In the Potomac River basin, we are lucky to live in an area where there is an abundance of organizations and stewardship opportunities. ICPRB has compiled a map of groups in and around the Potomac basin that work towards protecting the watershed. The list includes civic groups, regional governments, non-profits, wildlife sanctuaries, and more. It is intended to help basin residents discover local groups so that they can ask questions, volunteer, or learn more about their watershed
With a surface area of 505 acres, Little Seneca Lake is anything but little. Built as an important strategic reservoir for
Activities on the lake center around Black Hill Regional Park. This nature center offers a variety of events for all ages but has a special focus on children’s programs. Art, yoga, campfires and scavenger hunts, all geared towards the littlest family members. Monarch Fiesta Day, held every September, celebrates the exalted butterflies migration to Mexico.
Rent a kayak or take a ride on their pontoon boat Kingfisher to explore the many nooks and crannies of the lake. Fishing kayaks, SUP boards and sail boats are a common weekend sight. A water trail map offers an ecological and historical take on the area.
This bucolic jewel in northern Montgomery County, Md. maintains many miles of paved and natural surface hiking trails. A trail connector project is in the works on the western side of the lake that will soon add 6 miles of scenic hiking opportunities.
Little Seneca Lake is close to the busy cities of the Washington metropolitan area but it feels a world away. Why not take a break and check out all that it has to offer this weekend?
1. Thought by some to mean “something brought”, the Potomac owes its name to the Native American Algonquian village, the Patowmeck. The river’s name went through many iterations until the United States Geographic Board settled on the final spelling and pronunciation in 1931.
2. It is a common myth that Lyndon B. Johnson called the river a “national disgrace.” However, the actual quote is not far off. During the Water Emergency Conference in 1965, President Johnson spoke to governors and other state officials about the water crisis faced by the northeastern states. He talked of the water crisis as both a national problem and a regional problem, summoning the state of the Potomac river as an example: “It is disgraceful. I was out on it last night and you can hardly go down the river without reflecting and wondering why we have been so shortsighted these years. And it has got to stop. We have got to do something about it. And good men, and great men, and wise men, and good Americans, like you, can do something about it.”
3. The Potomac river has 6.11 million people within its watershed and covers almost 15,000 square miles. It reaches into West Virginia, Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania and the District of Columbia. Coordinating a reliable supply of drinking water among many jurisdictions is a big challenge. To work cooperatively and efficiently, almost two dozen water suppliers and government agencies have come together to form the Potomac River Basin Drinking Water Source Protection Partnership (DWSPP). Through strategy building, work groups, educational meetings, and more, the members of DWSPP work toward a comprehensive approach to protecting drinking water supplies.
4. The non-native fish in the Potomac, the northern snakehead fish and blue catfish, are commonly written about in the media and well known by the public. But did you know that the bastions of Potomac fishing, the Largemouth and Smallmouth Bass, are also not a native species to the Potomac river? Back in 1854, General William Shriver carted a number of Black Bass (a name given the group of fish of which these two species are included) in the water tank of a B&O railroad train from the Ohio river, intending to release them in the C&O Canal. The fish quickly spread. As an 1874 article in the Baltimore American stated, “From this small beginning, sprang a noble race of fish which now swarm the river.” The rest, as they say, is history.
The Audrey Carroll Audubon Sanctuary is just that, a sanctuary. Outside the hustle and bustle of city life, it is a quiet retreat
that encourages contemplation and introspection. Maintained by the Audubon Society of Central Maryland (ASCM) and located at 13030 Old Annapolis Rd, outside of Frederick, Maryland, the 129-acre sanctuary is host to a wide variety of birds, from the dainty Common Yellowthroats and Eastern Bluebirds to formidable raptors. Several birdhouses jut up from an expansive
meadow along the main trail. A leisurely walk along the well-maintained paths will lead to a platform that looks over the entire valley, an ideal spot for wildlife watching. A pond lies just below the platform.
The ASCM holds guided nature walks one day a month that are free and appropriate for all ages. Each walk is guided by a trip leader and has a seasonal theme, such as bird migration and butterfly identification.
Do you love science but can’t quit your day job? Be a weekend warrior for science! Citizen science, also known as crowd-sourced science, is a way for the general public to help scientists in their research. No fancy science degree required, just an interest in science and a bit of training. The available projects range from interpreting historical literature (Science Gossip) to classifying galaxy shapes (Galaxy Zoo) to reporting Harmful Algal Blooms (Water Reporter) and everything in between. Many projects lead to published papers or open-source databases.
Citizen Science has been used in all areas of research, but especially in environmental science. There are high-profile projects that make the news every year like the Christmas Bird Count and the Great Backyard Bird Count, and there are international water-related projects such as the World Water Monitoring Challenge and EarthDive.
Take advantage of the many local opportunities to flex your science muscles. Casey Trees in the District of Columbia has several opportunities, including a phenology study and a tree inventory. The Trash Free Potomac Watershed Initiative uses data from trash pick-up events to track trends in the watershed. You can also assist Virginia Working Landscapes with plant, bird, and pollinator surveys.
Looking to get your kids excited about science and the natural world? PBS SciGirls is a great resource for projects geared towards science warriors-in-training.
You can also satisfy your inner science-geek by becoming a certified Master Naturalist. Many naturalist programs include a citizen science component. Check out your state’s program for more information.
