory River, San Pedro River, Satawomeck, Turkey Bussard River, Wappacomma River