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Potomac River Watch

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About the Basin: Harpers Ferry National Historical Park

Harpers Ferry National Historical Park

June 17, 2022

Photo Credit: David Brossard, Do You Know the Way to Harpers Ferry (Flickr)

Harpers Ferry National Historical Park, and its dramatic history, have been explored and extolled by many and for good reason. The town is steeped in history, and it is evident as you walk through the historic village with its living history storefronts and gaze upon the imposing cliffs across the river.

Harpers Ferry sits at the confluence of the Shenandoah and the Potomac rivers in West Virginia. It also “sits at the confluence of history and nature” (National Park Service). It is said that history repeats itself, and that is no different for this small town perched at the meeting spot of two large rivers. Few people have made the area home in the past few hundred years, but the transportation possibilities and natural resources meant,  “The region was used as a highway, a hunting ground, and a place for raiding and trade,” according to a 2017 NPS Report. The Tuscarora and Shawnee tribes built temporary villages in the area, and it was where Catawba and Delaware tribes would clash.

After a series of treaties, broken promises, and finally, the French and Indian War, the indigenous population moved West and European settlers eventually moved into the area in the early eighteenth century.  It continued to be a place of transition as it was repeatedly razed by floods, fires, and war. The people were resilient and continued to populate the area, build up the town, and then rebuild after disaster strikes.

The area is best known for the raid by the abolitionist John Brown, which was considered a pivotal step towards civil war. The town was torn apart by the Civil War. It changed hands, from Confederate to the Union forces, eight times during the war.  A beacon of hope that came from the ashes of war was the development of Storer College, a post-war institute of higher education for formally enslaved people. Supported by the Freewill Baptists, Storer College used many of the wartime buildings to grow their campus. Beyond education, the college provided a sense of community. The college closed its doors in 1955 but you can still explore the former campus.

In addition to history, the Park provides access to the Appalachian Trail/C&O Canal Tow Path by way of an adventurous pedestrian bridge next paralleling a busy railway over the Potomac River. Take a detour off the tow path and hike up to Maryland Heights for a stunning view of the town and the rivers.

Each Saturday and Sunday throughout the summer, you can join National Park Service staff as they tell “The Story Behind the Scenery.”

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ICPRB’s Fishing Report – June 24, 2022

Maryland is considering some changes to fishing regulations. Public comment is invited. A little boy is holding up a fishing pole with a fish on the hook.

The Shenandoah system is fishing well. On the South Fork, anglers are finding some nice smallmouth bass, sunfish, and catfish between Luray and Front Royal. Some musky and carp are in the mix. The mountain trout streams are running well and clear with some hatches occurring.

The South Branch Potomac is pleasing anglers with good flows and quality smallmouth bass and sunfish particularly around Petersburg, W.Va. The North Branch Potomac and Savage rivers continue to produce rainbow and brown trout. Water temperatures are in the mid-50s. Stocked areas still have a few fish.  Most of the action is upstream of Pinto.

The upper Potomac River is running somewhat low and clear. Nice smallmouth bass are being caught in many areas. There is a good topwater bite in the early morning and evening. During the day, anglers are focusing on ledges and rock gardens in the middle of the river. Good access can be found in Brunswick, Point of Rocks, Whites Ferry, and Lander. Anglers are using soft plastic baits fished slowly down in the rocks and structure that creates eddies in the flow. Stick worms are a favorite with some anglers. A number of anglers have said that the smallmouth bite has been some of the best in recent memory. Flathead and channel catfish are biting, and few anglers have reported catching some large musky.

In the metro area, anglers are picking up some nice bass upstream of Key Bridge. Bridge pilings in the District are being targeted for a mix of largemouth, smallmouth, and striped bass. Plastic baits dropped around the pilings are producing some nice fish. Docks and other structure also hold fish during the day, when they can hide form the bright sunlight. The Washington Channel is producing bass at the seawall and in the grass beds.

