Washington DC paddling

In August, I’ll be in the DC area and will have time to paddle. I’ve wanted to paddle on the Potomac from the Downtown area upstream to as far as I could go, before rocks and rapids prevent me from going further.

I found Jack’s Boat shop (underneath the Key Bridge) and for $10. I can put in there. Any other suggestions?


Jack’s will work
The guy who used to run Jacks, Frank, was a great friend to the Chesapeake Paddlers. They used to run a weekly trip out of Jacks on Thursdays, but for some reason they have not been since last fall. Maybe hard to get to during rush hour. Not sure what’s up there. But it is a nice spot to launch a kayak. Speaking of traffic, be aware some streets in the area turn one-way during rush hour.

Other spots: Fletcher’s boat house. Closer to your target of the base of Little Falls. Some kayakers can attain up around the rocky island. Might want to wear a helmet if you are going to try it. Nothing but jagged rocks under the water there. No fee. Very low entry tunnel. Accessed from a street that runs one way at rush hour. There is a rental concession there with a dock–don’t launch there.

Virginia: Gravely Point, just off the end of the runway at National Airport. Access from the northbound lane of the GW parkway, so a bit of a PIA to get to from DC (west really). Boat ramps and no fees, and there is a big parking area

Put in over the rip rap rock at Theodore Roosevelt Island, access from Westbound GW parkway. No fees, but launching can be a problem in low tides and you might bust your ass on the rip rap.

Back in DC:

Anacostia neighborhood Boathouse over by the Naval Yard. It’d be a long haul from there to Little Falls, you probably don’t want to paddle that far, hard to find, I’d give more dirs if you want to go there. Nice floating dock. No fee that I know of, but I just go launch and don’t ask–mainly a rowers place.

Thompson’s boat house, where Virginia Ave intersects Rock Creek Parkway, keep going on Virginia Ave into a little stub end street and lot. I drive further and get my boat closer, then come back and park in the little lot. This is near the Kennedy Center. Sometimes they ask me to pay, I don’t recall how much, but often I can’t find anybody to pay. Lots of rowers here so very nice floating dock.


Thanks Chip
Probably stick with Jack’s. Everytime I’m on the GW Parkway, I crane my neck looking down at the river. Always looks nice! I’ll be a week in the area visiting and celebrating my grand daughters first birthday. I don’t plan on being dragged into going shopping.

Yup, plus …

– Last Updated: Jul-19-10 8:57 PM EST –

Jack's is one place to launch from. Just 3 minutes up from there (by car) is Fletcher's Cove. Free and free parking, unlike Jack's.

From Fletcher's it is about 2 easy miles (or so) up a very slow moving river until you get to Chain Bridge. Then there are a few hundred yards with easy Class I water (when below 3.5 feet on the gauge at least) that lead to Little Falls. Can't go up any further without a portage at the falls.

If you really want to play in some nice easy Class I-II and why not III rapids, you can launch (free) from the Angler's Inn put-in. The gorge above the put-in is very nice and an easy paddle even if the short rapids give you trouble, there is an easy portage around them (30 feet or so). But if you are comfortable in easy Class II WW, you can without much trouble paddle-up and you can go as high as just below the observations decks on the Great Falls. Depending on river level of course, but when it is between 2.8 and 3.5 feet (approx) on the Little Falls gauge, I can attain without protage to above the Fish Ladder in my sea kayak - can see all three O-decks from there. Going back down is quite easy but of course requries attention as you can pin yourself on some rocks if not careful - but there are easily negotiatable wide channels to go through and if you know your way you will not even put a scratch on the boat (but almost certainly will on the paddle blades).

If you want to go even higher, to the bottom of the O-deck, there is a 10 yards easy portage that a more skillful kayaker may be able to attain but I have not tried yet - looks like the current is too strong for me but it looks just barely out of reach so I might try it one of these days ...

Lastly, you can join us, the Pirates of Georgetown (not that scary a crowd really) on Thursday evenings. We usually launch from Columbia Island marina and either go downriver for some boat wake excitement, if we are lucky, or paddle up towards Chain Bridge for a really pretty much 100% totally flat water experience (seldom get all the way there from the marina though). Do check with the CPAKayaker.com web site first to make sure we did not decide that particular week to use an alternate launch such as Gravely point.

As Chip said, for some reason we stopped launching from Jack's after they raised their fees (used to be $3 for CPA-yers) - $10 is a little steep provided equivalent or better put-ins within minutes from there for free... There is still a group that has worked out some deal with Jack's establishment that goes out on Wednesdays if I'm not mistaken - check the Meetup group for this - Kingsley is the guy who is/used to organize these outings and they are still going on as far as I know.

If you'r looking for a company - post on the Events or General forum at cpakayaker.com - someone will suerly be paddling in the DC area...

I’ll be bringing my 18 foot Artisan Millenium, so rapids and rocks are not compatible.

What I was thinking about doing was paddle upstream as far as I could go, then back down towards TR Island, I’d like to paddle into the Tidal Basin (can I?). And then back to the putin. Looks to be around a 12 mile paddle in total. I suspect that I will start in the morning and finish shortly after noon.


Tidal basin = no
The basin is closed-off for all but the pleasure boats (foot-pedal driven) that are for rent at the basin.

There are rocks under water on both sides of the river and larger above-water rocky silands in the middle. Wide channels around them. The right side of the river (facing downriver) has fewer rocks but also most rowing racing boats go there. The river is wide enough so you should have no problem navigating rock-free.

Rosevelt Island to Chain Bridge should be indeed about a 10-12 miles round trip. The current is mild most of the way (under 1pmh) except it picks-up near Chain bridge - below the bridge you can still easily outpaddle it upriver even at relatively high water levels but above the bridge, you would need to hug the shore and use the eddies, so hitting a rock there is a possibility if you want to go much above Chain Bridge to the Little Falls.