Anacostia River Water Trail (Image courtesy: Chesapeake Bay Program)


Anacostia River Water Trail

Discover the natural abundance of the Anacostia River as it threads through the heart of Washington, DC. Watch birds on Kingman Island or dock at the National Arboretum and roam the forest. Paddle to Diamond Teague Park and catch a ball game or tie-up at Yards Park and explore new restaurants. The Anacostia River corridor has lots of options for outdoor fun and the Anacostia Water Trail can help you find them.

The trail covers a nine-mile stretch of the Anacostia River, running from Bladensburg, Maryland, through Washington, DC, to its juncture with the Potomac River about two miles south of Capitol Hill. Along this trail, the character of the river varies remarkably. Upstream you’ll find forests, wetlands, and wildlife that seem amazingly removed from the city. Downstream are hubs of riverfront recreation, with community parks, restaurants, and sporting events.

The Anacostia Water Trail offers a way to explore the river and its resources.  Its public access sites, programming, and orientation information is helping both residents and visitors find new adventures on the Anacostia and discover other treasures that have been there all along.

Enter Your Location

Remember: safe use of rivers and any designated trails, at any time, is your responsibility! 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 such trails. The Chesapeake Conservancy, National Park Service, and/or the individual trail associations assume no responsibility or liability for any injury or loss resulting directly or indirectly from the use of trails, maps or other printed or web-based materials.

Main image: Anacostia River Water Trail (Image courtesy: Chesapeake Bay Program)


Dawn to dusk


No fee


  • Paddling
  • Biking
  • Fishing
  • Native plant walks
  • Rowing
  • Environmental education programs
  • Bird-watching
  • Wildlife viewing


Various sites along the Anacostia Water Trail include: Bladensburg Waterfront Park, Dueling Creek, Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens, US National Arboretum, Kenilworth Park, Watts Branch, Kingman Island, Anacostia Park, Aquatic Resources Education Center, The Anacostia Community Boathouse, Yards Park, Diamond League Park, James Creek Marina, East Potomac Park, and Gangplank Marina. 

Trail History

Long before the arrival of European explorers, the abundance of fish, game, and other natural resources along the Anacostia River drew a vibrant American Indian culture to its shores. In the 1600s, the Nacotchtank Indians — prosperous farmers, gathers, hunters, and traders — lived along the eastern shore of the river. Jesuit priests later Latinized the Algonquian place name of Nacotchtank to Anacostia. Englishman John Smith explored the Anacostia in 1608. His arrival heralded both the rapid settlement of the land east of the river by English landowners and the rapid decline of the Nacotchtanks.

The Anacostia has changed dramatically over the last 400 years – from a place of quiet natural abundance and American Indian settlements to a colonial seaport and bustling corridor in the nation’s capital. Water quality has suffered, but strong partnerships and community support are helping the river rebound. As development thrives along the southeast waterfront, interest in the river’s recreational potential has been renewed.

Last updated: October 05, 2021