Close this search box.

4 Best Places to Go Kayaking In and Near Washington, DC

best places to go kayaking

Exploring the great outdoors and finding new places to do your favorite activities is one of the best feelings in the world. Finally having some free time to yourself, like during a holiday or vacation, and using it to explore what you already enjoy only to make it better and more fun is how a lot of people do their hobbies. Numerous things can bring us down during a regular weekday, enough for the weekend to be able to make up for unless we do something that fulfills us.

For an increasing number of people, it is going back to nature and plugging out for a day or two that do the trick. The constant headaches caused by all the rush and responsibilities are best cured by rewinding, recharging, and resetting. And what better place to do so than outside right by some water surrounded by peace and quiet? Activities like hiking, climbing, trekking, and camping are all very beneficial to this. Fishing and hunting have their benefits as well if you are into them. However, something else is there that is more than enough on its own but that can also make these already established activities better.

That would be paddling, better known as kayaking. Utilizing a kayak and a paddle to navigate bodies of water is arguably the best way to relax and enjoy the scenery. The combination of relaxation that the water allows mixed with the feeling of being so far away from all the problems is often enough to make people addicted to kayaks. Then there is also the physical part of it all in more demanding and challenging waters like the whitewater rapids. This is much more difficult and requires other types of kayaks and a lot more experience.

Best Places to Do It

So where are the best places to go kayaking and how can one recognize them? In theory, one can paddle anywhere, from small streams and calm lakes to rivers, rapids, and the sea/ocean coasts. It is a very versatile activity that does not dictate many rules when the location is concerned.

Still, some places are better than others and oftentimes there are some true hidden gems in areas that do not immediately come to mind. For example, the capital of the USA, Washington DC, is known for so much due to its importance, reputation, and history. But did you know that it is also a great kayaking destination?

Kayaking is a very popular outdoor activity in and near Washington DC, which also comes as a surprise to many of the locals who never thought about their city in that way. The region’s many waterways like the Potomac River, Anacostia River, and Chesapeake Bay provide ample opportunities for paddling enthusiasts to enjoy the great outdoors. Kayaking is therefore not only viable but recommended in this region.

In recent years, there has been an increase in interest and participation in kayaking in the area. The city and its immediate surrounding areas have responded to this growing interest by improving access to waterways, creating new paddling trails, and hosting events and programs to promote many water sports and water-based activities. Outfitters and rental shops offer kayaking equipment for visitors and residents alike and there are guided tours and classes available for those looking to improve their skills and explore new waterways.

About the City

Washington DC

Before focusing strictly on kayaking, there are some things everyone needs to know about Washington DC (District of Columbia). The place is simply too important and diverse only to talk about it in kayaking terms. As you probably know, it is the capital city of the United States of America located on the east coast, between Maryland to the north and Virginia to the south. The city bears the name of the legendary, George Washington, the first President of the United States and the leader of the independence efforts against the British Empire. Often overlooked, it is also partially named in honor of Christopher Columbus, the Italian explorer who is credited with discovering America. Washington DC is not a state, but a federal district under the jurisdiction of the United States Congress.


The city was first established in 1790 as the capital city of the newly formed United States of America. The location of the city was chosen by President George Washington and the federal government who wanted a capital centrally located and easily accessible from all parts of the country. The city was designed by the French architect Pierre Charles L’Enfant, who created a plan that included broad avenues, large public squares, and important buildings such as the White House and the U.S. Capitol.

Throughout its history, Washington DC has been the site of many important events in American history. During the Civil War, the city was a major center of military operations and the site of many important battles. In 1865, President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated at Ford’s Theatre in Washington. In the 20th century, the city became a major political center and many important decisions that have shaped the course of American and world history have been made here.


Washington has a diverse population that makes it a very cosmopolitan city. People of many different races, ethnicities, religions, and backgrounds call it home. According to the US Census Bureau, the population of Washington DC was just under 700,000 in 2020. The racial and ethnic makeup of the city is quite diverse with 46.9% being African American, 42.2% being Caucasian, 11.2% Hispanic or Latino, 4.3% Asian, and 3.3% other. The median household income is $98,024, higher than the national average. However, the city also has a high poverty rate with 14.4% of the population living below the poverty line.


The US capita; is located on the east coast of the United States on the banks of the famous Potomac River. The city covers an area of 68.3 square miles (177.0 square kilometers) and is divided into four quadrants, Northwest, Northeast, Southwest, and Southeast. The city is known for its iconic landmarks and monuments that are some of the most famous and visited sights in the entire country. They include the White House, the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial, and the National Mall.

