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About the Basin: Bull Run Mountains Natural Area Preserve

Bull Run Mountains Natural Area Preserve

August 20, 2021

The Bull Run Mountains Natural Area Preserve is an outdoor living laboratory located only an hour drive from the D.C. Metro area. It is staffed with Natural Area Preserve managers who carefully oversee the 2,486 acres to preserve the impressive biodiversity and the unique forest and woodland communities found on the mountain.

A wide-angle view of a mountains during autumn.

Photo Credit: Virginia Outdoors Foundation

Since 2002, Bull Run has been owned and managed by the Virginia Outdoors Foundation (VOF) which was established to promote the preservation of open-space lands and to encourage private gifts of money, securities, land or other property to preserve the natural, scenic, historic, scientific, open-space and recreational areas of the Commonwealth. They protect 850,000 acres across Virginia.

In an effort to balance public use with the preservation of the natural ecosystem, the northern section has restricted access, and the southern section is only open to the public Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. The public can access the area by way of 7-miles of hiking trails, public programming, and volunteer opportunities. Grab a trail map to find the hikes that lead to picturesque views of the Blue Ridge mountains. A few simple rules apply during your visit: please stay on the designated trails, no dogs are allowed, and practice Leave No Trace principles. They also host school-aged children, university students, and researchers. There is an active stream restoration and monitoring program on site.

Cultural history is an important part of the VOF program. The area is part of the ancestral land of the Manahoac Indigenous people who practiced prescribed burning to create a wildlife habitat conducive for hunting. However, according to notes by the explorer John Smith, they did not burn the hills along Bull Run and throughout the Blue Ridge mountains. The VOF protects many regionally important cultural history sites on the land. Staff provide guided hikes with titles such as Black and African American History of the Preserve and a spooky Cemetery Night Hike. Volunteers are a vital part of the program, so if this sounds interesting, contact them to find out more.

Another organization along the mountain is the Bull Run Mountains Conservancy which protects the Bull Run Mountains through education, research, and stewardship. They provide education, research, and volunteer opportunities throughout the year. Halloween Safari is an annual event in October which is a not-as-spooky-as-it-sounds nighttime hike followed by a bonfire and live music.

Contact these organizations to learn more about the recreation, education, and volunteer opportunities in the area.

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ICPRB 4th Quarter Business Meeting August 31, 2021

The Interstate Commission on the Potomac River Basin (ICPRB) will hold its quarterly business meeting virtually on August 31, 2021.

The Section for Cooperative Water Supply Operations on the Potomac (CO-OP) will begin at 8:30 a.m. and will feature an update on efforts to increase supplemental storage for the metropolitan area water supply.

The ICPRB meeting will begin at 9:45 a.m. Commissioners will get an update on the Land Prioritization Project, which assists planners in targeting land conservation efforts that can benefit drinking water source quality and ongoing enhancements to spill modeling to protect drinking water and water quality from contamination. The commissioners also will receive a report on ICPRB’s evolving Justice, Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion policy.

Members of the public who wish to view the proceedings should send a request through our Contact Us page no later than close-of-business on August 26. You will be sent a link to the meeting.

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Potomac River Fishing Report – August 13, 2021

Shenandoah basin water levels remain extremely low and clear with some algae blooms. 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 be found in shaded pools of deeper water with some cooling current. Mountain streams in Shenandoah National Park are very low and clear, and it will take some stealth to sneak up on wary trout and long casts will be required to fool the trout.

The South Branch Potomac remains extremely low, and the warm water is making the fish lethargic and the bite very light. The same holds true for the slightly cooler North Branch Potomac, where anglers are using terrestrial flies to catch some 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.

Along the upper Potomac, fishing can be difficult in the warm water, which is stained by algae in some areas. Our river watchers are noting that they have not seen the river this low in years. Most of the action is in the very early morning or near dusk. There are lots of low water areas to confound boats and wading or fishing from canoes and kayaks is less stressful. Deeper water in mid river with rock gardens or boulders should be targeted. Anglers are throwing some topwater lures at daybreak or dusk, and small soft plastics can be used on the bottom. The bite is very light and setting the hook on fish is a challenge. Seneca, Lander, and Brunswick provide access to some productive areas. Smallmouth bass and channel catfish mixed with some sunfish are being taken. 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 continues to be slow, with water temperatures reaching the high 80s in spots. Visibility has deteriorated somewhat. Bridge pilings, docks, and other structure can be fished with stick worms, soft plastics, and crankbaits, all fished extremely slowly. The Washington Channel is holding blue catfish and largemouth bass. Patchy grass beds can be targeted for bass on a moving tide.

Downstream in the tidal Potomac, National Harbor and the Belle Haven Marina area have been productive. Anglers are using stick worms and other baits that can be fished very slowly, and bites can be hard to feel. Increasing grass beds downstream of Pohick Bay are productive on a moving tide. Swim baits will work at the grass edges and topwater baits run over the beds at higher water can produce largemouth bass. The mouth of Matawoman Creek is giving up some bass. Blue catfish can be found in most places with cut bait.

Snakeheads can be taken in grass beds at the heads of tidal creeks are lurking in grass beds and structure at the heads of tidal creeks.

The Maryland Department of Natural Resources is raising largemouth bass fry to supplement wild populations, and recently stocked 2,500 juveniles in Piscataway Creek and 19,500 in the Mallows Bay area and Nanjemoy Creek. About 10,400 bass fingerlings were stocked at Indian Head on the Potomac River and Piscataway Creek.

