For more than a century, Fletcher’s Cove in Washington, D.C. has been a renowned destination for fishing enthusiasts chasing the annual shad run, as well as locals looking to escape the summer heat and city bustle. But Fletcher’s Cove is not just for the fishing crowd. Located in a natural cove formed in the rock of the Potomac riverbank, Fletcher’s Boathouse houses distinctive red rowboats that generations of visitors have oared.
A trip to the Boathouse feels like stepping back in time half a century. Many of the staff have worked at the Boathouse for decades and are full of stories collected through the years. The Boathouse offers canoe, kayak, paddleboard, and rowboat rentals for those who want to experience the natural scenery from the water.
Fletcher’s Cove is not recommended for paddlers who want to bring their own boats. Launching from the docks is for rental customers only. The self-launching location is downriver from the cove in a muddy and rocky area. Ask the concession staff to point you to where to launch.
Before you go, ask about water level and flow. The Potomac River is tidal at this location, and since the river is narrow, the tide can create a moderate current that is swift enough to prevent paddling back upriver. It’s best to plan your trip so you’ll be paddling back upriver with the tidal flow, not against it.
Fletcher’s Cove is located at the head of tidal navigation on the Potomac River. Boats leaving Fletcher’s Cove are required to go downriver and not venture up toward Chain Bridge, where the final drop of the fall line occurs at Little Falls – somewhat of a misnomer, as the rapids at Little Falls aren’t so little!
Remember: safe use of rivers and any designated trails, at any time, is your responsibility! Water trail maps are for informational and interpretive purposes only and are not meant for navigational purposes, nor do they take into account level of skills or ability required to navigate rivers. The National Park Service, Chesapeake Conservancy and/or the individual trail associations assume no responsibility or liability for any injury or loss resulting directly or indirectly from the use of water trails, maps or other printed or web-based materials. Learn more about water safety.
We STRONGLY suggested that you review the marine forecast ahead of heading out for a paddling trip. To review the forecast for this paddle trip, visit:
See the most recent tide information.
Emergency or To Report a Crime:
Call 911 or 202-610-7500 (U.S. Park Police 24-hour Emergency Number)
Sibley Memorial Hostpital
5255 Loughboro Rd NW
Washington, DC 20016
Georgetown University Hospital
3800 Reservoir Rd NW
Washington, DC 20007
There are two parking lots at Fletchers Cove. The first, between Canal Rd and the C&O Canal, is smaller and fills quickly. The second, larger gravel parking lot, is located between the C&O Canal and the river.
Note: driving to the lower parking area requires traversing through a low clearance tunnel underneath the C&O Canal. Roof racks, boats tied down on vehicle roofs, or taller vehicles will not fit underneath the tunnel. Be sure to carefully check your clearance before proceeding through the tunnel.
Further, the ingress and egress from Canal Rd into the Fletchers Cove facility can be challenging as the road leading in is only 1.5 lanes wide. Be courteous, patient, and cautious. The entrance is most easily entered by either heading west on Canal Rd and making a left turn or by heading down Reservoir Rd and crossing Canal Rd to the Fletchers entrance.
Fletchers Cove has new large, ample restroom facilities.
Water: Drinking water fountains are located in the building that houses the restroom facilities.
Camping: Camping is not permitted at Fletcher’s Cove. The C&O Canal Trust runs the Canal Quarters program, which makes six historic lockhouses available for rent (Lockhouse 6 is a short drive from Fletcher’s Cove).
Concession: Fletcher’s Boathouse has a concession with snacks, drinks, and basic lunch options.
Captain John Smith Chesapeake NHT
Star-Spangled Banner NHT
Potomac Heritage NST