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Best Virginia Kayaking Destinations: The Potomac River


The Potomac River creates the border between Virginia and Maryland, flowing from Jennings Randolph Lake high in the Blue Ridge Mountains all the way to the Chesapeake Bay.  With over 300 miles of the 355 mile river recognized as a National Recreation Trail, the trail is rich in both American history and recreational opportunities.

Popular Kayaking Trails on the Potomac River

While some areas are rougher than others, it is possible to kayak the entire river. Though most choose a shorter trip. Below we’ve selected a few of the most popular sections for day and weekend trips. No matter how you choose to kayak the Potomac, you’re sure to enjoy the sights.

Harpers Ferry, West Virginia

The Potomac offers thrilling whitewater kayaking at Harpers Valley for kayakers seeking a challenging adventure. There’s a beautiful seven-mile stretch featuring Class I and Class II rapids (and sometimes, Class III) rapids. In addition to the thrills of Bull Falls, Lunch Rock Follies, Bull’s Tail and Mad Dog, kayakers will experience one of the most scenic river areas with blue herons, ospreys and even bald eagle sightings. You can even paddle past the Harpers Ferry National Historic Park or combine it with a stop at Old Town Harpers Ferry West Virginal for some Civil War history as well.

Lower Potomac near Washington, D.C.

If you are looking for calmer water or a place to paddle with children, look south of Great Falls. Upstream from D.C. the river quickly sheds all signs of urban life and offers a calm wilderness experience, full of history and wildlife. Enjoy the natural scenery and wooded shorelines. Or paddle downstream and see Roosevelt Island and the Kennedy Center.

Upper Potomoc at Green Ridge State Forest, Flintstone, MD

The upper Potomoc River at Paw Paw Bends and Green Ridge State Forest offers a secluded kayaking adventure with lots of camping accommodations if you are planning a multi-day kayaking trip. You’ll feel like you’ve gone back in time with the rural, untouched scenery and sky-high rocky cliffs lining the river.

Piscataway Park, Fort Washington, MD

John Smith and a crew of adventurers set out in an open boat to explore the Chesapeake Bay over four hundred years ago. As they explored, they mapped nearly 3,000 miles of the Bay and surrounding rivers. Today, there is a National Historic Trail that follow along some of what Smith mapped, showcasing early American landscapes and places where indigenous residents once lived. The trail goes well beyond the Potomac River, but Piscataway Park is a great place to start with three kayak launch sites and a short paddle to George Washington’s Mount Vernon home and Fort Washington. The park is also home to bald eagles, beavers, deer, foxes, ospreys, and many other animals.

Storing Your Kayak after Your Potomoc Trip

There always comes a time when you have to put your kayak away. Whether you own your own kayak or own a kayak rental company, it’s important to keep your shoreline and kayaks neat and orderly. They best way to do that is with one (or two) of our hand-crafted kayak storage racks. Our kayak racks are exquisitely crafted out of 100% norther cedar logs and can safely and beautifully store and display your kayaks for years to come. The durable frames are naturally weather-resistant and can be custom built to accommodate up to eight kayaks. They can be wall mounted, dock mounted, buried in the ground or free-standing. Check out our selection of standard kayak racks available for online purchase or send us a message to start a custom kayak storage solution.