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, although the striped bass seem to have moved out. Water temperatures are in the upper 80s and the water is increasing stained and dirty-looking. The bottom of the main channel is experiencing its usual low dissolved oxygen zone, so be careful about fishing too deep. Anglers are catching some small croaker and white perch. Some nice Spanish mackerel can be found from Colonial Beach to the river’s mouth. Cownose rays are stealing baits, and sea nettles are around in force.

Near the river’s mouth, anglers are taking Spanish mackerel and speckled trout. Anglers are finding some striped bass in the Maryland embayments. Cobia are being taken in chum slicks, which  also attract cownose rays. Bluefish are competing with the stripers. Crabbing has improved somewhat, and while the numbers are down, the crabs are large.

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 on Tour: Wandering the Watershed

Looking for adventure in the Potomac River basin? Over the years we have covered many cultural, historical, and recreational sites in our weekly About the Basin posts (through social media and our website). All the points of interest are now conveniently located on a StoryMap!

Take a moment to check out the website to wander the watershed and explore the many interesting places the basin has to offer. Future stories will be added as they are published.

Find the website here: https://arcg.is/191jiX0 

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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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About the Basin: East Potomac Park

East Potomac Park

About the Basin, August 6, 2021

The history of the 400-acre East Potomac Park is a good reminder of what we can accomplish through ingenuity, creativity, and a little extra dirt.

The park is on the District side of the Potomac River just north of the confluence with Anacostia River. Prior to the late 1800s, this area was mostly underwater, with muddy flats only appearing during low tide. At the time the city was struggling with this stagnant, stinky, mosquito-infested, raw sewage-filled wasteland known as the Potomac Flats. The Army Corps of Engineers decided to dredge the river while using the dredged material to build an island and creating a shipping channel that would allow ships to reach downtown D.C. It was then that the engineering marvel of the Tidal Basin was developed to keep silt from building up in the channel.

Two people rowing a canoe in the Potomac River. A tree full of cherry blossoms is along the shore.Formalized as “Potomac Park” in 1897, from the beginning, the park was designated as a recreational area for the benefit of city residents. Many would escape the heat of the city to picnic, fish, or bike under the cool canopy of the trees along the river. It is still enjoyed by residents and is considered one of D.C.’s best kept secrets.

In 1917, soldier’s barracks were built and a portion of the land was turned into Victory Gardens by the Boy Scouts of America. Through the years there was a campground, a tea house, and horse stables.

In the 1960s, the park benefited from Lady Bird Johnson’s efforts to beautify the capital city. She planted many of the cherry trees along in the park that were gifted by the Japanese government. Additionally, she donated a charming floating fountain which was installed just off Hain’s Point at the southern end of the island. Unfortunately, the fountain was soon removed as it was deemed a public health hazard for spraying high levels of coliform onto the park.

Thankfully, spray from the river is no longer a public health threat. Many enjoy stand up paddleboarding, kayaking, and canoeing in the river, especially during the magical couple weeks in spring when the cherry blossoms are popping with color.

Golf courses (both mini and regular-sized), a pool, tennis courts, athletic fields, playgrounds, and picnic facilities provide plenty of opportunities to get outside and get active on this island with a rich, but short, history.

Photo Credit: H. Herrman

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Potomac River Fishing Report – July 30, 2021

Get the Potomac Fishing Report hot off the press by following #PotomacFishingReport across social media platforms.

Shenandoah basin water levels are extremely low and clear and some areas holding algae blooms. 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 are still 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. The bite has slowed with the rising temperatures. Wading may be the best way to fish this area. In areas with enough water, smallmouth bass and catfish are taking slowly fished lures. The North Branch Potomac ‘s 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 is getting lower and slower, with some stained water primarily on the Maryland side. Water temperatures in the mid-80s. Seneca, Brunswick, and Whites Ferry provide access to some productive water, although boats may have a rough time navigating through some stretches of low water. Wading from these sites can be a good option, as well as the use of kayaks or canoes. Monfilament line with its low visibility may be a better choice than braided line. The early morning bite has dropped off, but anglers are still finding smallmouth bass and catfish in deeper shaded areas with structure. Small plastics dropped to a shady bottom in current and fished very slow can produce some nice bass.

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

Little Girl Fishing at Little Seneca Lake

Fishing in the metropolitan Potomac remains slow. Anglers are targeting bridge pilings, docks, and other structure with stick worms, soft plastics, and crankbaits. Fletchers Boat House is reporting some catfish and the occasional striped bass. The Washington Channel is holding some blue catfish and largemouth bass. The edges of spotty hydrilla beds can be targeted for bass on a moving tide. All baits should be fished slowly in the warm water, which is in the mid-80s.

Downstream, bass are seeking cooler water and shade. Docks and shaded areas will hold bass avoiding the sun and heat, and they will respond to slowly worked stick worms or whopper ploppers. Water temperatures are creeping toward 90 degrees in some spots but should moderate in the weekend’s cloudy weather. Anglers are having success using drop shot techniques to lure the fish from structure.

Some anglers had success at the structure near National Harbor, which hosted one of two large bass tournaments last weekend. Mattawoman Creek grass beds have produced 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 are home to some nice bass.

Snakeheads are available in shallow water grass beds in most of the coves and 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.

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 reopen to striper fishing on August 1.

The hot, dry weather has increased salinity in the Colonial Beach area, with water clear with a green tint and temperatures in the mid-80s and higher. Sea nettles are out in force, and in some cases are thick enough to foul fishing gear and crab pots. Anglers are taking some bluefish, a few croaker, large spot, and blue catfish. 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, which can also attract cownose rays. 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.