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There’s a reason kayakers frequent the water below Great Falls to Lock 10 of the C&O Canal and why, when asked for the best kayaking spot in our region, they give roughly the same answer. “It really is a great spot,” says Tom McEwan, the director of Liquid Adventures Kayak School and a guy who’s been canoeing and kayaking the Potomac since around the age of 15. McEwan and his staff take on kayakers of all levels—including nonkayakers—and teach them what they need to know, including rolling and not getting trapped under water, which they practice with students in an area swimming pool.

Once you’ve mastered the fundamentals, head to the put-in at Old Angler’s Inn off MacArthur Boulevard, which provides ample parking and easy access. The stretch has, depending on water levels, Class II and III rapids to hone your skills, as well as plenty of wide water to hone your sitting back and relaxing. The scenery at sea level includes islands of various sizes, herons, Mather Gorge, and chances to pull over and have a picnic lunch—provided you didn’t lose it at Calico Falls.