🌫 RIVERS OF THE DMV 🌫


Hoodie Goodies, What’s Good in the Neighborhood: DMV Local, Washington D.C, Virginia, Maryland, DMV, Wildlife, Conservation, Sustainability, Environment, Rivers of the DMV, Rappahannock River, Anacostia River, Potomac River, James River, Watershed, Water Cycle, Ecology, Water Ecology, Climate Change, Biodiversity, Plastic Pollution, Precious Plastics, 

Written By: Zach Champ

Photographs By: Zach Champ, Steve Gonzalez, and Others 

THE FLOW OF TIME AND WATER

For thousands of years, people have lived, hunted, fished, and traveled along the various rivers of the DMV. Many of these rivers have remained unchanged, reflecting the same character and exuberance for generations. Others have faced dramatic alterations due to human impact.

Regardless of what has happened to them over time, all of these rivers have remained significantly important for local agriculture, trade, and industry. You may have heard the phrase that Rivers are a highway! In the past this was especially true as traveling along waterways was the most efficient and fastest way to get from one point to another.

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Civilization follows rivers! Think about back to when you were a student in high school or college and learning ancient world history... you always learned about the ancient rivers of the Nile, Euphrates, Tigris, Indus, and Yellow Rivers which sustained the great ancient civilizations of Egypt, Mesopotamia, Vedic India, and Imperial China. These rivers made a great impact on their local communities and peoples. The same is true with our rivers here in the DMV!

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During the early colonial period of America, the DMV’s rivers were vital for the tobacco trade which the majority of early colonies relied upon for commerce. These same rivers also carried the same ships which had traveled from far across the Atlantic Ocean carrying the unfortunate souls destined to live life in the New World as slaves.

The Federal Government, recognizing the importance of keeping our waterways safe from pollution and toxic waste passed the Clean Water Act in 1972. This law was among the first keystone environmental legislative acts protecting our nation’s land and natural resources.

WHY RIVERS MATTER... IN THE DMV & BEYOND!

Water is vital to all living things on Earth. Rivers are the bearers of life and are truly divine and spiritual. We must respect, revere, and appreciate our rivers.

As the DMV continues to grow and expand, the increased settlement and population size will create additional stress and problems for our local rivers and watersheds.

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Photo Courtesy via Unsplash.com - Photo By: William Bossen

Climate Change will cause more flooding, and floods affect local water quality due to increased sediment, pollutants, and contaminants that get exposed to the water supply after large storms.

How our rivers will respond to all these challenges is uncertain, but if we don’t take drastic measures to protect local rivers and watersheds there could be catastrophic consequences. Everything will be affected including water quality, wildlife, and human culture!

NATURE DEPENDS ON RIVERS

Rivers are an important part of the Water Cycle. The Water Cycle is how nature recycles and transports water around the globe from the oceans to the atmosphere. When it rains in mountainous regions, water drains through the intricate network of rivers towards the coast. The water that reaches the coast and oceans ends up eventually being evaporated into the atmosphere where it condenses into clouds which travel and rain back down inland. This flow of water is essential to all living things on Earth, regardless of where they are, for food, habitat, energy, and more!

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Photo Courtesy via Nasa.com

One of the ways we can assess the local health of watersheds and rivers is by examining local fish species. Fish and their whole lives depend on clean, quality water to thrive and reproduce. Whenever large amounts of fish die in local waterways, wildlife biologists and ecologists take note. If fish populations can’t remain stable, whole food chains can collapse which can directly impact not just wildlife but people as well!

THE RIVER FLOWS THROUGH US... LITERALLY! 

You may have heard before that humans are made of 2/3 water. Yet what you may not also realize is that the water we drink and consume daily is the very same water that flows through us! The water in your body comes directly from your local environment, and if your local water sources are polluted and filled with contaminants, then this is all accumulating in your body, even when the water goes through a treatment plant. Some scientist believe that this is what may be causing certain issues like Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimers, autism, and other serious medical conditions.

