Go Outside: Rent a Kayak in DC

DC is full of cultural institutions, many of which are indoors and heavily air conditioned during the day.  This is good, because our summer heat and humidity can be unbearable.  However, we’re also a city built on the convergence of two historic and beautiful rivers, The Potomac and The Anacostia. 

Obviously The Potomac is more well known.  Many references to DC contain the words “on the Potomac.”  Stretching 405 miles from West Virginia to its terminus into the Chesapeake Bay at Point Lookout, Maryland, over five million people reside in its watershed.  It forms the border between DC and Virginia, and its tidal fall line is within DC, visible just above Georgetown.

The Anacostia River is a tributary of The Potomac River, terminating at Buzzard Point, also in DC.  Historically, the river was navigable to a seaport in Bladensburg, MD, however due to pollution and runoff over the years, this is no longer possible…except by pontoon boat, kayaks and canoe.

And that’s where we’re going with this; one of the great summer activities in DC is to kayak on the Potomac and the Anacostia Rivers.

Boating in DC operates three locations in the area, two of which are in DC.  One is in Georgetown on the Potomac, and the other is next to Yards Park on the Anacostia.  So how does one choose?  Well, let’s describe them both and let the reader decide.

The main difference in the two is the view of the city.  Both have spectacular views of nature, but the urban views are quite different.  The Georgetown dock is located under the iconic Key Bridge.  From there, boaters can go upriver towards the fall line and take in views of rocks jutting out of the river while surrounded by tree-lined cliffs.  Or, they can go downriver towards the Memorial Bridge and take in views of Georgetown, The Watergate, The Kennedy Center, The Lincoln Memorial (including the Watergate Steps) and of course the skyline of the Washington Monument.  As a bonus, many boaters head back upriver on the south side of Roosevelt Island, where the view becomes much more green and serene, only slightly interrupted by the Roslyn skyline.  Many choose to get out of their kayaks and explore the island.  And finally, this portion of the Potomac is also on the approach path for Reagan National Airport, so look out for low flying airplanes!

Meanwhile, the Anacostia location puts off from a gangplank located on the Anacosta Riverwalk between Yards Park and Nationals Stadium.  From here, the views are decidedly different, and more contemporary.  While the Washington Monument is still visible, the other city views besides the Stadium are of the Navy Yard and the newly built-up Yards Park.  Most boaters head up river towards the 11th Street Bridge, where, if they are not tired at this point (most are), the scenery gives way from contemporary urban to decidedly lush and green.  However, if they are tired and turn around, many decide to hang close to the east bank, which is part of Anacostia Park.  Unfortunately a close look at the shore reveals a lot of trash, on which many groups are waging a constant battle; however a look at the big picture reveals trees, wetland plants and wildlife, such as cranes, herrings, ducks and geese.

Boating in DC offers single kayaks for $15 double kayaks for $20, two-person canoes for $25 and at the Georgetown location, the more adventerous types can rent a stand-up paddle board for $15.  All prices are by the hour and pro-rated if time goes over, and include the use of a mandatory life vest.

If you’re looking for an active workout and a relaxing way to experience nature while still remaining within the comfortable view of the city, there’s really no better way to do it.  Of course, Saturdays and Sundays tend to be crowded on the rivers, but weekday evenings can be the perfect time to go, including Friday evenings.  Skip happy hour, and spend that time on the water.  We all deserve this kind of getaway.

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