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.
In 1992, Dewey Heffner and his son George started selling black tire tubes out of their truck under a sign that read, "Butts Tubes." Through the years, the seed of this roadside tubing company sprouted 11 different outdoor activities and matured into Harpers Ferry Adventure Center.
At Harper's Adventure Center, single- and multiday adventures fuse adrenaline-packed thrills with the scenery of the Potomac and Shenandoah River regions. More than 100 species of birds, 60 types of butterflies, and flocks of wild birthday balloons fill the sky on hiking trails, which wind through hilly terrain. The crashing sound of Bull Falls forms the soundtrack for whitewater-rafting trips, and treetop canopies serve as the decor for ziplining.
Drawing from these activities, Harpers Ferry Adventure Center's crew can design custom adventure packages or help customers to choose a predesigned trip. They also lead team-building retreats using outdoor activities to teach universal skills such as working toward a common goal or ziplining to the stage for business presentations.
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 the use of biodiesel fuels.
At Potomac Paddlesports, the first professional paddlesports 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.
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.
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.