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.
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.
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.
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.
Although locals may still call it Jack’s Boathouse, Key Bridge Boathouse is now the official name of this river recreation facility, which rents all manner of water-bound equipment by the hour or day. Located right on the Potomac River, this little hut on Water Street in Lower Georgetown can’t be missed, thanks to the bevy of colorful and easy-to-spot watercrafts lined up outside. Key Bridge Boathouse rents canoes, kayaks and standup paddleboards as well as the needed accoutrements to outfit adults and kiddos alike. Instructors in each discipline also regularly lead newbie classes and serve as guides for tours that run during the summer months.
While the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal runs along much of the Potomac River, from the District of Columbia out to Cumberland, Maryland (a distance of more than 180 miles), Washingtonians are most familiar with the portion between Georgetown and the Maryland border. This section of the C&O Canal, which opened around 1830, is quite quaint, meandering between 19th-century townhouses and updated office buildings. As you head out of Georgetown, the towpath runs parallel to the C&O Canal, making it perfect for hikers, bikers and early-morning runners. While the mule-drawn canal boat ride is no longer available in Georgetown, you can ride it in Great Falls between April and October, with National Park rangers dressed in period clothing serving as tour guides, providing perspective on life along the canal.