Take a Paddle on the Potomac

02 Jun
June 2, 2011

Everyone knows just how swelteringly hot it can get in Washington D.C. during the summer. These past two days of 95 degree temperatures and 90 percent humidity confirmed what everyone that lives here already knows.

In the summer, you have to beat the heat.

For some people, that means heading to the nearest pool and for others, staying inside with the air-conditioning blasting.

For the outdoors-type, people who aren’t swayed by the daily forecast, Washington, DC offers an excellent way to cool off during summertime. And if you’ve ever driven across the Memorial or Key Bridge, you know exactly what this is.

The Potomac River may be one of this city’s most underappreciated features. There’s no reason you shouldn’t take advantage of it. And there are two great ways for all types of adventure-seekers to enjoy it.

The first is with a kayak. For beginners, people who’ve never navigated their own boat, the lower part of the Potomac, south and east of Great Falls Park, offers serene water and a calm place to learn. There are no rapids and a slow current, which means kayaks are easy to control and steer.

For the thrill-seeking, expert kayakers, there are the rapids of Great Falls Park. This whitewater run presents the toughest rapids anywhere near Washington, D.C., and should only be attempted by those with advanced experience.

For those who don’t own a kayak, there are two great places to rent from and learn how to use the small crafts.

At Jack’s Boathouse, which is directly under the Key Bridge, right on the river, kayaks can be rented for $14 an hour. On the weekends, Jack’s is open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

A little further north up the river, but with cheaper rates, is The Boathouse at Fletcher’s Cove. There, a kayak can be rented for $10 an hour. A full day’s rental costs just $28 dollars. On the weekends, they are also open for 12 hours, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Kayaking isn’t the only way to experience the river. For those that have paid close attention while looking at the Potomac, they’ve noticed another water sport that is sweeping the area: Paddle boarding.

What is paddle boarding? Well, it’s basically surfing without the waves.

Paddle boarders take out on the water what is essentially a giant surfboard, but one that’s wider and easier to balance on. You also take with you a long paddle. That’s it. Dip the paddle in the water and easily push yourself around the river.

It’s simple enough to learn, and Jack’s Boathouse rents paddle boards to the uninitiated for $20 an hour.

If you’d like to a lesson though, Paddle DC offers one-and-a-half hour blocks for one person at $65 a session. If you’ve got a friend, save $10 and get the lesson for $120 total.

Either way, to get the most out of this seriously hot summer, head down to the river and try something different.

-David

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