Construction barges break loose, float down Potomac River near Harpers Ferry

A barge carrying construction equipment is seen floating in the high waters of the Potomac River in West Virginia.

A barge carrying construction equipment is seen floating in the high waters of the Potomac River in West Virginia.

A barge carrying construction equipment is seen floating in the high waters of the Potomac River in West Virginia.

A barge carrying construction equipment is seen floating in the high waters of the Potomac River in West Virginia.

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Two construction barges carrying a Caterpillar excavator and other equipment broke loose and floated down the Potomac River on Sunday afternoon, heading toward Harpers Ferry, West Virginia.

The Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office in Virginia said one of the barges got stuck just before Harpers Ferry, alleviating some concern that it could impact area bridges. The sheriff’s office said the bridges between Loudoun County and Maryland remain open.

Jessica Stover, who posted pictures and video of that barge to Facebook, said it got hung up in Bakerton, near Harpers Ferry, just before 5 p.m.

The other barge got caught below Dam 4, near the National Conservation Training Center in Shepherdstown, West Virginia, according to the National Park Service. NPS said one of the barges broke loose Saturday evening and the other became loose Sunday afternoon before they both started floating downriver.

Early Sunday afternoon, Daryl Hockman posted video that showed both barges floating in the river near Shepherdstown.

Water levels are higher than usual in the Potomac after a weekend of persistent rain that soaked the D.C. region.

The park service said the pedestrian bridge at Harpers Ferry National Historical Park is cleared and locked on both sides, pending lower water levels. Visitors to the park can check its website for the status of the bridge.

Stover said there was a big crowd along the river before Harpers Ferry trying to get a look at the barge.

“There were police on the other side of the river, kind of following it and keeping an eye on it, and I know that they were concerned about the bridges down river,” Stover told WTOP.

Thomas Robertson

Thomas Robertson is an Associate Producer and Web Writer/Editor at WTOP. After graduating in 2019 from James Madison University, Thomas moved away from Virginia for the first time in his life to cover the local government beat for a small daily newspaper in Zanesville, Ohio.

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