The Potomac River has served as a strategic avenue of transport since the dawn of river travel. It is no surprise that many forts were built along its banks. This weekend marks the 260th Anniversary of one such stronghold, Fort Frederick in Western Maryland. Built during the French and Indian War, this mid-18th century fort went on to be a strategic post in several future wars. The buildings and state park were restored and rebuilt in the mid-1900s. The State Park runs along a good portion of the Potomac River, providing a variety of recreational opportunities amongst great American relics of the past. This weekend’s anniversary celebration includes living history demonstrations and family activities.
A nice boat ramp leads to Big Pool Lake, a quiet spot for boating or fishing (no gas motors allowed) where you can expect to reel in largemouth bass and catfish. While out on the water, try your hand at birdwatching and log your finds into the Birding Big Year log book at the Visitor Center.
Plenty of rustic campsites along the river are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Picnic tables are available for daytime users.
Opportunities for biking and hiking abound in the park. Along with the C&O Canal trail and paths within the park, the fort is less than a mile from the eastern entrance to the Western Maryland Rail Trail, named one of the top 12 trails in the United States by the Rails-to-Trail Conservancy.
While enjoying the great outdoors, remember to leave no trace. Fort Frederick State Park is a Maryland Green Travel Partner, a Maryland state initiative geared towards reducing the environmental impact of the tourism industry.
As this year’s northern bird migration comes to a close, it’s a great time to get outside and discover our avian friends. Although at times it is hard to believe that there are other birds besides the ubiquitous pigeons and Canadian geese in the Potomac River basin, in fact there is a wide variety of beautiful bird species throughout the area.
Right outside of the District and smack dab in the middle of the Potomac River is Theodore Roosevelt Island. In this oasis outside the city you will see species that are commonly found in swampy and marshy areas, such as green herons and wood ducks. Bald eagles have also been known to nest on the island.
The Audubon Society of Central Maryland maintains two large wildlife sanctuaries in eastern Frederick County, Maryland. The organization holds monthly hikes throughout the year or you can explore the flora and fauna on your own. The Society’s next walk is scheduled for June 18 and is entitled “Summer Birds”.
At an unexpected haven in the southeast area of Fairfax County, Va., known as Huntley Meadows Park, you will find such striking birds as Eastern Bluebirds, Common Yellowthroats, and the Northern Flicker. The land, which was once owned by Mr. George Mason IV, is now a 1,500 acre park with trails and watch towers for you bird-watching pleasure. This park is known for being a prime birdwatching location. There is a Monday Morning Birdwalk that has been held, rain or shine, for the past 30 years.
With as many as 430 bird species in the area, there are plenty of opportunities for birding. Other local areas known for excellent birding include the Antietam Battlefield in Sharpsburg, Maryland, Yankauer Nature Preserve along the Potomac River in Shepherdstown, West Virginia, and Elizabeth Hartwell Mason Neck National Wildlife Refuge in Lorton, Virginia.
Many ICPRB staff spend as much time as we can on the water, and we encourage you to do the same through maps and information that helps you to enjoy our precious resource. A recent rash of drownings and accidents along the river serves as an unfortunate reminder on the importance of safety during water recreation. We have put together some tips on staying safe while cooling down in the Potomac River.
Prepare for on-water activities by checking the weather and water levels just before venturing out. Call the National Weather Service at (703) 996-2200, check them out online, or download one of the many apps that will provide real-time data on gauge height, discharge, and temperature. Let a family member or friend know your plans, where you will be, and when you expect to be back. Always wear a life vest. And finally, never go out on the river alone.
Whether you are out with your reel, kayak, or inner tube, remembering these simple tips will help ensure a safe and fun day on the river. Enjoy!
Looking to dip your toes in the sand this weekend but can’t stomach the thought of sitting in the Bay Bridge traffic with 500,000 of your closest friends? Switch up your waterfront routine by enjoying one of the many beach-esque options along the Potomac River instead. Listed below are a few of the possibilities along our beautiful Nation’s River.
You will find Colonial Beach, Va. Just a quick 1.5 hour drive south of the District. The town is not only an historical gem (don’t you want to visit the birthplace of George Washington?!), but the entire city is spanned by a calm, sandy beach.
Just north of Accokeek Creek lies Aquia Landing Park in Stafford, Va. This family-friendly park features fishing, picnic pavilions, and even sand volleyball courts. It is a quiet beach that is excellent for bird-watching and collecting seashells.
Another sandy spot seeped in American history is the Point Lookout State Park in Scotland, Md. Located at the mouth of the Potomac River, this park held more than 50,000 Confederate soldiers during the Civil War. Boasting both a museum and a nature center, the park can fill up fast on the weekends so make sure to get there early!
The following beaches are not along the Potomac River but are on this side of this Bay. Flag Ponds Nature Park in Calvert County, Md. is an ideal area for kids of all ages to snag fossils from the Miocene era right out of the sand. Don’t forget your digging gear! A small and little-known beach, Beverly Triton Beach Park, is located outside of Edgewater, Md. It is a great place for both you and your dog to cool off during the sizzling summer heat.
Make sure to tag ICPRB when you are out enjoying the many amenities that the Potomac watershed has to offer!
Photo Credit: Aquia Landing Park by Instragrammer @buddysecor
Without proper care, old and rusted heating oil tanks can cause costly leaks and spills. Underground tanks are especially problematic because they can leak for years without notice. Large toxic spills may get all the media-fueled attention, but these silent, slow leaks add up to one major environmental problem for the Potomac River basin and its residents. Read more…