In the tidal Potomac, Anglers are finding bass along the docks at National Harbor with soft plastics, buzz baits, and crank baits. The tidal guts and channels around Belle Haven Marina are producing some nice bass and snakeheads. Blue catfish in the 40-pound range are common catches in the channel off Fort Washington, and just about everywhere else that anglers probe with cut bait. (Using blue cats as cut bait is a good way to help control the population of this huge fishery.) The spatterdock and other grass beds in Mattawoman Creek are popular. Grass beds become much more lush downstream of Pohick Bay, and become a focus for largemouth bass. Hollow frogs and other topwater baits dragged across the beds bring strikes. Crank baits, plastics, and ploppers can catch fish at the edges of the beds, particularly in moving water. Spawning snakeheads are thick in the heads of tidal creeks with good grass.

Anglers in the Colonial Beach area are seeing some of the best striped bass action in years. Anglers are casting jigs and trolling to catch fish, with anglers getting their quota in a couple of hours of effort. The stipers seem to be reacting the huge numbers of baitfish, primarily bunker (menhaden). Successful anglers will keep an eye on the sky and water to find schools of baitfish that the stripers are concentrated around. White perch and croaker are being caught as well. Visibility is good and the water carries a green stain in some areas.

Near the river’s mouth, anglers are reporting good catches of striper at the mouth and up in the St. Mary’s  River. Much like in Colonial Beach, anglers are taking fish by jigging, trolling, and live-lining spot. Fishing the steep edges of the channel from St. Georges to Piney Point is a perennial favorite. Anglers finding schools of baitfish around Smith Point are taking some nice stripers. The catch incudes some red drum and speckled trout. Even at times when nothing else is biting, there always are blue catfish everywhere. Crabbing is slow.

We are grateful to the many river watchers who contribute to this effort. Particular thanks go to the state departments of natural resources, National Bass Guides, and Shallow Water Fishing Adventures.

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Potomac River Fishing Report – September 3, 2021

Boy fishing at sunset. Large river in the background.The Shenandoah and South Branch Potomac basins are full and are running at or near record levels for this time of year. Please check local water conditions before venturing out, and don’t go if there is any doubt. The muddy water will be difficult to fish, but larger, dark-colored baits will likely work best. Fishing should be much improved after levels recede and water clears. The high flows may scour algae blooms from the area, and reduced water temperatures will not be conducive to their regrowth. Mountain streams in the Shenandoah will clear quickly and the lower temperatures should get the trout engaged.

Trout management areas on the North Branch Potomac should fish well after water levels decrease. Fly fishermen will enjoy the cooler temperatures and elevated water levels. The ICPRB continues to assist the Maryland Department of Natural Resources with creel surveys and data collection that will help in future management decisions.

The upper Potomac River will be very high and muddy for the next several days, making fishing difficult. The feeder creeks and streams will clear first and so may be better areas to fish. Before the storms, the river from Seneca to the Mouth of the Monocacy was fishing well, particularly rock formations in the middle of the river. Panfish and some crappies tributary creeks were being caught on beetle spins and spinner baits. Topwater baits and chattering lures may be a good bet in the muddy water.

Fishing will be difficult in the metropolitan Potomac, with increasing sediment and debris making its way from upstream. The water is quite high at Fletcher’s Boathouse. Before the storm, anglers were successfully targeting wood structure, docks, and bridge pilings with plastic tube baits on light jig heads in the District. Some largemouth bass were taken in the coves around Wilson Bridge.

Downstream in the tidal Potomac, anglers are finding some largemouth bass and snakeheads off Piscataway and in Mattowoman Creek. The tidal creeks will clear before the river, and snakeheads and largemouth bass should be biting after the storm in the significantly cooler water. Blue catfish are taking cut bait off the bottom in the main channel around Fort Washington and downstream. To the river’s mouth. Anglers are finding some fish off National Harbor and near Belle Haven Marina. Grass beds downstream should be productive, but as the water cools for the fall the beds will begin to die off and anglers will be looking to hard structure to find fish.

Water in the Colonial Beach area currently is running clearer, and anglers are finding a lot of striped bass, including some fairly large fish. Spanish mackerel are being caught in large numbers, although they will eventually head south as the water cools. Blue catfish are a common catch in the area. White perch and spot are plentiful. Water temperatures in this area have dropped to the low 80s. Conditions may decline in coming days as the mud and debris comes from upstream.