It’s important to remember that in this day and age, if you are concerned about the quality of your drinking water, no matter what your water source is, you will probably want to use an additional water filtration device with your faucet or fridge as an added precaution.

Even if you filter your water, contaminants from local waterways can still be an issue if you eat local fish, plants, and wildlife. How? Because of bio-accumulation, which is a biological process in which minerals, nutrients, and contaminants can gather inside living things when these compounds are recycled through the food chain.

THE PROBLEM WITH POLLUTION 

We live today in an age filled with many industrial, pharmaceutical, and chemical products. Almost everyone in America today uses nail polish, shampoo, detergents, and cleaning solvents on a regular basis. All these products consist of man-made chemicals and compounds, which end up through waste and runoff into our local watersheds. Many of these chemicals and compounds have never been studied thoroughly by science and it is unclear what effects they can have on living things. This has resulted in the rise of what is called Emerging Contaminants.

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Emerging Contaminants are a serious issue of concern to local ecologists and wildlife biologists. In the past few years fish, amphibians, and in some cases mammals that live around the DMV’s rivers have been found with serious genetic defects and mutations. This often results in issues such as extra or missing limbs and organs, the development of intersex features, as well as the disruption of normal biological processes in animals.

Why is this occurring? It’s because many of the emerging contaminants within our waterways, especially the chemical and pharmaceutical compounds that we use every day as part of modern medicine are Endocrine Disruptors. Many of the chemicals are powerful hormones and when animals are exposed for their entire lives to these chemicals it causes complications that create unforeseen consequences.

If we know all types of animals are suffering from exposure to these compounds in the water, the same water which we drink and rely upon, how can we be so sure there are not potential problems in store for us?

Hoodie Goodies, What’s Good in the Neighborhood: DMV Local, Washington D.C, Virginia, Maryland, DMV, Wildlife, Conservation, Sustainability, Environment, Rivers of the DMV, Rappahannock River, Anacostia River, Potomac River, James River, Watershed, Water Cycle, Ecology, Water Ecology, Climate Change, Biodiversity, Plastic Pollution, Precious Plastics,

Photo Courtesy via Unsplash.com - Photo By: John Cameron

It is unfortunate that in our nation’s capital there is so much contamination, pollution, trash and plastic damaging our waterways. Common sense tells us that plastic doesn’t break down so don’t throw trash away improperly, or that mixing chemicals with the environment isn’t good. Yet people still litter and companies still try and cut corners on regulatory rules to maximize their profits. Unless we bring attention to the issue and work hard to change American attitudes towards the environment and how we live then we are only going to continue to make a big mess.

That’s why we here at Hoodie Goodies constantly talk about the environment and the land. It is our most important and valuable resource. We recognize that plastic pollution is a serious problem in the DMV area. As a result, we found out about the Dutch-based Precious Plastics non-profit and have decided to start our own Precious Plastics project here in Washington D.C!

You can learn more about our Precious Plastics Initiative by clicking the link here!

OUR GREAT RIVERS OF THE DMV:

THE RAPPAHANNOCK RIVER

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Photo By: Zach Champ

The river’s name comes from the Native American Algonquin language. The original name lappihane translates to mean “the river that flows and ebbs quickly”. The Rappahannock River starts in the Blue Ridge Mountains and flows eastward into the Chesapeake Bay. It is the longest free-flowing river in Virginia and has long been essential to communities residing near it. The river supports local agriculture, and fishing and outdoor recreational opportunities for thousands of Virginian residents.

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Near Fredericksburg Virginia, the Rappahannock River has a sudden drop in depth and height. This is known as the Fall Line and represents where the Rappahannock goes from being a peaceful large body of water to a rapid filled and rocky river! This area was significant for historic in-land trade as it allowed large ships to sail up-river from the coast towards towns in the interior. The City of Fredericksburg was one such town where many ships would stop to unload goods which would then be taken further out west to the Appalachian Mountains.

