The sport of rowing on the Potomac River has a long and colorful history, dating back to the 19th century. Rowing allows direct interaction with the river as individual rowers and crews train, race, and row in its waters. Scores of rowing teams use the river adjacent to the Georgetown Waterfront Park, including high school and university teams, masters and club teams, and training programs for elite rowers aiming for world championships including the Olympics. In spring and fall spectators line the river steps in the park to view rowing regattas.
There are no docks at the park, but rowing, kayak, and canoe enthusiasts can use boathouses near the park. Thompson Boat Center is a public boat house operated by the National Park Service. It offers rowing shells, canoes, kayaks, and bicycles for rental. Key Bridge Boathouse is another nearby establishment that rents canoes, kayaks, and paddleboards to the public. Private boathouses adjacent to the park include the historic Potomac Boat Club, and the Washington Canoe Club.
Plans for the Georgetown Waterfront Park include an expanded “boathouse zone” near Key Bridge that can accommodate additional boathouses to meet the increasing demand for access to the river. The National Park Service is working with a coalition of community groups, including Friends of Georgetown Waterfront Park, to develop plans for additional boathouse construction.