One of the things I am enjoying most about my new job as President of the Potomac Riverkeeper Network is the opportunity to learn about the rivers from the Riverkeepers who each specialize in protecting a particular segment of the watershed and know those watersheds like the back of their hands. In my first three months, I have had the opportunity to spend at least a little time touring the Upper Potomac with Upper Potomac Riverkeeper Brent Walls, the Lower Potomac with Potomac Riverkeeper Dean Naujoks, and the Shenandoah with Shenandoah Riverkeeper Mark Frondorf.
I write about two of the highlights of those tours here – seeing St. Clements Island in St. Mary’s County in the Lower Potomac with Dean and rafting at Harper’s Ferry where the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers meet with all three Riverkeepers and lots of our members and supporters as well.
If you are like me, you don’t get out enough. And no, I’m not talking about getting out to bars, unless you are talking sand bars. I’m talking about getting out in nature. I have lived in the Potomac River watershed pretty much my whole life and have spent most of it protecting water resources, but I still haven’t made the time to see the beautiful resources right around me. Now I can. And they are just spectacular. On an unusually cool day in August, we launched from the Belle Haven Marina, which very generously gives the Potomac Riverkeeper a free slip in which to keep his boat docked and headed downstream. There were bald eagles aplenty soaring over the water and osprey nests literally by the dozens from which these the ospreys were diving for fish. We made two stops, at the Potomac River Fisheries Commission at Colonial Beach, where we had the good fortune to lunch with Marty Gary, the oyster and striped bass expert who heads the Commission and then at St. Clements Island. I had never even heard of St. Clements Island, but it was the site of the first Catholic mass in the Colonies (now the US) and is also a state park with a lovely, unspoiled beach for swimming in the river. The church and lighthouse building on St. Clements Island has been maintained in good condition and, much to my surprise, was open for the public to enjoy. After climbing to the top to enjoy the view, we returned to the beach for a swim in the cool, calm, waters of the Potomac. It was lovely.
The following weekend, Potomac Riverkeeper Network and River Riders in Harper’s Ferry jointly took about 50 people on the water in rafts and duckies for whitewater fun. As you may have noticed, the river has been unusually high this year – way too high in the spring when flooding and dangerous currents were a major problem – but for August rafting, it was perfect. The rapids were class 2-3 and a real blast! If you haven’t been before, you should really try it. There is a guide in every raft who knows how to safely bring the boat through the rapids, but also hit the big waves so everyone has the most fun. Check out the photos on our Facebook page to see the action.
So, by now you are probably saying, what is the best way that I can get out on the river? Fortunately, Potomac Riverkeeper Network has a program of events every summer to help you do just that. We cover all three rivers and have events, led by our Riverkeepers, for anglers, paddlers, birders, and those interested in the history and cultural values of the rivers as well. They are fun, educational, economical, and are a great way not only to enjoy the rivers, but also to learn about the work that the Riverkeepers do to protect them. Come join us next year!