Significant parts of the Rappahannock River have been designated as part of the Rappahannock River Valley National Wildlife Refuge. Established in 1996, this wildlife refuge is a home for many migratory bird species that mate and raise their young here. The Rappahannock River Valley National Wildlife Refuge is also home to many other wetland species. Visitors to the wildlife refuge can learn about the wildlife and the ecosystem of the Piedmont Wetlands with hands-on activities and guided nature walks with Wildlife Rangers.

Like other rivers in the DMV, the Rappahannock is facing challenges that endanger its existence. For the Rappahannock River, the main issue of concern lately is Fracking. The Rappahannock River crosses over an underground geological deposit of natural gas called the Taylorsville Basin. The basin, which covers several counties contains millions of dollars worth of natural gas that can help create local jobs, provide energy, and stimulate Virginia’s economy. However, the opportunity to extract this natural gas has become the subject of much debate because the process by which it is extracted, known as Fracking, has been known to cause severe damage and instability to the local environment. It even is linked with increasing earthquakes! It should be noted that Virginia suffered a very rare and uncharacteristic magnitude 5.8 earthquake in 2011 which many blamed on fracking operations in the nearby area.

THE POTOMAC RIVER - The Nation's River

Hoodie Goodies, What’s Good in the Neighborhood: DMV Local, Washington D.C, Virginia, Maryland, DMV, Wildlife, Conservation, Sustainability, Environment, Rivers of the DMV, Rappahannock River, Anacostia River, Potomac River, James River, Watershed, Water Cycle, Ecology, Water Ecology, Climate Change, Biodiversity, Plastic Pollution, Precious Plastics,

Photo Courtesy via Unsplash.com - Photo By: Ridwan Meah

The Potomac River starts as a humble spring spurting forth out of a mountain top in the Shenandoah Mountains where it trickles down-hill and slowly develops into a larger stream. This stream continues until it becomes a larger tributary and finally ends at the Potomac Bay near the Atlantic Ocean as a grand and iconic waterway. The Potomac still has a very scenic and wild character, remaining largely unchanged over the decades. Traveling along the Potomac you will find waterfalls, gorges, and rapids.

Early native agricultural societies lived and thrived along the Potomac. These Algonquin speaking peoples settled and developed the area for hundreds of years before the arrival of European settlers and colonists.

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Photo Courtesy via PC Construction.com

Millions of gallons of water are used from the Potomac River to supply residents of the Washington D.C metro area with clean drinking water. One of the larger issues of concern with residents living near the Potomac River is with the billions of gallons of raw sewage water that overflows into the Potomac River each year.

THE ANACOSTIA RIVER

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Photo Courtesy via Anacostia Watershed Society.com

  

Piscataway Confederacy (Native Tribes) were among the original pre-European occupants of the region. The Anacostia River derives its name from one of these Piscataway groups who also settled and lived along the river.

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Photo Courtesy via The Georgetown Voice

Today the largest threat and challenge to the health and continued vitality of the Anacostia River is the issue with water runoff and pollutants in the river. This is a serious health concern for city residents and officials.

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Many people depend on Fish from the Anacostia River. One example is the Blue Catfish, which is a popular fish that is eaten by many local residents. However, there is much concern about eating fish out of the Anacostia River. Why? The answer lies in the way the Washington D.C water utility and infrastructure is set up, which intrinsically as part of its design and operation allows a legally defined “acceptable amount” of collected sewage and wastewater and to drain it into the Anacostia. This sewage runoff leaves bacteria in the river that is not readily apparent and can cause serious illness, disease, or even death!

This issue has been brought to the attention of various agencies and groups within the Washington D.C metropolitan community. Efforts have been made to clean up the Anacostia and help restore it to its full glory, so it can once again contain to breathe life into the region. 

