Even though it’s an activity you can enjoy during several seasons, paddling feels quintessentially “summer” to me. That’s probably because of the many years I spent at sleep away camp as a kid, where canoeing and kayaking were practically everyday pursuits. So, last weekend when we had a sunny day, and it wasn’t too hot, I suggested we go for a jaunt on the river and have some “summer” fun.
The kids were thrilled about the idea, and since Owen was getting excited to embark on a couple of weeks of bike camp the following Monday, we decided a ride to Fletcher’s Cove, where we could rent canoes at the Boathouse, would make it a perfect outing. That’s one of our go-to family bike rides — from Capitol Hill we ride down the Mall, then along the Potomac to Georgetown, where we hop on the Capital Crescent Trail along the C&O Canal. Fletcher’s is about two miles from there between the Potomac and canal.
We usually just ride to Fletcher’s and make that our turn around/hang out spot before heading back home, often stopping in Georgetown for fountain play or food. There’s a lot of open grassy space where we can chill out and cool off, maybe even toss a Frisbee; a water fountain to refill our bottles; and a snack bar to get a drink or a small bite if we’re hungry. But if one is looking for extra recreation — there are bike and boat rentals, picnic tables and grills, and a tackle shack selling bait and fishing licenses for anglers. You can really make a day of it there.
If you want to hit the water, canoes, kayaks, paddle boards, and rowboats are available to rent. We had planned to get a canoe, but were told there was a max of three people, so we opted for a rowboat instead (however, a friend went this past weekend, and her family of four was allowed to take a canoe, perhaps because her youngest is smaller than Sasha).
Once we got our life jackets, we headed down to the dock and were set up with our rowboat, then made our way out of the cove to the middle of the river. It was glorious being out on the water, taking in scenic views of the Potomac and surrounding woods from the comfort of our little boat. Other paddlers glided by, and everyone seemed to be in the same relaxed, happy mood as us. The kids loved seeing a few turtles basking on rocks as well as a couple of dead fish floating in the water. We watched a group of kids having fun on a rope swing hanging from a tree on the Virginia side.
Levi did most of the rowing, since I proved to be really uncoordinated at it (so weird — I can usually pick up things pretty easily, but alas…). But the kids enjoyed pitching in on the rowing, too. Since we only rented the boat for an hour, we didn’t go too far down the river, but what we did experience was thoroughly enjoyable. Next time, though, we’ll probably opt for double kayaks and rent them for the day, so we can do even more exploring.
Fletcher’s Boathouse is open from 7am – 7pm daily mid-March through Octoboer.
Canoe rentals are $14/hour or $28/day. Kayaks are $11/hour or $33/day for a single and $20/hour or $45/day for a double. Rowboats are $14/hour or $25/day. 2017 Update: See the most recent rates for all paddling options on the website.
Fletcher’s Boathouse is located at 4940 Canal Road NW. I highly recommend the bike ride there, but if you drive, there is parking available in a large lot there.