Key Bridge Boathouse might be one of the most photographed and recognizable boathouses on the East Coast. With its colorful fleet of kayaks and canoes, painted docks, and iconic location underneath an arched span of the Key Bridge, D.C.’s oldest standing bridge, Key Bridge Boathouse is an experience to behold on a summer day.
Originally chartered as Jack’s Boathouse in 1945 by Jack Baxter, who was a D.C. police officer for 11 years, this public boathouse became an institution for both locals and tourists looking to get out on the river. As the decades have passed, the boathouse has only become more popular. From the time the Georgetown Waterfront was still an industrial zone, to its demise and ultimate renaissance, Key Bridge Boathouse has been putting folks in boats all along.
Launching at Key Bridge Boathouse allows paddlers to venture upriver for more natural scenery and wooded shorelines, or downriver to see the cityscape of Arlington and the skyline of Washington, D.C.
Take caution around powerboats. There is significant powerboat traffic around the Key Bridge Boathouse. Take particular care when crossing the river near Key Bridge itself – the spans and bridge footers can hide kayaks from boat operators and vice-versa. Make yourself visible and avoid paddling into the oncoming path of powerboats.
Though relatively protected, this section of the Potomac River can experience strong, sudden summer storms that bring strong winds. Check the weather forecast before your trip and keep an eye on the skies. Be prepared to quickly head back to shore if the weather changes.
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)
George Washington University Hospital
900 23rd St NW
Washington, DC 20037
Georgetown University Hospital
3800 Reservoir Rd NW
Washington, DC 20007
Parking is limited in the vicinity of Key Bridge Boathouse. There are parking spaces at the end of Water Street and metered spaces all along Water Street. If possible, walk, bike, or take public transportation to reduce the stress and expense of parking. If you must drive and can’t find parking nearby, you can park on M Street or in one of the garages further east on Water Street and walk down to the boathouse.
Portable toilets are available at Key Bridge Bridge.
***Since Key Bridge Boathouse does not have a potable water spigot, it is recommended that you bring an ample supply of water with you. However, should you forget, bottled water is for sale at the facility concession stand.
Captain John Smith Chesapeake NHT
Star-Spangled Banner NHT
Potomac Heritage NST