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About the Basin: Occoquan Regional Park

The Occoquan Regional Park in Lorton, Virginia, provides a steady dose of history, waterfront views, and a relaxed pace.

A path surrounded by trees. A building can be seen at the end of the path.

Photo courtesy of NOVA Parks

Before it was a public park, the Occoquan Regional Park was home to a plethora of brickmaking kilns run by prisoners housed at the nearby Lorton Work House Prison. The ovens were known as beehive kilns for their rounded form, a shape that has been used since the Middle Ages. The bricks from this area were used to build public buildings in Washington, D.C. and throughout northern Virginia. Visitors can explore the last remaining beehive kiln at the park.

The park has baseball fields and a boat launch (for carried craft only) and beautiful views of the Potomac River. The highlight of this park is the recently renovated trail. The paved, easy trail was expanded to a 5k-length in 2018. This park is ideal for families with strollers or kids learning to ride a bike.

Just downstream of the Occoquan Reserve, the river is an important source of drinking water for the region. The Occoquan Regional Park sits at the intersection of hiking and history, where water resources meet water demand.

Want to learn more? Join ICPRB’s Executive Director, Mike Nardolilli, as we explore the interplay of water demand, politics, zoning, water quality, and the challenges they present during an easy 3-mile walk. We will learn about the triumphs and challenges of relying on Occoquan Reservoir as a source of drinking of water for the region. The hike is free and open to the public. We will meet at the Brickmaker’s Café (9751 Ox Rd, Lorton, VA) at 10:00 am on Sunday, September 15.

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About the Basin: Potomac State Forest

Archery, hiking, hunting, fishing, equestrian trails, mountain biking are popular in the Potomac State Forest. Winter sports like cross country skiing and snowmobiling are also a possibility.

Don’t expect to see many people enjoying these opportunities as this rural state forest competes with many state parks in the region for outdoor entertainment opportunities. Even in the height of summer, you will feel like the trails and creeks exist only for you.

The cool, shaded streams make for excellent trout fishing. The majority of the forest is a Delayed Harvest Trout Fishing Area (Group II) which means an angler can possess up to 5 trout during the summer months (check local licensing restrictions).

A 3-D archery range offers the opportunity to practice your aim at 30 life-size 3-dimensional targets.

Potomac State Forest’s claim to fame is that it has one of the highest elevations of any Maryland state forest. At 3,200 feet, Backbone Mountain reigns over this small state forest in the headwaters of the Potomac River in Western Maryland. It also provides for challenging, and rewarding, hiking trails.

One such trail is the Lostland Run Trail. It is a challenging hike with varied terrain and many stream crossings. With appropriate preparation, this trail will reward you with beautiful views, wildlife sightings, waterfalls, and fun swimming holes. Keep your eye on the trail blazes though, as they are easy to miss.

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About the Basin: Monocacy Aqueduct

The Monocacy Aqueduct on the right. Trees on the left. Green grass in the foreground. The Monocacy Aqueduct has a storied past. In its long history, it was used as an important transportation route for goods, goods, animals, and arsenals. Placed at the mouth of the Monocacy River, it was a vital passageway during times of peace and war. Thanks to a recent stabilization and reconstruction effort by the National Park Service, you can still see the structure as it was originally constructed almost two centuries ago.

The aqueduct spans 560 feet across the Monocacy River, connecting the 184.5 miles of the C&O Canal towpath from Cumberland, MD to Washington, D.C. The trail on the canal is flat and easy, making it especially nice for families with bikes, strollers, and bike trailers.

A boat ramp at the Monocacy side of the aqueduct is the final exit point for boaters on the Monocacy Scenic Water Trail and a popular entrance point for anglers.

There is ample parking and a restroom available should you need it.


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About the Basin: Mallow’s Bay, the Graveyard Teeming with Life

An iconic spot on the Potomac River recently acquired a new name. The ghost fleet of Mallows Bay is now known as the Mallows Bay-Potomac River National Marine Sanctuary thanks to its new designation by NOAA. It is the first such sanctuary in almost two decades. Kayak alongside a sunken ship barely sticking out of the water at Mallows Bay

On the Maryland side of the Potomac, just south of Washington, D.C., historic ships sit at the bottom of the river like an apocalyptic scene in a war movie. Mallow’s Bay is the final resting place for almost 200 boats that cover two centuries of history. Paddleboarders and kayakers alike feel a sense of magic while floating through the water, knowing that at any given time they are only inches from rich history. As the largest concentration of shipwrecks in the Western Hemisphere, there is nary a spot in the bay where there is not a ship decaying on the floor below. These salvaged, and then sunk, ships are now home to a wide variety of fish, crustaceans, and aquatic vegetation. Some ships have created islands where osprey nest and crabs skitter across the sand.

