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An important point to remember is that we all share the river: rowers and paddlers often share the same goals in regard to learning their respective sports and training at the highest level possible. This is in addition to simply enjoying time on the water. It is critical that the two communities work together to support each other through safe practice and mutual respect. Please consider the following information specific to paddling safety.

SPECIAL NOTE: Launch Wakes And Their Danger To Sprint Canoes And Kayaks

Sprint (racing) canoes and kayaks are less stable than the least stable shell. A large wake from a distant launch can capsize a sprint canoe and kayak. The launch operator may not even be aware of canoes and kayaks paddling along the DC shore, or that their wake has capsized a boat. In cold weather, a capsized canoe or kayak is a life-threatening situation. In warmer weather, even moderate launch wakes can seriously disrupt practice or capsize beginning to intermediate paddlers. Larger wakes from fast launches at close range can capsize even experienced (Olympic-level) paddlers.


  • The area reserved for canoe and kayak and paddling is on the DC side, from the upstream end of the Potomac Boat Club dock to The Hens and Chickens (see Traffic Pattern Map). The highest concentration of canoe and kayak practices are along the DC shore from Potomac Boat Club to just past the Three sisters.
  • Please exercise special care to minimize wakes when your launch passes the canoe and kayak area:
    • Crew boats and launches should refrain from using these areas, and in particular traveling between the Three Sisters and the DC shore.
    • Try to reduce speed and wake when passing the canoe and kayak area
    • If you must travel at speed try to stay as far as practical from the DC shore
    • Consider using a wakeless launch (the Washington Canoe Club and some crew teams already wakeless launches to reduce wake and improve the river experience for all users.)
  • Launch operators should try to remain close to their boats. A significant portion of large/dangerous wakes that capsize canoes and kayaks come from launches that have been separated from their boats and then must travel at high speed to catch up and in some instances, a launch is zooming at high speed with no apparent team boat in the vicinity. Unfortunately, these large wakes frequently occur in the canoe and kayak paddling area and capsize boats.
  • Launches should have the name of the club/team clearly visible in large letters on both sides of the boat so that it can be read at 1,000 ft (the approximate width of the Potomac above Key Bridge).
    • Far too often it is impossible to identify launch owners/operators generating large wakes and traveling in an unsafe manner. It is important to improve river safety that the river community is able to identify and communicate with launch operators and correct potentially dangerous situations.