Posts Tagged ‘potomac’

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By: Angela Trenkle

Photo Credit: Angela Trenkle, on November 8th 2020 at Great Falls Park in Virginia

If you are a resident in the DC Metropolitan area, chances are you have come across the Potomac River in some form, whether it is the river proper or one of the river’s tributaries, the mighty Potomac River is a landmark of the area in the same way that some of the famous buildings are in the downtown DC area. There are tales of the Potomac that stretch back to some of the nation’s earliest presidents reaping its benefits. If rivers could talk, the Potomac would have an endless number of historical accounts to pass along for the world to learn.

Photo Credit: Angela Trenkle, on November 8th 2020 at Great Falls Park in Virginia

Today, the Potomac River watershed is home to approximately 5 million people as well as millions of animals and plants that depend on it for its many resources. Clean drinking water is at the top of the list followed by food sources for both humans and animals that occupy the watershed. The river is also utilized by hundreds during the warmer months of the year for recreational activities, including, but not limited to, kayaking, fishing, hiking, bird watching, and stand-up paddle boarding.

Photo Credit: Angela Trenkle, on August 8th, 2020 at Mason Neck Wildlife Refuge on the Potomac River

For a period of time from the 1960s to the late 2000s, the Potomac River was in a state of decline and poor health. Water clarity was at an all time low, trash and algae were abundant, and native fish suffered because of the urban runoff that was making its way into their homes along the river. This has begun to turn around since the beginning of the 2010s, thanks to several key processes that were put into place. 

One such process is the creation of the Potomac River Report Card. The report card, which began in 2007, provides residents of the watershed an easy format to view the different aspects of the river in terms of its health and the areas in which it improves as well as declines. This gives residents of the watershed a visual of what is happening and the areas that they can target for improvement. Thanks to this report card, in addition to the other processes put into place for the river, the Potomac has gone from an abysmal grade of “D” in 2007 to a peak grade of a “B” just three years ago in 2018. In 2020, the grade slipped slightly to a B-, showing that the river recovery is plateauing. Now is a turning point to ensure that it does not slip any further.

Photo Credit: Angela Trenkle, on November 8th 2020 at Great Falls Park in Virginia

To ensure that the flora and fauna thrive as well as make sure that our grandchildren can appreciate the river in the same way we have, you too can do your part to make a difference. Some ways that you can help include:

  1. Participating in stream cleanups to prevent water pollution and premature death of wildlife.
  2. Planting trees as forest buffers to cool stream temperatures and create forest corridors for animal travel.
  3. Use your voice to advocate for stronger water protection laws. 
  4. Donate to organizations that are working towards protecting the Potomac River and its tributaries.
Photo Credit: Angela Trenkle, on August 8th 2020 at Mason Neck Wildlife Refuge (See left of photo)

As you can see, there are many benefits to the Potomac River not only for us, but for the animals and plants that depend on it for survival. By each of us doing our part and coming together with a common goal to make a difference, we can ensure that the Potomac is around for many generations to enjoy.

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Angela Trenkle is a scientific technical writer who was born and raised in Maryland. Her love of science combined with her passion for writing led her into the field of scientific technical communication at a pre-clinical research organization where her work involves contributing to the documentation of study reports for various infectious diseases including COVID-19. Preserving the natural world is an important goal for her and she plans to use what she has learned over the years to help do her part in restoring local watersheds for future generations to enjoy. When she is not working, she enjoys reading, writing, traveling, running, weightlifting, and spending as much time outdoors as possible.

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Getting the Most of Autumn: Where to “Hike Locally”

By DC EcoBlogger Dawn Bickett

The crisp air and changing leaves of autumn – along with a new reason to celebrate: the end of the shutdown – make it the perfect season to be outdoors and hiking. But finding, and getting to, a nearby trail can feel like a serious challenge, especially when you live in a city.

Luckily, there are many trails scattered in and around the District, several less than 2 miles from the National Mall! Whether you are looking for a strenuous hike or a quick stroll out of earshot of traffic, you don’t need to drive hours to get out of town – you can explore within the District for some time in nature.

Wondering where to start? Check out these great local trails in and near Washington, D.C.


Rock Creek Park 

Certainly one of the most popular green spaces in D.C., Rock Creek Park boasts miles of secluded trails that meander along hills and waterways. Trails here vary from rocky climbs to sandy creek-side walks. For some specific routes, check out these three great short hikes suggested by Active Life DC. Rock Creek Park is easily accessible by foot, car, bus, or by taking the metro to the Adams Morgan/Zoo Station.

Theodore Roosevelt Island
It is no accident that the memorial to President Theodore Roosevelt – the creator of 5 national parks and 150 national forests– is surrounded by hiking trails. Theodore Roosevelt Island is located in the middle of the Potomac River, just east of Rosslyn. And while the island is small, it has several miles of trails uninterrupted by development. The island’s parking lot is easily accessible by car, bike, or foot, and is near the Rosslyn Metro Station. Bird watchers take note: the island known for its large population of waterfowl.