Those conditions continue down to the river’s mouth, where anglers are trolling and jigging for striped bass along the shipping channels. Spanish mackerel are being taken in good numbers. Some large red drum are found around Point Lookout, Anglers continue to find some nice cobia although they are thinning out. Sea nettles are thick in the river from the mouth up to Colonial Beach. Crabbing remains slow. The area of low dissolved oxygen on the river bottom should keep anglers fishing above 25 feet to avoid the dead zone.


This is the final edition of the Fishing Report for the year. It has been our privilege to bring you these recreation reports that also highlight some basin and ICPRB issues. None of this would be possible without the help of our river watchers who keep us informed. We welcome your comments and suggestions on how we can make this product more useful in the future. The fall season in the basin offers wonderful fishing, boating, and touring opportunities, and judging by the full parks, residents are taking advantage of those opportunities. Please use our natural resources wisely, and help others you meet to become better stewards of our precious natural resources. 

We are grateful to the many river watchers who contribute to this effort. Particular thanks go to the state departments of natural resources, Potomac River Fisheries CommissionNational Bass GuidesShallow Water Fishing Adventures, and Machodoc Creek Marina.

See you on the river!

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Potomac River Fishing Report – August 6, 2021

Follow #PotomacFishingReport across social media platforms to get the Potomac River Fishing Report as soon as it is published.

Silhouette of a young boy fishing at sunset.Shenandoah basin water levels are extremely low and clear with some algae blooms. Conditions have changed little from last weekend, and smallmouth bass and catfish can be found in both the North and South forks with the best times being early morning and evening as fish respond to even a couple of degrees lower temperature. Fish will concentrate in shady areas and deeper pools. Mountain streams in Shenandoah National Park producing some trout for anglers who can sneak up on them in the clear water.

The South Branch Potomac is running very low and clear, with water temperatures in the mid-80s. Wading or shore fishing deeper holes where fish concentrate is the best bet for finding some smallmouth bass, sunfish, and catfish. The cooler waters of the North Branch Potomac’s trout management waters are home to some nice brown and rainbow trout. The ICPRB continues to assist the Maryland Department of Natural Resources with creel surveys and data collection that will help in future management decisions.

As in other areas of the basin, the upper Potomac River is getting tougher to fish as temperatures remain high and flow levels decrease. The water is very clear except where spots of algae foul the water. Early morning hours are best when water temperatures a re coolest, and wary fish are hunkered down in deeper areas of the main river where shade and structure, such as boulders and rock gardens concentrate fish. Use of less-visible monofilament lines with topwater lures or soft plastics will catch fish.  Seneca, Brunswick, and Whites Ferry provide access to some productive water and wading the river will be less frustrating than trying to navigate the shallows by boat. Small plastics dropped to a shady bottom in current and fished very slow can produce some nice bass. There is a high population of baitfish in the river down to its mouth, making it tougher for anglers.

The DNR is planning for a supplemental stocking in some areas of the river. For more information, visit the smallmouth bass stocking webpage.

Fishing in the metropolitan Potomac remains slow. Visibility is good and water temperatures are in the mid-80s. Bridge pilings, docks, and other structure can be fished with stick worms, soft plastics, and crankbaits. Fletchers Boat House is reporting some catfish and the occasional striped bass. The Washington Channel is holding blue catfish and largemouth bass. Patchy grass beds can be targeted for bass on a moving tide. Tidal currents will be strong this weekend due to the new moon.

Downstream, bass, like anglers, are seeking cooler water and shade. Docks and shaded areas holding bass will chase slowly worked stick worms or whopper ploppers. The weekend’s cloudy conditions will help anglers using drop shot techniques to lure the fish from structure. Mattawoman Creek grass beds continue to give up some nice bass, and blue catfish seem to be most anywhere. Main river grass beds downstream hold some fish at the edges at low tide. Pohick Bay coves hold some nice bass. Snakeheads are lurking in grass beds and structure at the heads of tidal creeks. Fish stick worms and chatterbaits over the grass beds, and the edges as water lowers. Swim baits work well around hard structure. Pohick Bay coves are home to some nice bass, snakeheads, and blue catfish.

