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Everything to Know About Boating the Washington Channel Near DC

There's more to Washington, D.C. than being the capital of the country and its administrative center. The region boasts two magnificent rivers: the Anacostia River on the east and the Potomac River on the west. It goes without saying that DC is a haven for boaters, and one thing that chronicles that is boating the Washington Channel. Whether living aboard luxury yachts docked at marinas, maneuvering kayaks, or partaking in the Annual District Holiday Boat Parade, the Washington Channel offers limitless opportunities for boating enthusiasts to enjoy themselves in an urban, waterfront neighborhood.

The two-mile channel runs parallel to the Potomac River, nestled between Southwest Waterfront on the east and East Potomac on the west. The Channel is home to many marinas with dockages for vessels that span up to 125 feet long with beams of 32 feet. Among the best marinas in the Channel is The Wharf Marina. It lies in one of Washington's most exciting neighborhoods – The Wharf – and introduces visitors to one of Washington, D.C.'s true waterfront neighborhoods, with endless opportunities to explore the many quaint retail stores, hotels, promenades, waterfront parks, and piers. Guests can also check out the nearby national treasures, such as the Washington Monument and the Jefferson Memorial.

General Information

Most waterfront facilities lie on the east side of Washington channel. Other small-craft facilities are on the north side of the Anacostia River, a short distance from the mouth. Pier 5, one mile above Hains Point, has an estimated water depth of 23 feet at the outer end. It's the harbormaster's headquarters and where you'll typically find patrol boats and the Police and Fire Department. The harbormaster and the police boats usually monitor VHF-FM channel 16, which boaters can use to signal their arrival. As you advance a short distance north, you'll find Pier 4 – a large building for cruise ships and dinner boats – with a depth of approximately 23 feet, and it's frequented mainly by excursion boats.

Once you arrive, you can hail the dockmaster while inbound on channel 16/72 or by phone at (202) 595-5165. As you approach the Wharf, continue cruising past Pier 4, then pass the Capital Yacht Club, and District Pier, until you arrive at the Market Pier, where The Wharf Marina staff will usher and guide you to your boat slip.

Moorings, Marinas, and Anchoring

The Washington Channel has several DC marinas that provide mooring spots at daily or long-term rates. The primary marina is The Wharf Marina. The Wharf Marina operates most moorings in the Channel at a flat rate of $35 per day. There are eight mooring balls in the Channel for hassle-free hook-ups. The marina also boasts dozens of slips with newly developed docks at The Wharf. Additionally, it has 300 feet of dockage with depths of 15-20 feet, making it an ideal docking area for superyacht owners planning to visit Washington, D.C.

However, if you need to anchor your yacht or boat, you'll be hard-pressed to get an anchoring location in the aforementioned marina. Boat owners are only allowed to anchor their vessels beyond the marine police station, which lies downriver of the marina and moorings.

Top Attractions Accessible from Washington Channel

Whether you visit Washington Channel to experience Washington, D.C.'s gastronomic scene, see the monuments, or explore the unique attractions around the Channel, you'll find plenty of spots to satisfy your travel needs.

Restaurants and Shops

There are plenty of dining spots, sweets and confectionery shops, bars, and coffee shops serving a wide range of treats for any budget and occasion. If you feel like tingling your taste buds with authentic Mexican flavors, head to Mi Vida, where acclaimed chef Roberto Santibanez prepares a tasty menu that combines street foods and Traditional Mexican homemade meals. Or, enjoy delicious Italian meals at Officina. Of course, your visit to the Channel won't be complete without a taste of freshly prepared seafood, and you can only find the best dishes at Hank's Oyster Bar; wrap up your gastronomic tour with a sweet cup of coffee or sweet dessert at Colada Shop or Praline Bakery at the Wharf.

