Explore Washington DC While Kayaking the Potomac River

on July 5, 2013

For a different kind of sightseeing, why not explore Washington, DC from a kayak? There are plenty of waterways both in the city and nearby, offering everything form beginner’s guided tours, to intense white-water adventures.

Kayaking is a popular activity in the Washington area, including on the Potomac River, its tributaries, and the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal (C & O Canal).

Known as “The Nation’s River,” the Potomac river runs through the nation’s capital (and is an area rich with American history). Seeing DC by kayak offers some great views of the city and monuments.

photo of Thomas Jefferson MemorialThomas Jefferson Memorial (photo by Wally Gobetz)

Check out these places to find out more about kayaking in Washington, DC:


Atlantic Kayak has guided tours of monuments and bridges in DC, an nature tours of Piscataway Marsh and Piscataway Bay.

The Key Bridge Boathouse is located near the historic Francis Scott Key Bridge (completed in 1923, it’s the oldest surviving bridge across the Potomac in the DC area).

Potomac Paddle Sports has everything from guided beginner tour packages (including a night tour and a DC monument tour) to white-water kayaking lessons. Available from various different locations.

River and Trail Outfitters runs a variety of rentals and tours (rafting, tubing, hiking, biking and cross-country skiing), and even a Wine Tasting Kayak Adventure.


Belle Haven Marina Explore the Dyke Marsh Wildlife Preserve. There are also sail boat rentals and sailing lessons.

The Boathouse at Fletcher’s Cove rents kayaks as other boats as well as offering fishing licenses and bait.

Thompson Boat Center kayak and other boats as well as bicycle rentals.


Active Nature founder Jason Beakes was a member of the US Kayak Team for 8 years. Active Nature provides classes in kayaking and other paddling sports.

Liquid Adventures Kayak School offers lessons for the most challenging parts of the Potomac (below the Great Falls).

Potomac Kayaking Company offers kayak lessons, including sea and whitewater.


The Blue Ridge Voyageurs is a group of experienced whitewater paddlers, offering trips around the Washington, DC region at various skill levels, but mostly geared for intermediate to advanced levels.

Always keep safety in mind: wear a life jacket, stay with your group. The river does see high waters sometimes (after heavy rains further west), so it’s always a good idea to Check the Potomac River Forecast when planning your day. Also, there are some dangerous white-water areas on the river between Great Falls and Chain Bridge, better left to only the most experienced kayakers.

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