The Potomac River mainstem in Maryland and its Virginia tidal tributaries are closed to striped bass fishing through August 20. Maryland tidal tributaries to the Potomac are now open to striper fishing.

Colonial Beach is reporting a lot of baitfish and striped bass, which can only be targeted in the Maryland tributaries of the Potomac. Spanish mackerel can be found up to the Route 301 Bridge and anglers are trolling and jigging for them. Large spot and blue catfish abound. Sea nettles have appeared in force and can foul gear and crab pots. Anglers also are finding bluefish and speckled trout.

Near the river’s mouth, anglers are taking Spanish mackerel and speckled trout. Cobia are being taken in chum slicks, which can also attract cownose rays. Bluefish are around to strip the baits of those fishing for other species. Crabbing has improved somewhat.

We are grateful to the many river watchers who contribute to this effort. Particular thanks go to the state departments of natural resources, Potomac River Fisheries CommissionNational Bass GuidesShallow Water Fishing Adventures, and Machodoc Creek Marina.

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Potomac River Fishing Report – July 23, 2021

The Shenandoah basin water levels are low and clear and some areas have some algae. Anglers are catching smallmouth bass and catfish in both the North and South forks. The mainstem is fishing fair for smallmouth bass, sunfish, and catfish. Mountain streams are very low and clear, so anglers will need some stealth to avoid spooking the fish. River temperatures are in the low- to mid-80s

The South Branch Potomac is running very low and clear, with water temperatures in the mid-80s. In areas with enough water, smallmouth bass and catfish are taking slowly fished lures. The North Branch Potomac is somewhat cooler. Trout management areas continue to produce some rainbow and brown trout in the mornings. The ICPRB continues to assist the Maryland Department of Natural Resources with creel surveys that will help in future management decisions.

The upper Potomac River remains low, slow, and clear, with water temperatures in the low- to mid-80s. Lander, Brunswick, and Whites Ferry provide access to some productive water. The best fishing by far is in the very early morning that provides some great topwater fishing with poppers and other small topwater baits. Target faster moving water. As morning continues, some smallmouth bass can be taken by fishing stick worms or small plastic baits fished very slowly. The bite is very light, making it easy to miss a gentle strike. Some nice smallmouth were taken from upstream of Whites Ferry and around Dickerson. The mouth of the Monocacy is green from algae, which is found in spots along the Potomac.

The MD DNR is planning for a supplemental stocking in some areas of the river. For more information, visit the smallmouth bass stocking webpage.

Fishing in the metropolitan Potomac remains slow. Anglers are targeting bridge pilings, docks, and other structure with stick worms, soft plastics, and crankbaits. The Washington Channel is holding some blue catfish.  Hydrilla is growing in some areas, and fishing the bed edges where found can be productive. All baits should be fished slowly in the warm water, which is in the mid-80s.

Downstream, bass are seeking cooler water and shade. Morning high tides allow anglers to target grass beds in moving water in incoming and outgoing tides. Fort Washington Channel holds huge blue catfish, and the mouth of Piscataway Bay has some largemouth bass. Grass beds become more established downstream. Mattawoman Creek vegetation holds some bass and snakeheads. Pohick Bay has some nice bass and snakeheads. The early morning hours are the most productive. The very light and slow bite is easier to pick up with lures fished very slowly.

Cooler daybreak water temperatures allow for topwater fishing both around grass beds and other structure. Later in the day fish shady spots under docks or floating debris mats. The tidal creeks on both sides of the river are holding some nice bass. Fish stick worms and chatterbaits over the grass beds, and the edges as water lowers. Swim baits work well around hard structure.

Pohick Bay coves and shorelines hold bass and snakeheads. Blue catfish are common, with 40-50 pound fish a common catch for those targeting them. Snakehead catches are increasing with spawning over for now.

