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THE MOST BEAUTIFUL PLACES TO KAYAK IN AND AROUND DC

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MEGHAN BARTLETT

JUL 14, 2020

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IMAGE VIA GATHERINGGREEN.COM

No doubt about it, kayaking is one of the best ways to explore DC. It’s a heck of a workout too.

Maybe you’re an experienced kayaker looking for a challenge. Or a new paddler looking to hit the water. Either way, DC has a host of adventures waiting for you, from the placid Potomac to the white water rapids at Great Falls. Just don’t be surprised if you discover sore muscles the next day you didn’t even know existed. And don’t say we didn’t warn you!

Grab your water shoes and bathing suit and head to Thompson Boat Center, where you can rent kayaks by the hour. They take kayakers on plenty of different spots along the easy-flowing Potomac river, but probably one of the most epic is the Washington Sailing Marina. Here, you’ll get an epic view of the Washington, DC skyline, and if you need a rest, take a break from paddling to watch the planes land at Dulles International Airport. After working up an appetite, dry yourself off and head to one of the restaurants right on the waterfront to refuel.

Formerly known as Jack’s Boathouse, the Key Bridge Boathouse launches kayakers from the other side of the Georgetown Waterfront Park. Put your kayak in in the evening and catch the sunset, as the sun slants over Key Bridge and illuminates the rippling water. The gently rocking kayak is the perfect place to bask in the last rays of a warm summer night.

Like it sounds, this boathouse offers a more quiet, secluded passage along DC’s mild Chesapeake and Ohio (C&O) Canal. Here, you can escape the hubbub in DC as you drift down the narrow, winding riverway and under the gently hanging trees. If that doesn’t already sound idyllic, the people are really nice too. Fitt tip: It’s undeniably beautiful… when the C&O isn’t drained — be sure to check the conditions for summer 2017.

Need more of a push? Anacostia has FREE nighttime kayaking throughout the summer. You can’t go wrong when it’s free, right? (We know what you’re thinking, and yes, they’re still nice kayaks.) Enjoy some introductory paddling and maneuvering instruction and then paddle out from either the Anacostia Community Boathouse in DC or Bladensburg Waterfront Park in Maryland to explore the river in the warm summer evening. But be sure to visit the Anacostia Watershed Society site for details on days, times, and locations.

Rent a kayak and explore National Harbor by water. If you’re an independent paddler, cool – they rent kayaks by the hour. If you’re looking for a guide around the harbor, their evening tours will take you past the National Harbor, Alexandria Waterfront, and Wilson Bridge, all lit up in the twilight. So if the kayaking doesn’t take your breath away, these sites sure will!

Okay, maybe you’re more of a kayaking guru and the idea of the calm Potomac is about as exciting to you as sitting in DC traffic. If that’s the case, grab your kayak and drive to Rock Creek Park. After rain, and especially in the early Spring, this river offers a stronger current to get your heart pumping and arms working. Jump in by Military Road, and get ready to navigate the narrow, winding river, protruding rocks, and fast-flowing waters.

Calling all kayak experts! Great Falls Park, about a 45-minute drive from DC, offers white water kayaking ranging from Class 2 (relatively easy) to Class 6 (hold onto your butt extreme). For you kayak aficionados, this is your chance to show off your skills. Keep in mind though, all kayaking here is at your own risk, so that helmet is essential. Load up your kayak, and don’t forget to pack a lunch to eat at the park, as you head out to master these killer rapids.

Hooked on kayaking? Take your paddling to the next level with classes at Valley Mills Kayak on the Potomac River. The school is a 45-minute drive from downtown DC in Germantown, but we promise it’s worth it. Classes are centered around the methods of Olympian and World Champion Eric Jackson — so you know they work. Whether a newbie or advanced, you’re sure to learn new skills to up your game!

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