Potomac Basin


Did you know that you can begin a wonderful biking or hiking adventure right from the streets of the nation's capital? The Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park begins in the Georgetown section of Washington, DC and meanders for 184.5 miles along the Potomac River to Cumberland, Maryland. This historic canal and towpath provides a nearly level byway for mountain bikers and hikers. In addition, watered sections provide spots for canoeists, boaters, and anglers. There are several excellent campsites for overnight excursions along the towpath, which is just one of many outdoor adventure destinations in the Potomac River Basin.

The region stretches from the Chesapeake Bay, embraces the District of Columbia, and reaches the rugged hills of northwestern Maryland and northeastern West Virginia. If you prefer driving, the George Washington Memorial Parkway preserves the natural scenery along the Potomac River. It connects the historic sites from Mount Vernon, where Washington lived, and passes the nation's capital, which he founded, ending at the Great Falls of the Potomac.

Great Falls Park offers hiking, exploring, and fishing. Horseback riding and bicycling are permitted on designated trails, and whitewater boating is allowed below the falls. Rock climbing is another challenging sport enjoyed at Great Falls Park.

Paralelling the George Washington Memorial Parkway is the 18.5-mile Mt. Vernon Trail. Hikers, joggers or bicyclists can begin at the Mt. Vernon Trail's namesake, the home of George Washington, and go to Theodore Roosevelt Island in the Potomac River, near the Lincoln Memorial. Along the way visitors enjoy visiting the fortifications at Fort Hunt Park, and take a side trip to the Dyke Marsh wildlife.

Both the Mt. Vernon Trail and the C&O; Canal towpath are part of the Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail, which will eventually connect the tidewater regions along the Potomac River to the Laurel highlands of Pennsylvania. The trail is also a unit of the National Trails System.

Other attractions for outdoor activity lovers is the picturesque Rock Creek Park, one of the oldest parks in the National Park Service. Rock Creek Park comprises 1,754 acres of forest, is situated within 5 miles of the White House, and offers great bicycling. In addition, visitors enjoy a Nature Center, a planetarium, historical points of interest, nature trails, and a horse center. Cyclists can also visit the major monuments in the capital city using bike paths and some city streets.

Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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