The Potomac River is closed to striped bass fishing through August 20.

Fishing is slow in the Colonial Beach area, with water clear with a green tint and temperatures in the low- to mid-80s. Anglers are taking some bluefish, croaker, spot, and some nice white perch, along with blue catfish. Puppy drum have moved into the area. Sea nettles are showing up in greater numbers. Avoid bottom fishing in the main channel where the summertime depleted oxygen zone is forming.

Near the river’s mouth, anglers continue to see nice bites of Spanish mackerel and speckled trout. Cobia are being taken in chum slicks. Bluefish are around to strip the baits of those fishing for other species. Crabbing remains tough.

We are grateful to the many river watchers who contribute to this effort. Particular thanks go to the state departments of natural resources, Potomac River Fisheries CommissionNational Bass GuidesShallow Water Fishing Adventures, and Machodoc Creek Marina.

Little boy sitting on a bench reaching for bait. A lake is in the background.

 

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Potomac River Fishing Report – July 16, 2021

Striped Bass

The Potomac River and its tidal tributaries are now closed to striped bass fishing. Maryland’s tidal tributaries are closed to striped bass fishing from July 16 through July 31 to preserve the species during high temperature days. Virginia tributaries of the Potomac are closed until October 4. The tidal Potomac mainstem is closed for striped bass through August 20.

Fishing the Potomac

In the Shenandoah basin, water levels are low and clear and some areas have some algae. Anglers are finding smallmouth bass in both the North and South forks. The mainstem is fishing well with smallmouth bass, sunfish, and catfish. Mountain streams remain low and clear, so anglers will need to sneak up on these fish.

The South Branch Potomac is running low and clear, with water temperatures in the mid-80s. Smallmouth bass and catfish are taking slowly fished lures. The North Branch Potomac ‘s cooler waters (near 60) continues to produce some nice rainbow and brown trout downstream of Jennings Randolph Reservoir. Trout management and put-and-take areas continue to produce. The ICPRB continues to assist the Maryland Department of Natural Resources with creel surveys that will help in future management decisions.

The upper Potomac River is low, slow, and clear, with water temperatures in the low- 80s. Lander and Brunswick are popular access points that produce smallmouth bass and channel and flathead catfish. The segment from Seneca to the mouth of the Monocacy river continues to fish well, with the cooler water temperatures at dawn being best. Anglers on the water early enough will find great topwater fishing in the shallow water over rock gardens mid channel. Later in the morning, slowly fished stick worms, soft plastics, and swim baits will bring some fish. The Edwards Ferry area is fishing well. The DNR is planning for a supplemental stocking in some areas of the river. For more information, visit the smallmouth bass stocking webpage.

Fishing in the metropolitan Potomac remains slow. Anglers are having success at bridge pilings, docks, and other structure with stick worms, soft plastics, and crankbaits. The Washington Channel remains a good spot, with a mix of largemouth bass and catfish along the channel dropoff.  Hydrilla is emerging in some areas, and the edges of those patches are good bets. All baits should be fished slowly in the warm water, which is in the mid-80s.

Downstream, bass are seeking cooler water and hiding from the sun. Aquatic grasses are doing better than in previous years, with the larger be

ds downstream of Piscataway Bay. The river is likely to be crowded this weekend, as major tournaments will be fishing out of both National Harbor and Smallwood State Park. More than 300 boats will be involved, and area boat ramps may be crowded early in the morning on Saturday.

Cooler daybreak water temperatures allow for topwater fishing both around grass beds and other structure. Later in the day fish shady spots under docks or floating debris mats. The tidal creeks on both sides of the river are holding some nice bass. Fish stick worms and chatterbaits over the grass beds, and the edges as water lowers. Swim baits work well around hard structure.

Pohick Bay coves and shorelines hold bass and snakeheads. Blue catfish are common, with 40-50 pound fish a common catch for those targeting them. Snakehead catches are increasing with spawning over for now.

