Anacostia Water Trail

Experience the first all water trail!

The Anacostia River is an incredible resource running through the Nation’s Capital. This is a river in transition; from developing neighborhoods with smart growth practices to improving environmental conditions there is a strong future for recreation and the growth of stewardship for the Anacostia.  However, what separates a river from a water trail is that a water trail provides a guided experience for visitors, and on this river key elements to realize this future such as access and orientation are missing.  By putting into place the appropriate features and harnessing the rich history through a storied experience we can help shape this river in transition to become a world-class water trail.

Although the Anacostia is only nine miles long it is packed with opportunities for visitor experience.  The northern half of the river offers a very natural, almost remote paddling experience with extensive wetlands to explore and wildlife to observe such as Bald Eagle, Osprey, Great Blue Heron and Beaver.  The southern half has the potential to offer a very urban paddling experience with numerous restaurants to dine at, museums to visit and even major league baseball games to paddle to.

The Story of the Anacostia is rich with history.  Taking its name from the Algonquin word for “trading town,” the Anacostia is a major waterway of both the Captain John Smith and Star Spangled Banner Trails.  It’s story is one of centuries of degradation that has taken its toll on the River, but with combined efforts of partners, both public and private; businesses, government agencies and non-profits, the Anacostia is on a track to recovery, with a vision of one day being fishable and swimmable again.  
We are working with the National Park Service and other partners to build and enhance the water trail experience by adding/enhancing amenities, access, orientation and by publishing a map and guide (coming in June!) to aid your water trail experience.

The John Smith Trail is the first all-water National Historic Trail, established by Congress in 2006. The trail is named for Captain John Smith. In 1608 he was President of Virginia’s Jamestown Colony, an explorer, soldier, and the man whose life was saved by the 11-year-old Pocahontas. He sailed up the river in a small open boat with 15 men in the middle of summer. The new trail, mimicking the routes of Smith’s historic voyages in 1607-1609, consists of a 3,000-mile circuit of the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries.

At the Anacostia Watershed Society, we are working on getting the tidal Anacostia River designated as a spur of the Potomac.

Explore the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries by water on the Captain John Smith National Historic Trail.

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