The next few years will most likely see many changes for Mallows Bay. Possible plans for the area include paddle-in campsites, hiking trails, interpretative signage and additional public access amenities. Designation as a National Marine Sanctuary will only increase the speed and intensity of the additions and the public exposure it receives. These changes will bring their own benefits, but in the meantime, now is a great time to visit this primitive and isolated area. Take advantage of the quiet, meditative bay with the beautiful, sunken boats.

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About the Basin: Pyrotechnics on the Potomac

Celebrating Independence Day with fireworks is almost as old as the country itself. Fireworks were used to mark the occasion a year after the Declaration of Independence was signed.

We continue to celebrate our independence with grand pyrotechnic displays in the sky. There are many options throughout the area to enjoy a magnificent show. Here are just a few:

George Washington’s Mount Vernon, Virginia (June 28 and 29) – Take this special opportunity to enjoy a piece of history after dark. Special tours, musical performances, and games will be followed by a patriotic fireworks display overlooking the Potomac River.

Dumfries, Virginia (June 28-30) – Known as the “Not on the 4th” Fireworks, this annual display is launched from a barge on the Potomac River and organized by a local restaurant.

Colonial Beach, Virginia (July 4) – Auto races, parades, and children’s activities will be part of the town’s festivities. A star-spangled fireworks display will emanate from the municipal pier and over the Potomac River.

Washington, D.C. (July 4) – This year’s theme of “A Salute to America” honors the armed forces with a speech from President Trump, special tributes, flyovers, and military demonstrations. There will be a free concert with Carole King, Vanessa Williams, and other big names in the business. A massive display of fireworks will be launched from West Potomac Park shortly after 9:00 pm. The new location for the fireworks display will mean restrictions for boat traffic in the river, so please plan accordingly.

Sharpsburg, Maryland (July 6) – The Maryland Symphony Orchestra will be playing at the Antietam National Battlefield in a “Salute to Independence” performance.

Kayakers paddle the Potomac River in front of the Washington Monument.

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About the Basin: Cedarville State Park

Cedarville State Forest

A boy and his father are fishing in a pond at Cedarville State Park. The Maryland Forest Service manages 214,000 acres of forest spread among 13 different State Forests.  At 3,510-acres, Cedarville State Forest is one of the smallest, but not the smallest, of these managed forestlands.

Before European settlers arrived, the Piscataway Indian Tribe would travel to this area of Maryland to enjoy the cooler climate and plentiful hunting and fishing during the summer months. On the fourth Sunday of the month (other times by appointment), stop by the Piscataway Indian Museum and Cultural Center in the nearby town of Waldorf to dive deep into the history and culture of the Piscataway Indians and other native people.

The headwaters of Zekiah Swamp Natural Environment Area are found within Cedarville State Park. The swamp drains into the Wicomico River, a tributary of the Potomac River. This area has been claimed to be one of the most significant ecological areas in the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

The Cedarville State Forest campground has 27 family camping sites. Twelve of the sites include an electric hookup and several water spigots are located throughout the campground. Dogs are allowed throughout the campground. There are also sites especially reserved for youth group camping and equestrian camping.

Picnic tables are located throughout the area on a first-come first-served basis. Two pavilions are available for rent for large groups.

Fishing and hunting are allowed (within designated areas and with the correct license). A fishing pond, with benches and shade, is stocked with bluegill, catfish, sunfish and bass.

There are 19-miles of hiking trails throughout the forest, including mountain biking and equestrian trails.

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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: Frederick Municipal Forest

When is a forest more than a forest? When it is managed specifically as the source of drinking water for an entire city. Hence, Frederick Municipal Forest is more than a forest. It provides clean, fresh drinking water for the 70,000 people who live downstream. Do you need more of a reason to love it? The well-maintained labyrinth of trails is a locally known secret to many hiking and mountain biking enthusiasts.

