Entry Thumbnail

Drought Monitoring Continues

IMG_4510Although the region is far from a drought, on the 1st of September, reduced flow in the river triggered daily water level monitoring by ICPRB’s CO-OP. Monitoring will continue until the flow is above 2000 cubic feet per second where the gage is located at Point of Rocks, Maryland.

The closer monitoring of river hydrology is a facet of the decades-long work that ICPRB and its partners have used to ensure that the metropolitan Washington area will have enough drinking water, even during a severe drought.

Click here to track the status of drought monitoring.

Entry Thumbnail

About the Basin: Potomac Headwaters

Potomac Headwaters

Photo by Scott Kaiser

Spruce Knob-Seneca Rocks National Recreation Area is within the Monongahela National Forest, one of the of the most ecologically diverse National Forests, on the far western edge of the Potomac River watershed in West Virginia. It is 100,000 acres of outdoor adventures.

The mountain peak, Spruce Knob, sports many superlatives: the highest point in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed, the highest point in the Allegheny Mountains and the Appalachian Plateau, the 24th highest point in the United States, and the 13th most isolated peak in the contiguous United States. As you have probably guessed by now, it is high. On top of this massive peak you will find an observation tower with 360-degree views of the surrounding valleys and mountaintops. In addition to beautiful vistas, the extreme altitude changes mean that Spruce Knob has excellent hiking, rock climbing, and mountain biking opportunities.
In addition to many creeks, fishing opportunities are just down the mountainside at Spruce Knob Lake, which is regularly stocked with trout by the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources. A boat ramp and pier are available.
October is an excellent time to enjoy leaf-peeping in the Potomac headwaters. While exploring, stop by the Seneca Rocks Discovery Center to learn more about the site, which was used as a training facility for rock assaults during WWII. Check it out this weekend (September 4) for a cider pressing demonstration.
Too much to do in just one day? For overnight stays, campgrounds in the area offer a range of camping possibilities, from rustic walk-in sites to cabin glamping to RV hookups. Temperatures can drop fast in the mountains so remember to pack accordingly!
Entry Thumbnail

About the Basin: Dog Days of Summer

Today is a very important holiday. It is underappreciated and under-celebrated, but nonetheless, it is a day that deserves special recognition. It is Dog daysNational Dog Day.

Celebrate man’s (and woman’s) best friend this weekend and take your dog on an adventure. Hiking, boating, and exploring are all excellent ways to get exercise and bond with your pup.

There is an endless list of dog-friendly hiking spots in the Potomac watershed. Check out websites like Hike with Your Dog and Bring Fido for places in your area.<

Tips for hiking with your four-legged fur friend:

  • Be mindful of the trail surface. Paved trails and roads can soak up heat from the sun and hurt their paws if it gets too hot. If in doubt, test the surface with the palm of your hand. If it’s too hot for your hand, it’s too hot for the paw.
  • Always keep them on a leash. Your dog may be great off leash, but other dogs might not be as friendly, which can create a dangerous situation.
  • Escapes happen, so make sure your dog has proper ID on a secure collar. Bonus points if your four-legged friend is microchipped.
  • Don’t forget to bring: doggy bags for pet waste, snacks for your pup, water with a drinking container, and a towel to clean those muddy paws.
If hiking is not your dog’s cup of tea, check out these Potomac basin parties for your pooch:
  • K9’s in the Vine at Linganore Winecellars, August 28 (Mt. Airy, Md.)
  • Dog Days of Summer, September 3 (Frederick, Md.)
  • Bichon Bash, September 11 (Centerville, Va.)
  • DogFest Walk n Roll, September 17 (Arlington, Va.)
  • Bark, Wag, and Wine, September 24 (Hume, Va.)
  • Mutt Madness at the Fairgrounds, October 9 (La Plata, Md.)
  • Pints 4 Paws Beer Festival, October 16 (Arlington, Va.)
  • Paws in the Park, every fourth Sunday of the month (Frederick, Md.)
Entry Thumbnail

About the Basin: A Big Birthday


Harper’s Ferry, W. Va.

The National Park Service turns 100 years young on August 25, 2016.

In 1872, Yellowstone National Park was the first of several areas designated “as a public park or pleasuring-ground for the benefit and enjoyment of the people” under control of the Department of the Interior. As the territories grew, it seemed each new park was administered by a different organization.

One hundred years ago this Thursday, President Woodrow Wilson signed the act creating the umbrella organization that would become the caretaker of our country’s natural wonders, the National Park Service (NPS). A century later, NPS is now responsible for 83 million acres of national treasure.

NPS and other organizations are holding special events to commemorate this historic occasion. Here are a few that are happening in our little corner of the country:

  1. All 412 National Parks are offering Free Admission from August 25-28.
  2. Confluence Festival, Harper’s Ferry, W.Va., celebrates music and arts in honor of the NPS Centennial (August 20)
  3. Niagara (NAACP) Movement Pilgrimage, Harper’s Ferry, W.Va., retraces the footsteps of the civil rights pioneers of the NAACP. (August 21)
  4. Form a human arrowhead (the NPS logo) with thousands of your best friends on the National Mall (August 25)
  5. The North American Ornithological Conference in Washington, D.C., brings science and conservation together (August 16-20)
  6. NPS Centennial Family Festival at Constitutional Gardens in Washington, D.C., celebrates all things NPS (August 27)

Wallace Stegner, an American writer, notes, “National parks are the best idea we ever had. Absolutely American, absolutely democratic, they reflect us at our best rather than our worst.” During this contentious election year, Find Your Park and cast a vote for the absolutely American, absolutely democratic, National Park Service.

Entry Thumbnail

About the Basin—Your Watershed Group Map

WatershedGroupsCivic engagement is the cornerstone of our country. The people and organizations that work tirelessly to improve a little piece of the world makes the whole community a better place to live.

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

Click here to find the Watershed Group map.

If your environmental group is not listed or the information needs to be updated, please complete the online form or contact us.

Entry Thumbnail

About the Basin – Little Seneca Lake

Little Girl Fishing at Little Seneca Lake

Little Girl Fishing at Little Seneca Lake

With a surface area of 505 acres, Little Seneca Lake is anything but little. Built as an important strategic reservoir for drought management in the Potomac watershed, the lake also provides a variety of excellent recreational opportunities. Located just north of Germantown, Md., the lake boasts several boat ramps, plenty of fishing holes, calm sailing waters, a nature center, and so much more.

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?

Entry Thumbnail

Four Facts About the Potomac

U.S. Geographic Board Decision Card

U.S. Geographic Board Decision Card

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.

Entry Thumbnail

Finding Sanctuary

The Audrey Carroll Audubon Sanctuary is just that, a sanctuary. Outside the hustle and bustle of city life, it is a quiet retreat

Audrey Carroll Audubon Sanctuary

Common Yellowthroat

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

Audrey Carroll Audubon Sanctuary

Viewing Platform

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 park is open for light recreation. Biking or jogging are not allowed but walking, bird-watching, and wildlife education are encouraged. Just a short walk from the parking lot gives you an excellent view of the surrounding valley.

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.

Check out the Sanctuary this weekend for a relaxing trek among the woods and meadows or join them on August 20 for their next nature walk focused on summer wildlife.
Entry Thumbnail

Science Weekend Warriors

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.Algae monitoring

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.

Do you know of a citizen science opportunity in the Potomac river basin? Let us know and check our website regularly for more Citizen Science Warrior opportunities in our area!

Entry Thumbnail

About the Basin—Living History along the Potomac

 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.