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Old Anglers Wayside

Part of the C&O Canal National Park, Anglers is perhaps the most popular put-in for intermediate whitewater kayakers and canoeists in the Washington DC area. From paddlers to lockkeepers to Supreme Court Justices, this area is steeped with history and legend.

With its natural beauty and adrenaline-inducing whitewater rapids, the paddle trip from Anglers to Lock 10 is awe-inspiring, especially for being so close to an urban area.

Although it gained notoriety for turning away a particularly famous hiker – the venerable Justice William O. Douglas – these days, the Old Angler’s Inn across the street is quite welcoming to paddlers coming off the river after a day’s paddle and has a garden patio to accommodate rugged adventurers.

Water Safety

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.

Things to Know

  • This trip is for paddlers with intermediate whitewater experience or shepherded novices under the guidance of instructors or an organized paddling club excursion. Do not attempt to paddle conditions beyond your abilities or experience.
  • There is no rental concession at Anglers, but many instructors and outfitters will arrange lessons from this location that include equipment.
  • Some paddlers will “park and play” – that is, they will paddle upriver to several rapids and then return to the same launch site. However, for this itinerary, you’ll need to arrange a vehicle to shuttle you downriver or pick you up at Lock 10.
  • The takeout location at Lock 10 is not readily obvious from the river. For this reason, it’s recommended that you go with an experienced person who has already paddled this run.

Navigational Hazards

  • Moving water conditions mean that pinning or entrapment are possible.
  • Undercut rocks.
  • Whitewater rapids.
  • Strong current.

Marine Forecast

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:

Emergency Information

For any emergency, dial 911 immediately.

Report suspicious activity to any park employee or call United States Park Police, (202) 619-7300

Anglers Wayside (across the street from Old Anglers Inn Restaurant)
10801 MacArthur Blvd
Potomac, MD 20854

Sibley Memorial Hospital
5255 Loughboro Rd NW, Washington, DC 20016
(202) 537-4000

Parking & Shuttles

Anglers has three large gravel parking lots. However, because Anglers is a popular access point for the C&O Canal, these lots regularly fill to capacity. Parking does occur along MacArthur Boulevard, though it is marked as no parking.

Lock 10 is located off Clara Barton Parkway and is only accessible when heading eastbound. There is a small parking lot here with a limited number of spots. Arrive early to secure parking. Parking on the grass or median is not allowed at Lock 10.

Overnight parking is not permitted at either Anglers or Lock 10. You can park overnight at the Carderock Picnic Pavilion


The Anglers parking area has a newly built restroom facility at the entrance. There are no restroom facilities at Lock 10.


  • ALWAYS wear a properly secured personal flotation device (PFD) when participating in paddlesport activities. Make sure that your PFD has a readily accessible safety whistle.
  • Bring a paddle float and water pump for self rescue.
  • Wear a whitewater protective helmet when paddling this rocky, moving water.
  • A spray skirt is recommended.
  • Wear appropriate protective clothing that shields you from the sun (sunglasses, sunblock, hat, and a long-sleeved shirt that can get wet) and is safe to swim in. Water shoes with closed toes will protect you from abrasive hazards at launch areas that can cut your feet.
  • Bring water in bottles than can be secured to your craft. Bring more water than you think you’ll need and drink regularly throughout your journey.


Trail History

Captain John Smith Chesapeake NHT

  • Captain John Smith and his crew spent approximately one month in 160? exploring the Potomac, guiding their craft as far up the river as was navigable. Smith traveled to Little Falls of the Potomac, and then traveled overland to Great Falls to study the rocks and sediment, which were rich with mica. Later, 19th century prospectors found gold on the Maryland side of Great Falls.
  • The Great Falls mark the boundary between the Piedmont Plateau and the Atlantic Coastal Plain. Most of the rocks here formed deep beneath the surface of the ancient Iapetus Ocean over 500 million years ago. While in the region, Captain Smith traded furs with the Nacotchtank native tribe, noting their hospitality in his journals.
  • Smith was not the first Englishman that the Nacotchtank encountered. Englishman Henry Fleet lived with the Nacotchtank for five years in the 1620s. He learned the Virginia Algonquian language, which allowed him to become a trader and translator for Lord Calvert when Calvert brought settlers to Maryland. The tribe was called the Anacostan in later years – which is where we get the name “Anacostia River.”
  • Tens of millions of American shad were once harvested each spring in the Potomac. They were the highest-value item transported upstream on the C&O Canal. Unfortunately, through overfishing, pollution, and loss of spawning habitat, their populations plummeted and the Potomac fisheries were closed in 1982.
  • In 1995, a Potomac shad restoration program began. A new fish passage was installed at the dam at Little Falls in 2000 to reduce flow and allow fish to swim upstream to their spawning areas. Since then, the Potomac’s shad population has rebounded; in 2012, the fishery was declared sustainable, and now serves as the egg source for shad restoration in other rivers in the Mid-Atlantic.

Star-Spangled Banner NHT

  • This area includes two routes associated with the War of 1812: the Madisons’ escape from the British troops’ burning of Washington, D.C., and the removal of national documents to rural Maryland for safekeeping.

Potomac Heritage NST

  • The Patowmack and C&O Canals reflect the story of early American industrialization along the Potomac. At the end of the 18th century, George Washington's efforts to build the Patowmack Canal were well underway. In July 1828, President John Quincy Adams shoveled the first earth at nearby Little Falls to mark the beginning of the canal, which made the Potomac River valley a main artery of antebellum commerce and travel. Although canal construction was successfully completed and the venture operated for several years, it would take until the mid-19th century for the C&O Canal and B&O Railroad to truly open the valley to trade. Ultimately, the Patowmack and C&O Canals had important political repercussions that helped lead to the stronger union of the states.
  • In the 18th century, Great Falls was primarily a collection of huge farms, many run by tenants of absentee landlords. Due to thin soil and poor accessibility to ports, farms were unable to prosper. In the 1830s, prosperity in this region took a severe downturn. Many Virginians went west seeking richer land or greater opportunity, and northerners came to Great Falls to buy the cheap land left behind.
  • In the 1960s, the venerable Justice William O. Douglas led a series of hikes along the C&O Canal to highlight its irreplaceable value as a natural recreational resource so near to our nation’s capital. At the time, it had been proposed that the historic C&O Canal be developed into a highway. On one occasion, dressed for hiking and undoubtedly dirty after a day’s trek, Justice Douglas and his band of companions walked into the Old Angler’s Inn – only to be mistaken as vagabonds and turned away. The following day, newspapers headlined how the innkeeper’s wife had thrown out the Supreme Court Justice.