Index to Kayaking In and Around Washington, DC

Image: Creek/Poolesville
Seneca Creek in Potomac

Directions: Riley's Lock/Lock 24
13025 Riley's Lock Road
Poolesville, MD 20837
(GPS Coordinates: 39.069167, -77.340877)
From 495 take exit 39 for MD-190 west toward Potomac. Merge onto MD-190 (River Road) west. Left at Riley's Lock Road.
Parking and launching free
Seneca Creek Landing

Image: Creek Launch Area Riley's Lock, Lock 24, is at the mouth of the Great Seneca Creek, eight and one-half miles above Great Falls, Maryland. "Senceca Landing Sate Park is a small park with a large parking area near the boat ramp. The ramp is a popular site for recreational use of the Seneca Lake that forms behind Dam No. 2. Access to the Potomac is under the Seneca Aqueduct of the C&O Canal. Picnic and fishing areas are located along Seneca Creek both upstream and downstream of the boat ramp. The red sandstone Seneca Creek Aqueduct and nearby lock house are both interesting historic sites. The Calleva Outdoor School operates an extensive program of summer camps, kayaking instruction, and other activities based in the historic house near the Seneca Aqueduct on Riley's's Lock Road". Seneca Landing Boat Ramp

Bill and I really enjoy paddling at this location and have done so several times taking different routes. Usually it is a really relaxing paddle, however, if going into the Potomac River always check the weather conditions, currents, tides, etc., before you go. There is an excellent boat ramp on Great Seneca Creek without charge--easy to use. Also, there is a goodly amount of parking; however, on week ends it can fill up. We try to kayak during the week, as we are retired, and have never had any problem. There are porta johns for your use and picnicking areas, as well. The ramp is located at Riley's Lock on the Potomac River. We learned about this from our horse-back-riding days as we boarded the horses in Potomac, MD and rode the C&O Canal for 5 years. We often road up to and beyond Riley's Lock and inland up Seneca Creek. Bill and I would always comment that this would be a special place for any type of boating. Little did we know that we would end up kayaking!

Image: Creek Bridge Upstream When you start your paddle you can go right and follow Seneca Creek up to a bridge and beyond depending on the water level, debris, etc. In the summer there are many children at camp along the Creek learning all about water sports. If you go left you are heading for the Potomac River. This stretch of the Potomac is usually quiet and relaxing to paddle. It is about 1/4 mile down creek to get to the C&O aqua duct. You cannot miss it. There are several arches that you can paddle through where upon you enter the Potomac River. Bill and I paddle right and we stay on flat water. You can easily paddle another 5 to 7 miles up river. Doing that we have seen much wild life land and water. There are many nesting blue herons that live there and consider that their territory. When they get air born they look like prehistoric pterodactyls! I just love them. We have seen cormorants, ducks, egrets and a variety of other bird life unfamiliar to us. We have seen eagles and osprey, as well. Mammals such as deer, beaver, and red fox sometimes make their presence known.

Last time we paddled there my Sweet William decided we should paddle to the Virginia side of the Potomac paddle up river for awhile, then cross the Potomac River back to the Maryland side and float and paddle back to Riley's Lock. Again, we use to ride the horses there when we boarded in Virginia. That area has been developed with a golf course, houses, a burm to keep the water out--it is flood plain. We would canter through the corn fields before the area was developed. If you continue paddling for quite awhile you will come to Algonkian Regional Park on the Virginia side. You better be in great shape! Also, there are a number of land masses in the center of the Potomac River. These are only inhabited by wildlife. Do not attempt to get out of your kayak on go onto these islands. The silt will suck you in like quicksand. We actually did this at low tide on the horses and were we surprised. Yikes!

For More Information:

American Whitewater
Canal Trust
First posted: Sept 9, 2014, 2014
Last update: Jan 21, 2020