Great Falls of the Potomca. Photo by Irene Owsley.

Great Falls of the Potomac. Photo by Irene Owsley.

It’s our nation’s capital and, possibly, the best paddling town in America. From scenic (monumental) flatwater to a burly Class V town run and everything in between, Washington D.C., (pop. 659,000) is a paddler’s paradise. Start at Great Falls of the Potomac, which offers adrenaline seekers a smorgasbord of waterfalls. Just downstream, Mather Gorge serves up a range of Class III options that go depending on levels. At the popular Old Anglers Inn put-in, you’ll find kids trying out their first strokes, freestyle paddling guns heading up to Center Chute, or a crowd of longboaters attaining together for Cheat Race practice.

Between Mather Gorge and downtown D.C. lies one of the wildest urban corridors in America. Bald eagles soar over the river’s numerous Class II drops, en route to the Class IV finale at Little Falls, one of the few tidal whitewater rapids in the country. From there it’s moving flatwater to the Georgetown waterfront and down past the Lincoln Memorial. On sunny weekends the river is crowded with rowers, sea kayakers and SUPs. The nation’s 4th of July fireworks show attracts a massive crowd of all types of watercraft. The Potomac continues its long journey to the Chesapeake Bay with hundreds of miles of explore-able shoreline, including Mallows Bay, a ship graveyard filled with a ghost fleet of more than 230 vessels. — Skip Brown

See more: NORTH AMERICA’S BEST PADDLING TOWNS.

This story will appear in the June 2015 issue of Canoe & Kayak.