Rivers, streams, oceans, and forests have been public since before recorded history... and it is our government's responsibility to maintain them for the public's reasonable use. We fight to defend our rivers and streams against privatization.

How It Works

The public trust doctrine is the principle that certain resources are preserved for public use, and that the government is required to maintain them for the public's reasonable use. Within the Potomac watershed and adjacent states, there have been attempts by private landowners to claim ownership of the river bottom or dictate and limit public use of the waterway.

In response we:

> Block legal claims to restrict or eliminate rivers from public use.

> Advocate for laws that protect public river access.

Case Studies

Jackson River - King's Grant Claim

Potomac at Harper's Ferry - Bottom Ownership Claim

Dry River in the Shenandoah Valley - King's Grant Claim

Virginia Legislation - Bottom Ownership Clarification

Latest Updates

Potomac Riverkeeper Network Summer 2019 Water Quality Monitoring Results

We had a highly successful summer protecting and defending the Potomac River through our citizen science water quality monitoring program. It’s a key feature of our Make the Potomac Swimmable Again Campaign.  Over the summer, dozens of volunteers collected and analyzed water samples from the Potomac River from Fletcher’s Cove to National Harbor. Monitoring is […]


We Need a New Public Access Site on the North Fork Shenandoah

Our rivers are such a source of pleasure as well as giving us our sustaining drinking water. In addition to the latter, though, we strive to increase our access for recreation. Those of us who have the luxury of working on and near the water understand that and those of you who can and do […]

Is it Safe to Swim?

I’ve been working to protect rivers, lakes, and coastal waters for more than 30 years now, and the question that people most often ask about those waters is whether it is safe to swim.  That’s because people love to go in the water and always have since the beginning of time.  Some people think it […]

Coast Guard Announces Interim Security Zone along the Potomac

The Coast Guard recently announced an interim rule establishing a security zone that encompasses approximately two miles along the Potomac River. The restrictions prevent boaters and recreational users from being on the water when the security zone is in effect. We urge you to send comments to the Coast Guard, asking them to develop a plan to notify paddlers […]