Great Falls at the C&O Canal and the 5 Year Old Photographer

By June 17, 2013Travel

I received a Blackberry Z10 phone and service to use for three months from Verizon Wireless as a Verizon Voices Ambassador. This post reflects my personal experience with the phone and my honest impressions. I am not further compensated for this post. I just love telling you about stuff that can rock your technology world!

Do your kids love to take terrible pictures?  Do they take your camera or your phone and try to snap away only to produce blurry or cut off pictures that could never make the family album?  If so you are probably never in pictures unless a stranger volunteers to help out, because you are taking the pictures.

We just returned from Washington, D.C. and my 5 year old son Miles rocked the camera on the Blackberry Z10.  All I can say is that testing phones is one of my favorite things to do and this Blackberry and its camera just blew me away. You can take a picture just by tapping anywhere on the screen or pushing an easy to reach button on the side of the phone.  It shows a green circle when the photo is in focus.  It even has an incredible feature called Time Shift that takes a rapid succession of photographs and then lets you roll forward or backward to choose the best face and leave the rest of the image untouched.  It is fantastic for taking pictures of people…especially kids.

My 5 year old son Miles took hundreds of gorgeous photos all over and around the city and for the first time, I am actually in some!  Now he knows how it feels to be me though.  We are missing his gorgeous grin!

I am going to tell you about how much we love Great Falls and give you photos provided by my little man!

Family Pic Great Falls

We go to Great Falls on the Maryland side every year and it is one of our favorite places to explore.  Officially it is called the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park.  It is perfect for families with kids of any age and for the handicapped as the trail to the falls overlook is a boardwalk with handicap ramps.

At the park you can find hiking trails, advanced kayaking spots, perfect rocks for scrambling, bike trails, a museum, a canal boat ride and views that will blow your mind.  You can hear the falls rushing all around you and it is almost unbelievable that you are less than 30 minutes from Washington, D.C.

Great Falls from the Rocks

As you enter the park you will find the Great Falls Tavern Visitors Center.  You can buy boat tickets here and learn more about the C&O canal and all it has to offer.  Miles wanted a photo but got way too close and learned that you can only zoom out so far while you are only feet away.  But hey, even very close the camera still provided him with a small circle that turns green when it is in focus so he knows when to click!  Even in this shot you can see how lovely the old building is.

at Falls Tavern at Falls Tavern Visitor CenterVisitor Center

We did not ride the boat because the kids were way to excited to start our rock scrambling, but we will one day!  Great Falls boat rides are $8.00 for adults (ages 16-61), $6.00 for seniors (ages 62 +), and $5.00 for children (ages 4-15). Children aged three and under ride free.  The people working at this park are in historical dress and explain how the canal worked so many years ago.  This is the site of the canal that brought goods like coal, lumber and agricultural products down the Potomac and to market for more than 100 years!  You can see how the gates work and marvel at how people harnessed the great power of water.

Great Falls Canal Boat

The kids were fascinated by the gates that let water push the boats along the canal.  Miles got artsy and close with this one, but look what a great job the camera does with the water!

Canal Gates

With small children, as you walk past the boat, take the time to talk about safety, especially if you plan to climb down onto the rocks.  These rapids are fast and there are signs posted to let you know what to do if you do fall in.  People have died here, and while we were not kayaking in those difficult rapids, we did want the kids to be aware of the old saying “slippery when wet”.  Be sure to wear good shoes for the rocks and keep kids near you!

Of course every little photographer must take a picture of his climbing shoes and shadow!  When I talked about safety, Miles shot a picture of his shoes.  Closed toed, rubber bottomed and neon green baby!

Miles' Shoes

All long the main path to the entrance to the Olmsted Island Boardwalk trail there are spots to climb down and explore the rocks.  Have a grown up go ahead to check for dry areas and good solid rocks and ground and then explore!  There are so many awesome trails here ranging from easy to very strenuous.  You can check out the Great Falls trail descriptions.  The actual Olmsted Island Bridges trail is completely handicap accessible and only .2 miles so even the youngest legs can make it.  At the end you will find one of the BEST views of Great Falls.

This is a picture I took last year of the boardwalk trail and the ramps that allow anyone to see the island.

Great Falls Ramp Boardwalk

We scrambled to the top of a rock pile as a family and let Miles snap all of our pics!  The Blackberry Z10 has multiple camera settings so you can take more panoramic photos by using the 16:9 aspect ratio or the traditional 4:3.  We climbed to the top for the views.

Ross and Sophia Great Falls

We found some cool rock formations to play on and in!

Mom and Sophia

We climbed to the bottom for some fun exploring the river beds.

River Bed Great Falls

We even got a picture of Ross and me together without the kids that doesn’t suck.  That is like unheard of!

Ross and Brittany

You can see here at the top right the bridge leading to Olmsted Island  and the phenomenal overlook.  We scrambled to a place where you can see how fast these rapids run!  We were here the day after a large storm that swept through the area and the waters were running very high.  Usually you can see a lot more of the bedrock and dramatic water patterns created by the riverbed of rocks.

Great Falls

When you reach the end of the Olmsted Bridge Trail there is a gorgeous overlook of the falls with a fun giant rock to climb and little nooks that are perfect for picture taking!  Miles took some great shots here and I love to see what he finds interesting. Putting me in the nook was his top priority!

Top of Great Falls

Of course, I can’t write this whole post and rave about Miles and the new love of photography he has without snapping a picture of my little guy! He hated to give me the phone but I’m so glad I caught his gorgeous smile.  Great falls is perfect for photographers of all ages.

Miles at Great Falls

Going to Great Falls is on our must do list with kids around D.C.  It is close, it has activities for all ages in the great outdoors and it is like a living part of history.  Whether you are are a kid who loves rocks and waterfalls, a photographer, a naturalist, a historian or an adventure seeker, Great Falls has something for you!

Just don’t forget your camera!

I did want to show you one photo from this trip and one from our last trip at the top of the overlook taken with my DSLR.  I would not let Miles take a picture this close to the edge, and it is much more dramatic when the water levels are lower.  So, here we are this year at the overlook on Olmsted Island.

Olmsted Island Overlook

And here is the quite majestic view with a bit less water.  Wow!  Now you can see the rocks!

Olmsted Overlook

If you are in the area, do not miss a trip to Great Falls.

And if you are looking for a really easy and fun camera on a phone, look no further than the Blackberry Z10.  Miles has been snapping pictures for days now and we are all loving every minute of it!

This pretty much sums up how we feel about the destination and all the pictures.

Ross Winning


Disclosure: I am a Verizon Voices Ambassador and received a phone to review and 3 months of service.  All opinions are my own and all photos except the 2 mentioned were taken by a 5 year old with the Blackberry Z10.

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