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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?

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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.

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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.
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5 Free Things to do in the Potomac Basin this Weekend

1. Capital Bikeshare and the mega-outdoor store, REI, are partnering up this weekend to provide free bike rentals at the 350+ Capital Bikeshare rental kiosks throughout the District. To test your city-biking skills sign-up here for a discount code.

Audrey Carroll Audubon Sanctuary

Audrey Carroll Audubon Sanctuary

2. Pack a picnic and grab the kids for a free Movie on the Potomac along the shores of National Harbor. This Sunday’s showing will be the classic from 1989, Honey, I Shrunk the Kids.

3. Join the Audubon Society of Central Maryland on their monthly hike through the nature sanctuary. July’s walk will explore the birds and butterflies of the Audrey Carroll Audubon Sanctuary outside of New Market, Md. The walks are great for the entire family. Don’t forget your binoculars!

4. Take advantage of the National Park Service’s free boat ride on a replica steamboat at the Williamsport Launch Boat Program while learning about the locks along the C&O Canal. The tours begin at 11am, 1:30pm and 3:00pm on both Saturday and Sunday and are sure to please people of all ages.

5. Get outside and take the Brookside Nature Challenge. Use this chance to reconnect with nature and your kids as you explore the natural wonders of Brookside Nature Center in Wheaton, Md.

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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!

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Water Supply Outlook – July, 2016

Precipitation levels have been above normal and are expected to continue at that level. There is a below normal probability of releases from the Washington metropolitan area’s back-up water supply reservoirs for the 2016 summer and fall seasons. Read more…

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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.

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Birding in the Basin

greenheronAs 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. For those fans of the movie “The Big Year”, the National Park Service provides a brochure to keep track of your finds.

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.

Can’t get out to see birds this weekend? Check out our write-up on bird cameras in the Potomac River basin.

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Staying Safe on the Potomac

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.paddlersinthemarsh-Large

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!

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The Potomac Fishing Report

Stocked trout streams in the Shenandoah basin are fishable, with the mountain streams full and clearing. The mainstem is still muddy according to reports. The North Branch Potomac also is stained, but closer to an average flow.

In the upper Potomac, water temperatures are in the mid 70s, with some stained water. The river levels are keeping fish spread out and anglers should target deeper areas with eddies, or seems where stained and clearer water meet. Good reports have come from the area between Lander and Knoxville. Mayfly hatches have been occurring, and fly anglers will be trying to match the hatch.

In the metropolitan Potomac, water is stained and about 78 degrees. Reports of largemouth bass at the Kennedy Center wall, the wall in Washington Channel, and bridge pilings are good bets. Catfish are spawning and can also be taken at bridge pilings.

Further downstream, anglers are having luck in the grass beds at the mouths of tidal creeks and on the mainstem. Largemouth bass fishing has been productive, and the spawning catfish are common.

Near the river’s mouth, anglers are chumming for striped bass, as well as the channel edges around St. George’s Island. Reports of some croaker and a few flatfish round out the catch. Crabbing continues to improve with the warming water.