Feel like shopping? The Channel's waterfront has a plethora of retail shops selling all sorts of products. At the District Square, you'll find A Beautiful Closet, which sells apparel and fashion accessories for the entire family. Located at 33 District Square SW, Diament Jewelry caters to all your jewelry needs with its extensive collection of rings, bracelets, necklaces, and other easy gifts, such as scented candles, cheeky socks, and cards. Visitors who'd like to stock up on linen and home décor elements may visit Patrick's Fine Linens & Home Décor - a high-end store that sells linens, tableware, home accessories, cocktail stemware, chinaware, and premium colognes and perfumes. But if you want a souvenir made only in D.C – whether a piece of art, leather products, hot sauces, or cocktail supplies – check out Shop Made In DC.


Washington, D.C., is a Federal City where some of our country's most prominent forefathers are immortalized in impressive memorials, monuments, and public buildings. You may want to visit:

  • The Washington Monument – the famous 555-ft. marble obelisk built in honor of George Washington over 150 years ago.

  • The Lincoln Memorial

  • The Jefferson Memorial

  • Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial

  • George Mason Memorial

  • John Paul Jones Memorial

Rules and Regulations in Washington Channel

The District of Columbia Harbormaster is the senior officer commanding the Harbor's Police Department Precinct and regulates all the operations, navigations, mooring, and anchoring of all vessels within D.C.'s waters.

  • Any vessel operator entering the harbor and wishing to stay over 24 hours must report to the harbormaster at the Harbor Precinct Wharf or any officer under his command. They must register their entry date and time of arrival. They must also notify the harbormaster immediately before departing.

  • Any boater seeking permission to anchor in the District of Columbia must partner with the harbor manager. As mentioned earlier, both the harbormaster and patrol boats monitor the VHF-FM channel 16 and call sign KUF-703.

Nearby Water Bodies & Structures

The Washington Channel authorities have built structures, such as bridges, to facilitate the movement of people across and around the Channel to the District. Here are some waterways and bridges you may navigate around during your visit to The Washington Channel.


Being at the confluence of the Potomac and Anacostia rivers, Washington, D.C, has many old and new bridges that commuters use en route to the District. Some of these bridges include:

  • Arlington Memorial Bridge

  • Francis Scott Key Bridge

  • Frederick Douglass Memorial Bridge

  • 14 Street Bridge

  • 11th Street Bridge Park

Accessing Nearby Water Bodies

The Washington Channel is connected to several water bodies, enabling boaters to explore other attractions, POIs, and marine settings.

The Tidal Basin

The Tidal Basin is a man-made reservoir that lies between the Washington Channel and the Potomac River. Part of the West Potomac Park, the 107-acre and 10-ft.-deep Tidal Basin is surrounded by most of the memorials in D.C. and was primarily built to maximize the power of the tides in the Potomac River to remove silt from the Channel.

The best way to access the Tidal Basin is to take the Metro to the Smithsonian Station, which lies about 0.4 miles from the Tidal Basin. From the station, head west on Independence Ave to 15th Street; take a left turn and head south along 15th Street to East Potomac Park, just a short distance from The Tidal Basin.

The Potomac River

The Potomac River runs parallel to the Washington Channel and primarily serves as the Chesapeake Bay's southern headwaters. It originates in the Allegheny Mountains and the hills of Maryland and stretches 380 miles to the Tidewater at Point Lookout, MD. As the river approaches Washington, D.C, the water slows down, allowing boaters to navigate it at a water depth of about 24 feet and maintained for about 108 miles in the tidal portion of the river.

The Washington Channel is one of Washington DC's gems, carefully built and managed to provide docking, mooring, and anchoring locations, where you can live aboard your water vessel and access the District's unique attractions, monuments, memorials, and public buildings. Our Washington DC marina, The Wharf Marina (link), is the best place to dock, thanks to its wide range of amenities, from restaurants, restrooms, and boat rentals, to shopping and entertainment destinations. Contact Oasis Marinas today to help you plan your boating trip in the Washington Channel.

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