Washington has a humid subtropical climate with hot summers and mild winters. As such, it is a popular destination for those looking to settle with a family. The average temperature in July, the hottest month of the year, is around 89° F (32° C), while the average temperature in January, the coldest month, is only 42° F (6° C). The city receives an average of 39 inches (99 cm) of rainfall per year. All of these conditions combined with the average forecasts make it a very favorable kayaking region.

Kayaking and Canoeing in the Capital

kayaking in Washington

Thanks to its proximity to the sea and the ocean as well as the many rivers in its surroundings, Washington DC presents a prime kayaking destination for beginners and veterans. Paddling is a popular outdoor activity in and around Washington DC because the city and its surrounding areas offer many opportunities for fans and enthusiasts to explore waterways and enjoy the great outdoors. Kayaking is a great way to explore the natural beauty of the Washington DC area.

With its many rivers and waterways, the region offers many opportunities for paddlers of all skill levels to enjoy and get some exercise. Whether you are a seasoned paddler or a beginner, there are many options for you to choose from in and around the city. The most popular bodies of water are perfect for an afternoon paddle, both alone and in a group. They are all accessible with multiple launching points and different sections with varying conditions. No matter which you choose, a fun kayaking experience surely awaits.

Potomac River

The Potomac River runs through Washington DC and is the most popular destination for kayaking and other water activities. There are several access points along the river, the best being Georgetown and the Key Bridge Boathouse. The river offers both calm and rough waters making it suitable for all skill levels. Paddlers can enjoy scenic views of the city’s landmarks, such as the Kennedy Center and the Washington Monument, as they paddle downstream. Kayak fishing is big here but also other outdoor activities like hiking and camping. The banks of the river are simply gorgeous year-round.

Anacostia River

anacostia river kayaking

The Anacostia River is another popular paddling destination near Washington. The river flows through Maryland and the eastern part of the city and is known for its calm waters and scenery. Paddlers can launch from Bladensburg Waterfront Park and explore the river’s many coves and bays. The Anacostia River is also a great place to spot wildlife, such as bald eagles and ospreys. It is a fan-favorite for fishermen and hunters too, two activities that are easy to combine with kayaking. No matter what your ideal paddling session looks like, this beautiful waterway is a must-see.

Chesapeake Bay

The Chesapeake Bay is the largest estuary in the United States, which is basically all the information you need to realize its kayaking potential. Located only about an hour’s drive from Washington DC proper, it is a popular destination for recreation. The bay offers many opportunities for kayaking and other water activities with miles of scenic coastline to explore. Paddlers can launch from several locations including Annapolis and Chesapeake Beach. If you like to explore as you paddle in your trusty kayak, the bay’s many islands and bays will keep you occupied for hours. The bay is also a great place to spot wildlife like dolphins and blue herons.

Patuxent River

Patuxent River kayaking

The Patuxent River is located in Maryland. It is about an hour away from Washington DC and as such the perfect place for a day’s worth of recreation in and near the water. The river offers both calm and rough waters, which means it is suitable for all paddling skill levels. Jug Bay and Solomons Island are the best locations to launch and there are many inlets and bays worth exploring. The Patuxent River is also a great place to fish for bass and other game fish, which is of course best done straight from your kayak. Kayaking fishing culture is on the rise in the area so you will hardly be the only one interested in it.

Kayaking and Canoeing Events in Washington DC

Doing it on your own and being the one responsible for the organization is often the easiest and most straightforward way to organize a kayaking trip. You can go whenever, wherever, and bring whomever. Still, there are several special kayaking and canoeing events that take place in and around Washington DC throughout the year that you should really think about visiting.

Potomac River Watershed Cleanup

Watershed Cleanup

Every spring, the Alice Ferguson Foundation organizes the Potomac River Watershed Cleanup, one of the largest regional environmental cleanups in the entire country. Paddlers can come and join in the effort to remove trash and debris from the Potomac River and its tributaries by signing up for a cleanup event or organizing their own. It is often best done straight from the kayak so it can double as a paddling session too.

The Key Bridge Boathouse

Located in Georgetown, it offers a full moon paddle on the Potomac River during the summer months. Paddlers can enjoy a unique and peaceful experience as they paddle under the light of the full moon. If the night is clear, the stars are also very visible and it all makes up an amazing kayaking experience that does not come that often. It is definitely worth doing because nighttime kayaking is quite different than daytime.

The Anacostia River Festival

This is an annual event held in April that celebrates this great river and its surrounding communities. The festival includes a variety of activities like group kayaking on the river, live music, food vendors, and educational exhibits. It is a nice social event that the locals are proud of.

The Patuxent River Wade-In

This is an annual event in June that raises awareness about the importance of clean water and healthy ecosystems. Participants wade into the Patuxent River and test the water quality, while also enjoying paddling, fishing, and other activities. Such a feel-good occasion is bound to offer unforgettable socializing while paddling.

Related Articles