Rivers & Lakes of the Capital Region

Explore outdoor adventure or sit back and relax on the lakes and rivers in Virginia, Maryland and Washington, DC. 

Deep Creek Lake in Maryland
Deep Creek Lake, Maryland's largest freshwater lake, is perfect for swimming, boating, kayaking, canoeing and fishing.
Great Falls Park, Virginia
Great Falls of the Potomac, outside Washington, DC
Kayakers on James River, Richmond, VA
Kayaking on the James River through downtown Richmond, Virginia
Spirit of Washington cruise at night
Seeing the sights of Washington, DC, on a Spirit of Washington cruise.
Deep Creek Lake in Maryland
Great Falls Park, Virginia
Kayakers on James River, Richmond, VA
Spirit of Washington cruise at night

Many Maryland, Virginia and Washington, DC rivers and lakes are popular spots for recreation and adventure, offering ample opportunity for swimming, boating, fishing and whitewater rafting.

Washington, DC

The area’s mightiest river is the Potomac, whose watershed encompasses the entire Capital Region. Forming the border between DC and Virginia, as well as between Maryland and Virginia, the Potomac is by turns serene and turbulent. Take out a paddleboat near the Georgetown waterfront or view the monuments by water as you enjoy a Washington, DC river cruise, many of which connect the District with Alexandria, Mount Vernon and the National Harbor.

The Chesapeake & Ohio Canal runs parallel to the Potomac for 184.5 miles, offering an additional waterway for canoes and rowboats. The towpath, which separates the canal and river, is also a favourite path for bicyclists and runners.


Accessible from both Maryland and Virginia, Great Falls allows visitors to enjoy an up-close perspective of the Potomac River’s wildest rapids. Take along a picnic as you stroll Great Falls’ pedestrian walkways, or hike the 4.7 mile-long Billy Goat Trail, which offers hikers a bird's-eye view of the whitewater below.

In the western Maryland panhandle, Garrett County is home to seven different lakes, each offering a variety of recreational activities. Enjoy swimming, waterskiing, sailing or kayaking on Deep Creek Lake — the largest freshwater lake in Maryland — or escape to a waterfront inn for a memorable romantic getaway.


With thousands of miles of rivers, lakes and streams, Virginia offers endless recreational opportunities for water lovers. Explore the lush natural beauty of the Shenandoah River, which winds its way through quaint towns and along the famous Shenandoah National Park. Within the James River, anglers can cast their lines for catfish, bluegill, and smallmouth and largemouth bass. Both the Shenandoah and the James are also favourite USA river rafting sites, making them ideal destinations for any adventurer. For a relaxing interlude, enjoy a fishing, boating or camping excursion to Smith Mountain Lake near Roanoke, known as the “Jewel of the Blue Ridge Mountains."

Looking for more ways to holiday on the water? Check out the best beaches near Washington, DC. And for more information and travel itineraries, view our latest holiday guide and sign up for our e-newsletter.

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