“The Frederick Watershed is a gem, a forest that protects the water supply and critical habitat for 22 threatened and endangered species, while providing a backcountry experience just outside the city,” says Jenny Willoughby, Sustainability Manager for the City of Frederick.

A wooden sign in front of a forest. The sign reads: You are now entering the municipal forest of the City of Frederick.Located along the ridge of Catoctin Mountain in western Maryland, the forest is accessible off Gambrill Park Road. It is also a short drive from the charming town of Frederick, Maryland. Although camping is not allowed in the Frederick Municipal Forest, Gambrill State Park is just down the road and provides a variety camping options.

Join the Interstate Commission on the Potomac River Basin and the City of Frederick for a guided hike through the Frederick Municipal Forest on Saturday, June 8th.  The hike is part of ICPRB’s Walk in the Woods Series and the City of Frederick’s Sustainability Committee’s Green Lecture Series.

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Michael Nardolilli Appointed ICPRB Executive Director

Michael A. Nardolilli has been appointed the Executive Director for the Interstate Commission on the Potomac River Basin. Nardolilli will take the reigns beginning April 1, 2019. He replaces Carlton Haywood, who is retiring after joining ICPRB in 1982 and serving as Executive Director since 2012.

Nardolilli is currently  the Chairman of the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority, which oversees 32 parks on 12,000 acres and has a $23 million annual budget.

A headshot of Michael Nardolilli

Michael Nardolilli

Previously, Nardolilli has served as an executive for several nonprofits, including the Montgomery County (Md.) Parks Foundation, the C&O Canal Trust, the Northern Virginia Conservation Trust, and the Arlington (Va.) Outdoor Lab. At each of these positions, he successfully raised operating revenue and and helped ensure the mission and continuing stability of these organizations.

Nardolilli also has served as a volunteer with a variety of organizations, including as chairman of the East Falls Church Task Force and the Arlington County Transportation Commission. He has been named a Washington Life Green City Leader and a Hometown Hero by WETA-TV. Earlier in his career, Nardolilli was an attorney in private practice.

Nardolilli’s familiarity with conservation issues and experience with administration and fundraising with small agencies are important skills to lead ICPRB into the future,” said ICPRB Chairman and Maryland Commissioner Virginia Kearney. “The Commission is extremely pleased to welcome Mr. Nardolilli as the new Executive Director. His selection is the result of a rigorous interview process conducted by ICPRB Commission representatives from each member jurisdiction. Mr. Nardolilli brings to the Commission his leadership skills and experiences serving on and with boards, authorities, and foundations. I believe these skills and experiences will serve both ICPRB and the basin well in the years to come,” she said.

“I am excited by the opportunity to work with the excellent Commission staff and engaged Commissioners of the ICPRB,” Nardolilli said. “I look forward to applying my years of nonprofit experience to help the region be good stewards of the many resources of the Potomac River basin,” he said.

The ICPRB is an interstate compact commission established by Congress in 1940. Its mission is to protect and enhance the waters and related resources of the Potomac River basin through science, regional cooperation, and education.

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About the Basin: Anacostia Park

Anacostia Park

About the Basin—August 31, 2018

On August 31, 1918, Congress passed legislation to bring Anacostia Park into existence. Since that day one hundred years ago, Anacostia Park has become the nation’s neighborhood park. The 1200-acre park is located on the east side of Anacostia River in Southeast D.C. and is one of the biggest parks in the city. The National Park Service works hard to make the park an urban oasis with amenities for all.

The Anacostia Riverwalk Trail is a favorite among Washingtonian runners. Its 12-miles of smooth, wide trails with a beautiful river view is great for walkers, runners, and bike-riders alike.

Sports fields, a swimming pool, picnic tables, and acres of green grass are all popular amenities at Anacostia Park.

For a bit of vintage fun, strap on your rollers skates and check out their rolling rink. Don’t have a cool set of wheels? They offer free rentals throughout the season, Memorial Day through Labor Day.

Join the National Park Service for their 100th Anniversary Birthday Bash at Anacostia Park this weekend. Live music, yoga, boat tours and more family-friendly activities on Friday and Saturday. Bring your bell-bottoms to join the Disco Skate Party Saturday night.