Index to Kayaking In and Around Washington, DC

Fletcher's Boat House
4940 Canal Rd NW, Washington, DC 20007
(202) 244-0461
GPS: 38° 55'02" N 77° 06' 08"

Image:'s Cove Sign before going into tunnel area. Image:'s Boat House on Canal

Always check in advance to make sure that the water level, tide and weather will make for a safe kayaking trip. Many of these kayaking destinations have actual personnel manning the phones and can give you specifics about their particular location. Bill and I also always check the internet to find real time information as well as the daily forecast. Be smart and be safe so you can live to kayak another day! Also, know that there is an arched tunnel that must be driven through to get to the launching site. Make sure the kayaks on top of your automobile will fit in that tunnel. We got out to check and had only 1/2" clearance staying directly in the center (highest point) of the entrance. There were two kayaks on top of our car.

Fletcher's Boat House at Fletcher's Cove on the Canal

Image:'s Cove/Canal It is important to note that there are two parts to Fletcher's Cove. Fletcher's Boat House has rentals and is located on the C&O Canal. Bill and I access the canal there. There is parking and a restroom, too. It is not necessary to go through the tunnel with your kayaks and automobile if you just want to paddle the canal. The dock is for use by kayak renters. Even there the kayak has to be lowered into the water. If you have your own kayak you can easily slip your kayak into the water down a bank into the canal. I have a picture below which gives you a good idea of how to do this. It is a good idea to have a rope in your kayak so that you can pull your kayak back up the embankment easily upon your return. There is no need to go into the tunnel. The canal is a lovely paddle and there are many birds, turtles, fish and wildlife to see as well as vegetation. Of course, it depends on the time of year and the luck of the day!

Fletcher's Cove at Fletcher's Boat House. Launching our kayaks from the C&O Canal bank is not difficult. Below are photographs launching and entering our kayaks from the canal.

Image: at Fletcher's Boat House/Parking Image: Fletcher's Boat House into canal from bank.

Image: launching kayak from  canal bank at Fletcher's Boat House/Fletcher's Cove. Image: into launched kayak from Fletcher's Cove canal bank.

Below are some images that Bill and I photographed while we were paddling at Fletcher's Boat House at Fletcher's Cove on the C&O Canal:

Image: Wood Duck/Fletcher's Cove/Canal Image: Fletcher's Cove/Canal

Image:'s Cove/Canal Image: Mallard Duck/Fletcher's Cove/Canal

Paddling the Potomac River at Fletcher's Cove

Image:'s Cove into tunnel to Potomac River. Image: showing tunnel height is low.  Use Caution!

Image: Fletcher's Cove has a lovely stretch of generally still water on the Potomac. It makes for a really relaxing paddle and time to view the wildlife that is abundant along this route. We paddled upriver beyond the bridge. About 1/4 mile beyond the bridge there are rapids and lots of rocks. That is not what Bill and I do, however, many kayakers enjoy the challenge of the rapids. Paddling beyond the bridge the water channel narrows significantly so the water moves much quicker making a current that can make the paddle work instead of relaxing. Just know that. Also, depending on the weather conditions, tide, etc., it can be demanding even in this still water area of the Potomac. Call the rental shop. If they are not renting boats that is a tip off not to paddle that day! Also, unless renting a kayak one cannot use the Fletcher's Boat House landing dock. However, you can put your kayak in the canal with a small amount of effort. It is not a worry.

Image: showing tunnel height is low.  Use Caution! To paddle the Potomac, drive through the tunnel to enter the Potomac River kayaking area. Be careful of the tunnel as we had about 1/2" clearance. See the pictures below and you will see that Bill is standing in the entrance of the tunnel. He is 6' 2" tall. He is reaching up and can touch the top of the entrance to the tunnel. I got out and helped him drive through the tunnel making sure the kayaks would be alright. We had about 1/2" only staying in the center of the tunnel. There was not much room! Enter with caution. Drop off kayaks and gear near the water, park the car, walk down to the kayak and put in along the water. There are a number of places to do this, however, one must walk down with kayak in hand or on rollers. There are lots of rocks but they are easily avoidable once in the water.

Below are some images that Bill and I photographed while we were paddling at Fletcher's Cove after accessing the Potomac River through the tunnel:

Image: Fletcher's Cove Image: Fletcher's Cove
Rapids after bridge (left) and Cormorant or shag (right)

Image: Fletcher's Cove
Cormorant or shag

"Image: Cloud House at Fletcher's Boat House/Fletcher's Cove Canal Road in the District parallels the canal and the Potomac, but planners have resisted infringing on the peaceful atmosphere of the river here. At canal mile 3.1, stands the Abner Cloud House, one of the larger structures on the canal. It is the oldest existing building on the canal, built as a home for a miller in 1802. Abner Cloud built the house and nearby mill on the bank of the Little Falls Skirting Canal. The mill provided grain and flour to the city of Washington before and during the operation of the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal. Cloud was related to the Pierces of Rock Creek, who owned the Pierce Mill. Abner Cloud died in 1812, but the mill continued to provide an excellent quality flour called “Evermay” to Washington until it closed in 1870. The Cloud House was restored in the 1970s and is maintained by the Colonial Dames of America. The house is located on the Canal at Canal Road and Reservoir Road N.W., Washington DC, adjacent to Fletcher’s Boat House." Abner Cloud House

"Fletcher's Cove is a park and recreation area owned and managed by National Park Service, located at 4940 Canal Road, Washington, DC 20007, between Chain and Key Bridges, part of Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park. Fletcher's Cove is accessible safely from westbound Canal Road (crossing the eastbound lane) and unsafely from eastbound Canal Road, requiring a dangerous hairpin right turn.

Its facilities include a small parking lot off Canal Road, a bridge across C&O Canal Towpath, a tunnel under C&O Canal Towpath; a large parking lot with 400 spaces alongside Potomac River, a snack bar open six months a year, and rowboat/canoe rental open six months a year. Boaters putting out from Fletcher's Cove may ply the quiet waters of C&O Canal or the more turbulent waters of Potomac River. Fletcher's Cove is about 200 meters west of C&O Canal Towpath Milestone, well below the fall line, which intersects the Potomac River about C&O Canal Towpath Milestone 6 at Little Falls and more dramatically about C&O Canal Towpath Milestone 13 (Great Falls). Potomac River is non-navigable above the Fall Line. Fletcher's Cove is the first marina east of the fall line, and thus a popular recreation area where boaters can enjoy Potomac River waters safely.

Fletcher's Cove has been in this location since the 1850's and is renowned as a fishing and recreational area. The nearby Abner Cloud House is the oldest building on the canal, dating back to 1802. After 145 years of business, the fourth generation of the Fletcher family retired in 2004 and Guest Services Incorporated, a National Park Service concessionaire, assumed responsibility for the operation of the concessions. The area surrounding the boat house was then officially named Fletcher's Cove, though most people still call it Fletcher's Boat House.

Fletcher's Cove is in The Palisades, Washington, DC.

First posted: Aug 19, 2014
Last update: Jan 21, 2020