Washington, D.C.

Paddling alongside the District
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James P. Blair
PADDLE PERFECT: The Washington Monument towers over the Potomac and its cherry blossoms (James P. Blair/Digital Vision/Getty)

Paddle through American history along the Potomac River in the storied Georgetown neighborhood of Washington, D.C. Located under the Key Bridge at the end of Kay Street, Jack's Boathouse is an iconic outfitter that offers walk-up kayak rentals but no guided tours. "A guide isn't necessary because everything is an easy paddle, and unless you go out after heavy storms, there's no current; it's very calm," says Jack's kayaking guide Anna Popov. "However, I wouldn't let a beginner out in any sort of boat that they couldn't handle or that they felt uncomfortable in."

After a brief tutorial, kayakers have their choice of traveling either up or downriver, depending upon the type of experience desired. Traveling downriver offers an historic urban experience, with waterfront views of monuments to Washington, Jefferson, and Lincoln; the Watergate Hotel; and, in springtime, blooming cherry blossoms. For an extra patriotic twist, Popov recommends kayaking the Potomac on July 4th to dodge the hassles of parking or fighting crowds. "I don't think there's many opportunities in other cities to see what you can see from the Potomac," she says.

Upriver is a quiet tour Popov calls "the rural route" more typical of a nature excursion than a journey through an urban jungle. Look for bald eagles, turkeys, turtles, and ospreys inhabiting the waters around the Three Sisters Islands. If you're driving to the boathouse, take advantage of their much-coveted parking lot, since parking is tough to find in Georgetown, says Popov.

Access and Resources
Jack's Boathouse
Address: 3500 K Street NW, Georgetown
Phone: 202.337.9642
Prices: $10 an hour or $35 for the day for any kayak
Hours: Mon to Fri from 10 a.m. to sunset; Weekends from 8 a.m. to sunset
Ages: Newborns are welcome but life jackets are rated for 30 pounds and over; Kids under 18 must paddle with an adult in a tandem kayak
Where Guides Go for Grub: Sweetgreen (deli) in Georgetown


Published: 15 Jul 2008 | Last Updated: 24 Jan 2012
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

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