Fishing has slowed somewhat in the Colonial Beach area, with water clear and temperatures in the low- to mid-80s. Anglers are reporting catches of bluefish, croaker, spot, and white perch, along with the ever-present blue catfish. People also are catching brown shrimp in the area. The eating-size shrimp become more prevalent closer to the bay. Sightings of dolphin pods in the area are becoming more common. Sea nettles are starting to show their tentacles. Avoid bottom fishing in the area as the summertime depleted oxygen zone is forming.

Near the river’s mouth, anglers continue to see nice bites of Spanish mackerel and speckled trout. Cobia are becoming more common, with anglers fishing live eels in chum slicks. Bluefish are around to strip the baits of those fishing for other species. Crabbing remains tough.

We are grateful to the many river watchers who contribute to this effort. Particular thanks go to the state departments of natural resources, Potomac River Fisheries CommissionNational Bass GuidesShallow Water Fishing Adventures, and Machodoc Creek Marina.

 

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About the Basin: Piscataway Creek

Piscataway Creek

We’re switching gears for this week’s About the Basin. Instead of extolling the virtues of a nature reserve or state park, we’ll be travelling down a short stream just south of Washington, D.C. called Piscataway Creek and discovering all the natural and historical treasures it has to offer.
Beginning just north of Rosaryville, Maryland, the Piscataway runs just 4.5 miles long. The headwaters pass through Piscataway Creek Stream Valley Park. This park is difficult to access and has few trails. However, if you are in the area, stop by Cosca Regional Park. The main feature of this park is Lake Cosca, which runs into Butler Branch, a tributary of Piscataway Creek. Boat rentals and overnight camping are available in this 690-acre park near Clinton, Md.
About the time Piscataway Creek flows under Indian Head Highway (Route 210), it opens-up into an embayment that provides a variety of recreational opportunities, including hiking, boating, fishing, and educational adventures. The Piscataway Creek Trail can be found on the north side of the embayment. The highlight of this park is a short, easy hike with beautiful views of the river. Just west of the trail is Fort Washington Marina which offers two boat ramps and lots of parking.
Beyond the recreational opportunities, this area is rich with history. The mouth of the river is directly across from George Washington’s Mount Vernon and is largely protected because of its view of this historic piece of land. But long before George Washington dug a hoe into the ground, the Native Americans considered the area a special place. Many organizations work to preserve the history of this creek and its embayment.
On the west side of the marina is Fort Washington Park, one of the few forts still in its original form along the east coast of the United States. An important Potomac River stronghold, this fort showcases how it has adapted to the advances in artillery, ships, and warfare over the past two centuries.
Across the creek from the fort is National Colonial Farm at Piscataway Park, managed by the Accokeek Foundation. In addition to a boat ramp, hiking trails, arboretum, and forest restoration projects, the park hosts a living history farm from the colonial period. Visit the farm to learn what it was like to live as a middle-class family before the American revolution (spoiler alert: they didn’t have wifi!).
Just west of National Colonial Farm is Alice Ferguson Foundation’s Hard Bargain Farm, an environmental center focused on sustainable agriculture and cultural heritage. Most of the farm’s programs are for local students and teachers, but the center occasionally opens to the public for special events, such as last Saturday’s Pinot on the Potomac.
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About the Basin, Peculiar Potomac Edition: Waffle Rock

Waffle Rock

About the Basin, Peculiar Potomac Edition

A large rock with a waffle-like pattern on one side. Photo Credit: mdmarkus66, https://flic.kr/p/7WFfUy

Photo Credit: mdmarkus66, https://flic.kr/p/7WFfUy

Last week’s About the Basin covered the Jennings Randolph Lake near Elk Garden, West Virginia. This week’s article takes a closer look at a geological phenomenon known as Waffle Rock. This interesting rock stands guard at the West Virginia Overlook above Jennings Randolph Lake.

This massive rock has a large waffle-pattern on one side. Some have claimed it is evidence of visitors from another planet, some say it is the scale pattern of a ginormous lizard, and others say it is just an interesting geological formation. We’re going with the “geological formation” theory.

