Mark joined Potomac Riverkeeper Network in 2015 as the official Shenandoah Riverkeeper. As a result of Mark’s efforts, the number of cattle herds directly accessing the Shenandoah River system has dropped from 78 herds down to single digits. Mark also was instrumental in getting legislation passed to remove all cattle herds from Virginia rivers and perennial streams by the end of 2025.
Having guided on the Shenandoah and Potomac for over twenty years, Mark is used to hard work and recognizing the importance of a hands-on approach to protecting our rivers. His passion for the water, combined with his people and analytical skills, honed over 25 years as a think tank senior policy analyst tackling some of the most vexing issues facing our nation, make him ideally suited to defend the Shenandoah against pollution, protect our right to clean water, and promote the recreational use of this beautiful river. He holds an M.A. from the George Washington University Elliott School of International Affairs.
THE sHENANDOAH WATERSHED
The Shenandoah River consists of two branches, the North and South Forks, which both run approximately 100 miles before meeting in Front Royal, VA. From there, it continues another 57 miles before joining with the Potomac River in Harpers Ferry, WV. The Shenandoah, which derives its name from the Native Americans who inhabited its banks as far back as 13,000 BC. Tribes included the Iroquois, or the Six Nations tribe; the Shawnee; the Delaware; the Catawbas; and the Cherokees. Some burial mounds from before colonial settlement still exist along the river today.
European colonists arrived in the area in the 17th century and stayed close to the Shenandoah, accounting for its abundance of fertile land. The Shenandoah River not only provides rich soils for farming, but also supports a wide variety of species, including white-tailed deer, black bears, bobcats, coyotes, eastern brook trout, red-tailed hawks, and the endangered Shenandoah salamander.
As settlers arrived, the Shenandoah’s landscape began to change, with mills appearing on the banks and wooden trade boats called gundalows on the waters. At the end of a gundalow’s journey, rather than trying to endure a trip against the flow of the river, the boat would be sold and used as lumber to build homes. Nowadays, the Shenandoah watershed is known best as being a top destination for small-mouth bass fishing!