A Heron On The Anacostia

The Anacostia, “D.C.’s forgotten river,” joins the Potomac River in downtown Washington. It’s only about eight miles long and flows from Bladensburg, MD, near Hyattsville, where we live, but its headwaters reach into upper Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties (www.dnr.state.md.us/naturalresource/summer2001/anacostia.html). Because of its pollution and floating trash, many people have shunned it. In the 18th century, however, ocean-going ships sailed up the Chesapeake Bay, the Potomac River, and the Anacostia from England.  Bladensburg was a deep-sea port with wharfs for loading ships with hogsheads of tobacco that were rolled along the Annapolis Road (MD Rte. 450)—tobacco picked by slaves on plantations in the area (history I garnered while researching Well Considered). In 1814, British troops attacked the town, marching in from Upper Marlboro. After a fierce battle, the much larger British force was victorious and thereafter marched into Washington, burning and sacking the city, the Capitol, and the White House. (Talk about terrorist threats!)  Because of the clearing of land for tobacco and other crops, the river eventually filled with silt. Tobacco declined in importance, railroads came to Bladensburg, river traffic stopped, and new residential development used the river as a sewer. Now, however, many years of effort by private organizations, businesses, Maryland, and the federal government, have reduced pollution to a level where wildlife is plentiful, although human swimming is discouraged. On election day (we voted on Saturday night), a cool and sunny September day, we took the Anacostia River Boat Tour, a free pontoon boat ride from Bladensburg Waterfront Park, a lovely park where one can fish from the bank and rent canoes, kayaks, rowboats, and paddleboats.  (www.pgparks.com/Things_To_Do/Nature/Bladensburg_Waterfront_Park.htm). We saw no development along the river except for construction of the Anacostia Riverwalk and trail that will connect the Anacostia Tributaries Trails Network (www.pgparks.com/Your_Parks/Trails.htm), which extends all the way to Laurel, MD, with the planned trail into Washington, D.C.  As we quietly motored by the National Arboretum (www.usna.usda.gov/) and Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens (www.nps.gov/keaq/), both of which are accessible by canoes you can rent at the Bladensburg park, we were delighted by the sight of two blue herons, fishing and flying, great white egrets standing in shallows, and turtles sunning themselves on logs. Too bad the bald eagles that were sighted just last week were not there for us. And we saw no tall sailing ships and none waiting at wharfs at Waterfront Park. Still, we delighted in this wilderness-in-the-city experience. Reminiscent of “A Mallard on the Cuyahoga”  (www.richardmorrisauthor.wordpress.com/blog), we loved  the herons on the Anacostia.

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One Response to A Heron On The Anacostia

  1. Thank you for taking time to point out the beauty and serenity of the Anacostia, which is often over-shadowed by her more famous sister, the Potomac. As a native Washingtonian, I love the Anacostia and Potomac Rivers; they have been as much a part of my life as the Washington Redskins.

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