Kayaking In Dc

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Is DC a good place to go kayaking?

What makes kayaking in DC a popular activity?

Are there options for all skill levels in DC?

Kayaking is a popular activity for locals who live in DC and the surrounding areas. Tourists may be less likely to go out of their way to kayak in DC, but it nevertheless does draw some tourists interested in the area, too.

If you’re looking for a good place to test or improve your kayaking skills, DC is a great choice for you. There are options for just about any skill level among the bodies of water in the DC area, so you can find all sorts of challenges or simple, easygoing paddles, depending on what you’re looking for.

In this article, we’ll introduce you to five of our favorite places to go kayaking in the DC area. You’ll be able to find the right fit based on the skill level, the pros and cons of each one, and even the cost or length of time you’ll spend on the water.

Take your time and check out the list below to help you plan your next kayaking excursion. With a little information to help back you up, you should have no trouble finding the best destination for your next trip.

Option #1. Potomac River

Difficulty: Easy to Experienced
Cost: $$
Location: Washington, DC
Recommended Duration: Full-Day

The Potomac River is a large body of water which offers many different opportunities for paddlers of different skill levels. Although there are some easier floats on this river, most of the water is intermediate to advanced in terms of skill level.

Pros

  • Tours may traverse historical sites as well as other unique and interesting landmarks in the area.
  • Although trips are available in any length, full-day options are common and provide the best view of the area.

Cons

  • Boat traffic may cause a lot of waves on the Potomac.
  • Weather can and often does cancel these trips.

Option #2. Anacostia River

Difficulty: Easy
Cost: $$
Location: Washington, DC
Recommended Duration:

The Anacostia River is a gentle body of water that allows for simple, serene paddling and plenty of scenery viewing and sightseeing along the way. There are plenty of places on-site and nearby from which to rent kayaks as well as stand-up paddle boards and canoes, and there are a lot of put-in points available on the river, too.

Pros

  • During the summer, free kayaking tours of the Anacostia River are offered by the Anacostia Watershed Society.
  • Paid nighttime tours are also available.

Cons

  • Free tours may fill up fast.
  • This body of water may not be as interesting to experienced kayakers as some others in DC.

Option #3. Great Falls

Difficulty: Experienced
Cost: $$
Location: Washington, DC
Recommended Duration: Half-Day

Great Falls is an excellent place for experienced paddlers to test their kayaking skills. This body of water features rapids that are at least Class V in most instances, with some topping this designation. Many of the rapids are actual waterfalls that may pose incredibly difficult challenges that should not be attempted by any but the most experienced paddlers. Even those who know what they’re doing are prone to tipping over and capsizing often on this body of water.

Pros

  • This choice is one of the most popular, well-known, and beloved challenges among advanced kayakers, and it has been for decades.
  • The Falls are patrolled by helicopters, so kayakers in distress can easily signal for help if needed.

Cons

  • The very first rapid on this run is a Class V, and it may cause kayakers to wipe out more easily than expected.
  • Despite its difficulty, Great Falls may be crowded.

Option #4. Rock Creek

Difficulty: Intermediate
Cost: $$
Location: Northwest Washington, DC
Recommended Duration: Half-Day

Those who have had quite a bit of prior kayaking experience will enjoy the rougher waters of Rock Creek. Located in Rock Creek Park, this body of water offers more rapids and challenging twists and turns than many of the other locations in the DC area. It’s especially nice to visit after a heavy rainfall, when the water levels are higher and the rapids are at their best. However, many paddlers enjoy coming to this location all year round to see the beauty of nature and experience the exhilaration of paddling down this fast-moving current.

Pros

  • Rentals of various watercraft, including kayaks, are available on-site at Rock Creek Park and tend to cost less than rentals from some of the other locations throughout DC.
  • Other activities are available at the park, including horseback riding, tennis, and more.

Cons

  • At certain times of the year, areas of the park as well as access roads throughout the park may be closed to access due to weather issues.
  • If the water levels get very low on Rock Creek, it is not safe or advisable to kayak on this body of water.

Option #5. National Harbor

Difficulty: Easy
Cost: $$
Location: Oxon Hill, Maryland
Recommended Duration: Half-Day

Located near the Potomac River, National Harbor provides a chance for beginners and more experienced paddlers alike to enjoy their time out on the water. Tourists may enjoy this somewhat lesser-known kayaking location, while locals will love the seasonal kayaking passes available from some of the more well-known rental boathouses on the Harbor. Classes are also available on the Harbor to help new paddlers learn the basics of kayaking and to keep them safer when they venture into more complicated bodies of water, too.

Pros

  • The Harbor doesn’t get too much boat traffic, so even when it’s crowded with paddlers, the wind and waves shouldn’t be too impossible for beginners to manage.
  • There are guided tours and self-guided rental options available for all sorts of different experiences on this body of water.

Cons

  • Depending on the time of the year, the water may be very cold, and it could be difficult for some beginners to kayak here.
  • The Harbor may not offer as much sightseeing as some of the other locations available for touring in the DC area.

Conclusion

What’s the best time of year to go kayaking in DC? The waters can get cold in this area, so it’s a good idea to avoid the harsher winter months and stick to spring, summer, and fall. Crowds may be extreme during the fall, however, since so many people will be going out of their way to see the fall foliage in New England. If you’re looking for scenery and sightseeing, visit during the fall, but keep in mind that you’ll be sharing the water more often than not when you plan your kayaking trip during this time of the year.

What about going during the off-season? Is this a better choice? If you go during spring or early summer, you may have fewer crowds to worry about. At this time of the year, lodging and other local costs may be a bit lower because of the lower crowds, as well. However, if you go during a part of the year when the weather is very cold, the water might be too cold for you to enjoy a casual kayaking experience. In this situation, it’s best to be prepared with a wetsuit and other clothing intended for cold-weather kayaking.

No matter when you choose to go, you’ll be rewarded with an excellent experience if you go kayaking in DC!

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