Potomac Heritage Trail (PHT) 

The Potomac Heritage Trail is composed of a network of trails along the Potomac River, and the segment close to D.C. is a definitely worth a visit. Starting at the north corner of the Theodore Roosevelt Island parking lot, this trail runs up the Virginia side of the Potomac River for about 10 miles. The quiet and challenging trail is extremely rewarding – offering a wilder picture of the Potomac River than its cousin on the opposite bank, the paved C&O Canal. Be aware, the trail does have difficult footing in places and occasionally requires scrambling – so be prepared to get a bit dirty and wear shoes with traction!

Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens
If rocky trails and secluded woods aren’t your style, but you still love being outdoors, then the Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens are worth a visit. Stretching along the Anacostia River, the gardens offer several miles of trails through cultivated water plants and the only remaining tidal marsh in the District. The gardens are peaceful, visually stunning, and within walking distance from the Deanwood Metro Station.

Great Falls Park 

At 18 miles from the National Mall, Great Falls Park is only accessible by car (or bicycle, for the motivated cyclist), but this list would not be complete without it. This park is a favorite for rock climbers and kayakers. And with over a dozen trails to choose from, it’s perfect for hikers as well. Different trails offer scenic routes to view the falls – an impressive cascade of the Potomac River. Whichever path you take in the park, the incredible view of the falls is worth the trip.

These are just a few of the amazing trails tucked away right here in our own backyard, so challenge yourself to ‘hike local’ this season.  As soon as the shutdown concludes, pick a new trail, and head to some of DC’s great green places.

Didn’t see your favorite DC hiking trail included here? Please comment with your recommendation to share the knowledge!

Great Falls

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Washington D.C., the city of young professionals and fast politics, is one of the hardest working cities in our country. And as an environmentalist, it can be particularly easy to get disenchanted with politics. Sometimes you just need to escape.

It’s important to get away and remind yourself what you’re working for. To get lost in the woods, to paddle on a river. To remember why you are working for the environment in the first place. To feel at peace.

The pockets of nature and beauty dispersed throughout the city make DC wonderfully unique. Even in the midst of the hectic atmosphere, it is possible to find stillness in nature.

If you’re looking for your next get-away, here are some places to escape to without leaving city borders:

The National Mall

Although this is probably the most well-known (a.k.a. tourist-frequented) getaways, there are many pockets of beauty that aren’t the first stop on a segway tour. The World War II Memorial usually is less crowded than the others – and in the summer heat, the fountain is a quenching hiatus. You can also take the long walk around the tidal basin, which might seem too daunting for tourists, but is perfect for the DC native trying to escape!

Rock Creek Park

Washington D.C.’s most ubiquitous secret, Rock Creek Park extends all throughout the city. Almost anywhere you are, a patch of this Park is likely nearby. If this park is good enough for 200 deer then it is good enough for a peaceful escape.

National Zoo

Just a few steps can transport you to a foreign land with pandas, elephants, and dragons! Komodo dragons, at least. Go to the zoo to gaze into the eyes of a creature you’ve never seen in person before. Maybe you will see your own image deep in its the eyes – maybe it will awaken your inner tiger. (Or your inner penguin, no one’s here to judge.)

Capital Crescent Trail

This biking and hiking path that runs along the Potomac goes on for miles. It extends Northwest out of DC, eventually into Maryland. When the trees start enveloping the landscape, you may forget the city is just a mile away. Grab a bike and go if you want to get really far away – and be able to find your way back after.

Additionally, if you don’t mind leaving city borders (or at least crossing the river to Virginia):

Roosevelt Island

The monument that got separated from the mall. The Theodore Roosevelt monument rests in the middle of this tiny island, smack dab in the middle of the Potomac. With DC on one side, and Arlington on the other, the stillness lies in the middle of the noise. The island doesn’t feel that small when you’re on it – there are footpaths, riverbanks, and an expansive open area around the monument itself.

Gravelly Point – Ronald Reagan International Airport

This is secretly my favorite spot in all of D.C… well, I guess the secret’s out now. A simple, humble park on the Potomac, Gravelly Point is windy enough to be a respite on a hot day. And, the national airport is approximately 20 feet away. To be able to see airplanes heading towards you at top speed, and take off just barely over your head, is exhilarating. You feel like you can almost reach out, grab onto the wheels, and take a ride.


Next time you’re stressed
about the inequality of women in the workforce or after five oil spills in one week, you can go to one of these getaways and clear your head. When you come back, you’ll be ready. Ready to walk into work and ask for what you want. Ready to take care of yourself. Ready to jumpstart your career. Ready for change.

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