Our Watershed

Where it all flows together
Our Watershed
Where it all flows together
The Region United by the Anacostia River

Covering 176 square miles of the District of Columbia, Prince George’s County and Montgomery County in Maryland, and home to over 1 million people, the Anacostia River Watershed is a river on the mend, recovering from centuries of industrialization and pollution to become an urban oasis in the middle of the National Capitol Area.  

Click here to see a map of the Anacostia Watershed 

History

In 1608, Captain John Smith sailed up what we now know as the Anacostia River and marveled at its depth and clarity.  In the 18th Century the port at Bladensburg Maryland served as a major center for colonial shipping and the river was deep as 40 feet, able to accommodate ocean going ships.   Over the century’s major industrial activity, including ship building at the Washington Navy Yard and coal gasification further upriver, supported a vibrant economy but also contributed to the destruction of wetlands and the pollution that we still battle today. 

Development along the river led to the destruction of the forests, meadows and wetlands that make for a healthy watershed.   As run-off and sediment clogged the river and reduced its depth, and as the population living near the river increased, flooding became a serious problem.   In what we now recognize as a counterproductive approaches, the Army Corps of Engineers built a series of levees designed to control flooding, further degrading the natural systems of the Anacostia. 

Nature

Despite centuries of development and pollution, the Anacostia River Watershed is still a remarkably rich natural area.  A recent inventory of species, called a BioBlitz, counted 522 unique species, including rare and endangered species, birds, fish, mammals, amphibians, insects and many more.  Journey along the river and you might see bald eagles, beavers, ospreys, cormorants, white perch, striped bass, crayfish, herons, turtles, egrets, otters, red fox, shad, kingfishers, catfish and even mussels!   

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