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.
Jack's, which is tucked away under the Key Bridge at 3500 K. Street, opened for business in 1945 and is a hidden gem and a local favorite for its low rates and friendly service (it's family owned and operated). View a short video about its history and current happenings here. You can rent single kayaks, tandem kayaks, two-person canoes, three-person canoes, and single kayaks mounted to two-person canoes stuffed into a schooner (for the right price). This Groupon is for five one-hour rentals; use all your trips at once to go on a five-hour endurance run, have multiple water adventures, or give them to your friends and family so you have people to bump your boat. You can even make a daycation out of it, and take advantage of free use of the gas grill in Jack's picnic area overlooking the water. Use your Groupon anytime during business hours: Monday, noon to 8 p.m.; Tuesday through Sunday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Nestled beneath the towering arches of the Francis Scott Key Bridge, a weather-beaten dock supports rows of kayaks in a rainbow of colors. Paddlers disembark onto the Potomac, threading through the bridge’s arches and taking in the lush riverside scenery. Key Bridge Boathouse’s team of water conquerors is on hand to instruct new kayakers and paddleboarders in taming the river’s gentle waves. Upon returning to shore, guests are invited to make use of the dock’s electric grills to cook burgers and dry their hair.
Calleva at National Harbor organizes adventures that traverse land, water, and air, each designed to inspire the intrepid with the bounties of nature. A terra-based encounter, the guided bike ride over the Woodrow Wilson Bridge and Mount Vernon Trail combines the thrill of physical activity with the wonder of american bald eagle and bald presidential monument sightings. From 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. on weekends, pedal pumpers are treated to panoramic views of the Potomac River. If the allure of the deep overcomes grounded wanderings, embark on a watery outing in a solo kayak, canoe, or tandem kayak, from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. on weekends. After a mind-stretching lesson on paddling and water safety, boat brethren can drift through the National Harbor in their floating vessels and explore the shores of the District and Alexandria, stopping occasionally to feed breadcrumbs to migrating politicians.
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-climbing excursions or hiking trips. The Baihlys' environmental commitment extends to an in-house recycling program and the use of biodiesel fuels.
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.