Taking a bridge across the Potomac River on the way to work isn’t the same as plunging a paddle into the water, seeing its beauty and benefits up close. But only a fraction of the more than 6 million people living in the District of Columbia’s metro area get onto the water each year.

That’s why the Potomac Riverkeeper Network, with the help of partners like the National Park Service and the U.S. Forest Service, started hosting RiverPalooza, an annual series of events spanning the summer that prioritize paddling, rafting, snorkeling and learning about the so-called Nation’s River and its tributaries, including the more rural Shenandoah River.

“We really try to get as many folks [as possible] out on the river that have never been before,” said Shenandoah Riverkeeper Mark Frondorf, one of three riverkeepers in the network. “This is designed for people who are interested in doing something on the water but don’t know where to go or what to do.”

The bulk of events take place in July and are spread among locations in Virginia and Maryland, with one in the District.

RioPalooza, a dual-language Sunday afternoon event, was such a success last year that it is returning to the lineup at a new location on July 21: Stonewall Riverside Park outside Harrisonburg. Named after the Spanish word for river, RioPalooza offers snorkeling, tubing, canoeing (with a chance to win a canoe) and a concert appearance by Latin Grammy Award-winning artist, Mister G. Educational booths and displays will be offered in both Spanish and English with traditional Latino dishes available from noon to 6 p.m. Register online by July 17. Suggested donation is $20 per family of four.

A final gathering to close out the festival on Aug. 24 takes place at the confluence of the powerful Shenandoah and Potomac rivers at Harpers Ferry, WV, where a historic outpost affords breathtaking views of raft-worthy white waters below.

Other events on the calendar include:

  • July 19 – Snorkeling on the Shenandoah (Bentonville, VA)
  • July 20 – American Indian Piscataway Kanoi Tribe Paddle (Indian Head, MD)
  • Aug 16 – Monuments Paddle (Washington, DC)

Event details, including fees and registration, are found at PotomacRiverkeeperNetwork.org/RiverPalooza-2019.