Potomac Riverkeeper

Dean Naujoks

Dean Naujoks joined Potomac Riverkeeper Network in 2015 as the Potomac Riverkeeper.​

Dean has over 20 years of environmental non-profit experience. He began his non-profit career in 1991 with the NC Wildlife Federation. After graduating from NC State University, with a self-created degree in Environmental Policy and Sustainable Development, he was hired as the first Upper Neuse Riverkeeper, serving from 2001 to 2008. He became the first Riverkeeper on the Yadkin River with Yadkin Riverkeeper, Inc. in 2008, also serving as Executive Director until 2014.​

Dean has been awarded River Network’s 2009 National River Heroes Award. River Network’s River Heroes Award celebrates rivers and those who protect them by recognizing victories and honoring those who provide leadership and inspiration along the way. Yadkin Riverkeeper also won the 2011 North Carolina Wildlife Federation Governor’s Achievement Award Water Conservation Organization of the Year.​

Most recently, he has been recognized by Waterkeepers Chesapeake as a recipient of their 2019 Waterkeeper Outstanding Win (WOW) Award for his fight against Dominion and accomplishments in making safe disposal of coal ash a requirement in Virginia.



Known as the Nation’s River, Dean’s stretch of the Potomac River runs from Harpers Ferry to Point Lookout, MD where it becomes a tidal waterway emptying into the Chesapeake Bay. The Potomac River transitions from freshwater to tidal estuarine that supports a host of aquatic life, including shad, herring, striped bass, largemouth bass, short-nosed sturgeon, oysters, blue crabs, river otters, and more than 1000 bottlenose dolphins that frequent the river every summer!

However, the Potomac’s ecosystem is not the only diverse thing about it: this river’s cultural history is just as abundant. The name “Potomac” gets its origins from the Native American tribe, the Patawomeke. The Patawomeke allied with Jamestown settlers to fight in the First Anglo-Powhatan War of 1612, but were eventually pushed out of the area as more settlers colonized the land. Descendants of the Patawomeke, now recognized as the Patawomeck Indian Tribe of Virginia, still reside along the river in Stafford County, VA.

The Potomac River also shares a particularly colorful history with colonial America, first being surveyed by the European Captain John Smith in 1608. The United States’ first President, George Washington, was born in Westmoreland County, a Virginian region along the Potomac, and spent his life in the watershed. The Potomac also served as both a political and physical barrier between the Confederacy and Union during the Civil War.

Today, the river still serves as an important natural resource for the residents of the Potomac River basin, particularly in providing drinking water for millions.