Since 1956, Valley Mill Kayak School has trained countless kayakers, including the first kayaking recipients of Olympic medals, on the deep waters of the Potomac River. A former Olympian and four-time freestyle-kayaking world champion, Eric Jackson personally designs the school's lesson plans around modern whitewater-paddling techniques. Eric trains each of the school's American Canoe Association–certified instructors, who, in turn, dispense their knowledge to beginners and proficient paddlers alike.
Through a wealth of small classes, private lessons, and occasional clinics taught by Eric himself, pupils discover such skills as paddling and basic strokes, or attempting to work your kayak into rhythmic-gymnastics routines.
At Potomac Paddlesports, the first professional kayak school to be endorsed by the American Canoe Association, the team of American Canoe Association– and British Canoe Union–certified instructors patiently lead students through a methodical progression of flat-water paddling skills. The classes cover a variety of watersports, including whitewater rafting, river and sea kayaking, and standup paddling. The small-group classes are designed to keep students engaged, and longer trips down the Potomac challenge their skills with powerful rapids surrounded by lush scenery, interspersed with rare glimpses of bears putting on their bear suits. Outside of class, students can bond with fellow paddlers during weekly sushi meals and occasional movie nights. Further demonstrating their dedication to bodies of water, Potomac Paddlesports works to preserve the nation’s rivers, estuaries, and oceans, sharing this passion with its members through advocacy and donations to conservation programs.
There's a Virginia outdoorsman who's been called the "Penguin" for most of his life, due to his short, stocky stature. Rather than let that nickname defeat him, he used it as the inspiration for his touring and rental company, Penguin Paddling LLC. Today, when he isn't fighting fires or working as a paramedic, The Penguin leads guests out onto the water for adventures via kayak and stand-up paddleboard, going all the places that motor-powered craft cannot.
Some tours send guests down the Potomac River and along the DC waterfront, passing sites such as historic Georgetown, the Lincoln Memorial, and the Kennedy Center. Alternatively, trips down the protected Neabsco Creek may bring paddlers face-to-face with native wildlife or vigilante hero, Kayak Cop. This secluded waterway is also the setting for the company's fishing trips and on-water yoga classes. In addition to tours, Penguin Paddling LLC provides half- and full-day rentals from its facility at Hampton?s Landing Marina, which lies adjacent to several national and state-protected wilderness areas.
Staff Size: 2?4 people
Average Duration of Services: 3?4 hours
Pro Tip: Come ready for adventure and fun. Make sure you bring clothes that you don't mind getting wet.
Handicap Accessible: Yes
Parking: Parking lot
Most Popular Attraction/Offering: River Tours
Recommended Age Group: All Ages
With a name that means "where the paths cross," it's no surprise that Calleva is dedicated to bringing people of all ages and from all walks of life together to appreciate the outdoors. The certified MAEOE environmental center helps its guests dive into the heart of the wilderness right outside D.C. and raise awareness about its delicate ecosystems. In doing so, it encourages others to cooperate and take risks while stepping out of their comfort zones, like baby birds leaving the nest to start their own nest-building business.
To facilitate these efforts, a team of ACA-certified guides helms seasonal outdoor-adventure and educational programs. In warm weather, activities might include kayaking and canoeing down winding stretches of the Potomac River or paddling to a private island filled with ropes-challenge courses and other obstacles. Fishing and ecological-study programs present even more varied ways to explore the water. Other adventures include the year-round, such as backpacking; the cold weather, such as caving; and the whimsical, such as the annual haunted forest where ghosts and ghouls mingle under a zip-line course.
River & Trail Outfitters owners Lee and Eunsook Baihly have been acquainting customers with the area's natural beauty since 1972. Their outdoor-exploration company's more than 70 friendly staffers accompany customers on relaxed, informative rafting, kayaking, canoeing, biking, and tubing excursions. In addition to having mastered river- and boat-safety skills, staff members are experienced in first aid, CPR, and the correct way to ask dolphins for directions. River & Trail Outfitters also accommodates businesses, organizing team-building events and rock wall rentals or hiking trips. The Baihlys' environmental commitment extends to an in-house recycling program and river clean-ups.
Sound Excursions describes their carefully curated group experiences as "field trips for adults." It's easy to see why: every outing takes groups to a new realm of Washington, whether it's the frothy shores of Puget Sound, inland forests and mountains, or tables at Seattle's thriving restaurants. The events held at these diverse locations range from culinary workshops on topics such as sushi-making and moonshine-tasting, to adventurous excursions with whitewater rafting or kayaking, to laid-back themed party cruises. For many outings, luxury transportation is provided.