kayak, mist, river

NPS photo/Donald Briggs

Travel by boat is prominent throughout the history of the PHT corridor, from the dugouts used by American Indians and the shallop used by Captain John Smith and crew to present-day fishing boats and recreational kayaks. George Washington first knew the Potomac River as a transportation route and source of food and sought a connection with the Youghiogheny River and the "Ohio country." Developed with assistance from River Management Society, the information below can help to explore these same routes and places today.

Paddling the Youghiogheny River Water Trail: Part of the Youghiogheny River in Pennsylvania races through the state's deepest gorge before plummeting over Ohiopyle Falls and through an exciting set of rapids: World-renowned whitewater paddling is a major attraction in this area. Farther downstream (north) the "Yough" offers scenic, family-friendly flatwater through an area rich in history. Maps for the 74-mile trail, divided into two sections, were developed by the Pennsylvania Environmental Council with assistance from the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission and the Department of Conservation & Natural Resources. More information including maps and trail guides.

Paddling the Potomac River Water Trail: As an American Heritage River and with 300 miles recognized as a National Recreation Trail, the Potomac River is closely connected to our Nation's history and rich in recreational opportunities. Beginning at Jennings Randolph Lake to the mouth of the Potomac, you may choose to paddle the 355 miles to the Chesapeake Bay or take a single or multi-day trip; all will give you a different view of the ways that previous residents used the river and its banks for their livelihood, transportation and recreation. Below and on the following pages are descriptions, lists and additional links to resources that will help you plan your adventure on the Potomac.

· North Branch (Westernport, MD - Cumberland, MD): Waterproof map set (2005) is available from the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.

· Upper Potomac (Potomac Park, MD - Shepherdstown, WV): Waterproof map set (2002) is available from the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.

· Middle Potomac (Opequon Creek, WV - Georgetown, DC): A digital version of a map set (1998) is available from the Interstate Commission on the Potomac River Basin.

· Tidal Potomac (Georgetown, DC - Chesapeake Bay): Digital version of a map set (1999) available from the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. Learn more about the tidal Potomac.

Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail: An interactive map will help you to explore many of the places visited by Captain John Smith and crew in the early 1600s. For related water trails, visit the Chesapeake Bay Gateways Network.

Check out ideas for day and multi-day trips and a list of resources, contact us to send corrections and suggestions for additional content, and please remember to follow Leave No Trace principles.

Last updated: August 7, 2020

Park footer

Contact Info

Mailing Address:

Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail
c/o Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park
142 W. Potomac St.

Williamsport, MD 21795


This phone will reach the main line for the C&O Canal National Historical Park.

Contact Us