THE JAMES RIVER

Hoodie Goodies, What’s Good in the Neighborhood: DMV Local, Washington D.C, Virginia, Maryland, DMV, Wildlife, Conservation, Sustainability, Environment, Rivers of the DMV, Rappahannock River, Anacostia River, Potomac River, James River, Watershed, Water Cycle, Ecology, Water Ecology, Climate Change, Biodiversity, Plastic Pollution, Precious Plastics,

Photo Courtesy via Southern Environment Law Center

The James River begins in the Appalachian Mountains and flows east to the capital city of Richmond Virginia. The river was originally named the Powhatan River by native groups occupying the area before being renamed by colonists from Britain in the 16th and 17th centuries. It is the 12th largest river in the United States of America, with the James River watershed supporting nearly 2.5 million people.

The James River is one of the largest natural habitats and roosting spots for Bald Eagles in the East Coast. It also is home to the massive and prehistoric-looking Atlantic Sturgeon, which is an endangered fish species. Blue catfish are also found in the waters of the James River.

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Photo Courtesy via Richmond Virginia Paddlesports.com 

The James River has several world-class rapids, which adventure-sports enthusiasts seek out each year to challenge head-on. There are many other outdoor recreational opportunities including fishing, hiking, canoeing, bird-watching, as well as swimming.

HOW YOU CAN HELP PROTECT OUR RIVERS!

Taking care of our local rivers, creeks, and watersheds is perhaps one of the easiest environmental issues to get involved with and make a big impact.

When it comes to protecting the environment, you always have to consider your daily habits and attitudes towards how you dispose of food and regular household items such as soap, toothpaste, cleaning detergents, pharmaceutical medicines, and the like. Not only that, but you often have to consider even what kind of food you eat or the products you use in the first place!

Hoodie Goodies, What’s Good in the Neighborhood: DMV Local, Washington D.C, Virginia, Maryland, DMV, Wildlife, Conservation, Sustainability, Environment, Rivers of the DMV, Rappahannock River, Anacostia River, Potomac River, James River, Watershed, Water Cycle, Ecology, Water Ecology, Climate Change, Biodiversity, Plastic Pollution, Precious Plastics,

Photo Courtesy via Unsplash.com - Photo By: Alex Kondratiev 

The majority of contaminants in our local water supply often come from dyes, fragrances, chemicals, and other byproducts that is found in pretty much everything made under the Sun these days!

It can be a little inconvenient, but making the personal choice to use organic and environmentally friendly products can be a great way towards really making an active step towards saving the Earth.

One of the most critical tasks you can become more aware of is how you dispose of pharmaceutical medicines. You should never flush or pour pharmaceutical or chemical products down the sink or into your toilet or bath. Why? Because these chemicals become part of our water supply, and many of the compounds and chemicals in it can’t be filtered out even with mechanical, chemical, and biological filtration methods! This is the true risk and cost of the industrial age! It is unclear how our impact will affect the future of life on Earth… unless we focus on becoming more respectful and cognizant of our interactions with nature. We can all make a difference!

Hoodie Goodies, What’s Good in the Neighborhood: DMV Local, Washington D.C, Virginia, Maryland, DMV, Wildlife, Conservation, Sustainability, Environment, Rivers of the DMV, Rappahannock River, Anacostia River, Potomac River, James River, Watershed, Water Cycle, Ecology, Water Ecology, Climate Change, Biodiversity, Plastic Pollution, Precious Plastics,

Photo Courtesy via Unsplash.com - Photo By: Paige Cody

One of the best ways to get involved is to volunteer with a local conservation group and help with river cleanup and watershed restoration projects! A lot of these local conservation groups can use more participation and involvement from the youth. This is a great way to get involved with your local community and to meet and network with elders and experienced conservationists who have been watching over the local waterways for years.

It is especially important that as a community, we develop ways to help teach children to respect and appreciate our local rivers and watersheds and to understand the important ecological, cultural, and spiritual value these rivers provide to our society so that they can grow up to be proper stewards of this land. If we don’t invest in our youth by giving them a strong knowledge and understanding of ecology and conservation, they are only going to repeat the same mistakes previous generations made in respect towards natural resource use and land management practices.

Sources & References: 

 

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