BOATING AND SWIMMING...
A large variety of boats use the creek including canoes and rowboats, kayaks, sail boats (with folding-down masts to get under the bridge) and various kinds of power boats from jet skis to cruisers. Large vessels must be aware the presence of small ones, and canoeists, rowers and others must likewise bear in mind the limited maneuverability of large ones. (The creek has accommodated the entire West Potomac Rowing team, and U.S. Army Landing Craft invited into the Creek to perform maneuvers). Since the creek was declared a "no-wake zone," boating safety has been enhanced. Much of the creek is very shallow, and since it is tidal, navigation is limited at certain times. The tide tables for Little Hunting Creek are linked to this site on the home page.
The entrance to Little Hunting Creek is by way of a channel under a bridge forming a part of the right of way of the George Washington Memorial Parkway and just South of the Stratford Lane - Riverside Park exit. The channel has a width of about 50 feet and the clearance at high tide is 22 feet for the middle 25 feet. This clearance is actually 4 feet higher than the clearance for the 14th Street Bridges in the District of Columbia. The creek varies in width from 50 feet to 600 feet, but the navigable channel never exceeds 75 feet in width. It is about 3 feet deep at low tide.
The navigable channel within the creek is marked with floating red and green buoys. For the first half mile or so the markers are official and shown on GPS displays. As the creek passes Wittington Blvd., the markers continue, although they are unofficial, to the fork in the creek at Riverside Estates. Outside the creek, these buoys continue, separating into two branch channels, one extending northward toward Piscataway Creek and Fort Washington, MD, and the other extending southward to intersect with the Mount Vernon channel that leads tour boats and pleasure craft to the dock at the Mount Vernon estate. Both branch channels of the buoys as well as the buoys within the creek are shown on N.O.A.A. chart 12289 and, again, also appear on GPS displays when a computer chip for the Potomac River is employed. Some of the buoys carry flashing lights for navigation after dark. The floating buoys create a marked navigable water of the United States covered by a permit issued by the U.S. Coast Guard. The permit holder is H. Jay Spiegel. The minimum depth of the marked channel is 3 feet at low tide, although when the wind is blowing from the northwest, the channel can become shallower. Fishermen are forbidden from placing traps within the channel. The floating buoys are on station from April through November, each year. Residents of Wessynton and Riverside Estates maintain the boating channel markers upstream of Wittington Blvd. These markers are unofficial but accurate. Mr. Spiegel also holds the permit for the no-wake markers that legalize a no-wake zone for the entire creek.
Swimming: Although water quality has increased to the point where swimming is considered non-hazardous, the bottom in most sections is mud and clay silt into which a wader will sink fast, and possibly deep. Swimming near the stone bridge really is dangerous, because there is a sharp drop off in depth that creates a circular current in which a swimmer can be caught.