Several hundred million years ago, according to ICPRB hydrogeologist, Jim Palmer, “Joints opened up in the soft sandstone and allowed iron rich water to seep into cracks and form cement around sand particles.” This cemented sand is highly weather resistant. Regular sandstone is not. The soft sandstone eroded away from the rock while the grid-like pattern of the hard sandstone remained, creating a waffle-y rock.

The rock was originally part of a larger formation that broke off some point in the past few hundred million years. It ended up near Shaw, West Virginia, the ill-fated town that is now at the bottom of Jennings Randolph Lake. The rock had geological (and, according to the story, sentimental) value. Before the lake was filled in during the early 1980’s, the rock was moved to its final resting place. It now welcomes tourists and locals alike to ponder the deeper things in life while overlooking the scenic Jennings Randolph Lake.

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About the Basin: Jennings Randolph Lake

Jennings Randolph Lake

Less than 3 hours west of the Washington metropolitan area lies a massive man-made lake with a storied past. Tucked into the Allegany Mountains of West Virginia, Jennings Randolph Lake sits over land that was once a small town called Shaw. In 1981, the residents moved out and water moved in.

As part of the North Branch of the Potomac River, these are the source waters for the 5.1 million people in the Washington metropolitan area. In times of drought, the lake serves as an emergency reservoir to many downstream. In addition to water supply, the project was constructed for flood risk management, water quality, low flow augmentation, and recreational opportunities. The dam was constructed, and is still managed by, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE).

But Jennings Randolph is more than just a place to store water for thirsty people downstream. The 4,500 acres of land and water is a recreational hub with an impressive variety of activities. These include boating, camping, waterskiing, scuba-diving, hiking, swimming, archery, birding, hunting, whitewater rafting, and record-breaking fishing.

Walleye is regularly stocked in Jennings Randolph. Patience is required though, as they are known for being large, but also wily and difficult to find in the lake. Smallmouth bass, trout, bluegill, and catfish abound.

The Howell Run Picnic Area is a picturesque picnic spot overlooking the lake. It offers several shelters for rent, many picnic tables, trails, bathrooms, fishing, and more.

A trail from the picnic area leads to a swimming spot known as Shaw Beach. This sandy beach is a great place to soak up the rays while the kids play in the water.

A 3D archery course is available if you are looking for more adventures. The course is for both beginners and advanced shooters, but you will need to bring your own bow.

During the spring (and occasionally during the summer), USACE releases enough water from the dam to make Class I, II, and III rapids in an area below the dam known as Barnum Whitewater Area. The release schedule for the year is posted online.

Whether you are looking for a day on the water, a day on the beach, or even bigger adventures, Jennings Randolph Lake has something for everyone.

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About the Basin: Fairfax Stone State Park

Fairfax Stone State Park

A white, aged plaque that tells the story of Fairfax Stone.

Photo by West Virginia State Parks

Fairfax Stone State Park, near Davis, West Virginia, has no boating, no hiking, and no camping. It does not even have a restroom. In fact, it is a diminutive 4-acre park.  However, it has immense importance to the Potomac River and the history of the region.

A spring, marked by an organized pile of mossy rocks, is the beginning of the North Branch of the Potomac River. A mere 383 miles downriver, that trickle transforms into the 11-mile wide mouth of the Potomac River, spilling into the Chesapeake Bay.

Before the American Revolution, it was the tradition that English kings would reward loyal friends with large parcels of land in the territories. A plaque on a six-ton rock at the entrance of the park commemorates the western boundary of land granted to Lord Fairfax by King Charles II of England in 1746.

A large stone with a plaque that tells the story of Fairfax Stone.

Photo by West Virginia State Parks

His bounty was, “bounded by and within the heads of the Rivers Rappahannock and Patawomecke”. Known as Fairfax Stone, it is one of the oldest markers in the United States. This plot of land has been part of many boundary disputes.

There may not be many amenities in this charming park, but it is a good reminder that even the largest rivers start as a trickle.

Camping and other amenities can be found at the nearby Canaan Valley Resort State Park and Blackwater Falls State Park.

 

Photo of a map showing the Fairfax Stone state park in the west and Washington, D.C. in the east.

Photo from Google maps.