Body of water: 505-acre Little Seneca Lake, notable for its water trail, where you follow 18 blue markers to learn about aquatic plants and to see ospreys, painted turtles, and wood ducks.
Ways to get on it: Rowboat, canoe, and kayak rentals; guided pontoon tours.
Other draw: A butterfly garden.
Body of water: The Potomac River, just north of Georgetown.
Ways to get on it: Canoe, kayak, and standup-paddleboard rentals.
Other draws: The C&O Canal towpath and the Capital Crescent Trail merge here, making this a popular spot for walking, biking, and picnicking. Fletcher’s rents bikes and fishing gear, too.
Body of water: The Occoquan River.
Ways to get on it: Kayak, canoe, and jon-boat rentals. The wider sections of the waterway can be tricky to navigate, so stay close to shore and explore the protected coves.
Other draws: It’s a sanctuary for bald eagles, red-tailed hawks, blue herons, beavers, turtles, and other wildlife.
Bodies of water: The calm waters of Powell’s Creek as well as the Potomac.
Ways to get on them: Canoe, kayak, and standup-paddleboard rentals (creek); sailboat rentals and lessons (river).
Other draws: It’s a birder’s paradise, with ospreys, ducks, cormorants, and herons.
Body of water: Pohick Bay, on the Potomac River.
Ways to get on it: Kayak, canoe, paddleboat, and standup-paddleboard rentals; guided paddle tours. To avoid the wake from larger boats, head west toward the creek, where you’re likelier to see shorebirds, turtles, and other wildlife.
Other draws: A campground and a water park.
Body of water: 75-acre Lake Needwood.
Ways to get on it: Kayak, rowboat, canoe, and paddleboat rentals; guided tours on a pontoon boat.
Other draws: A new ADA-compliant dock allows people with limited mobility to launch canoes and kayaks. Also, the popular 14.5-mile Rock Creek Hiker/Biker Trail begins here and extends to the DC line.
Body of water: 90-acre Clopper Lake, where shallow coves have submerged vegetation that attracts ducks, geese, loons, and other birds.
Ways to get on it: Kayak, rowboat, canoe, and paddleboat rentals, plus pontoon tours, guided paddles, and Take Me Fishing programs.
Other draw: Stocked with trout, the creek is great for beginner fishing.
This article appears in the May 2019 issue of Washingtonian.