Anacostia Watershed Blog

The Problem With Fishing For Catfish in the Anacostia River

By: Veronica Pereira, Stewardship intern

You might be asking yourself, “What could be so bad about fishing for catfish in the Anacostia?” The answer is that it’s not the actual act of fishing in the Anacostia that is bad. The problem with fishing for catfish is that if the catfish are consumed, they may cause serious health effects on those who eat them. 


Brown bullheads like this one are commonly caught from the Anacostia River by anglers and used for consumption (including people at greater risk such as pregnant women and children). These fish are known to have carcinogens in their bodies making their consumption a potential and worrisome public health issue.

The American Shad Season

By: Cooper Breeden, Stewardship Intern

What better way to have welcomed spring than with the arrival of American shad! Shad are an anadromous species, meaning they live in the oceans and migrate into freshwater rivers and streams to spawn. Other well known anadromous species include Striped Bass and Salmon.  After spawning, adult shad return to the ocean and the juveniles remain in the freshwater until autumn when they swim to the ocean where they will live for a few years until mature. Shad begin their migration once the river temperatures reach the mid-50s, which typically happens sometime at the end of March. This year the winter was unusually long, so the shad run did not begin until mid April.

Wildlife in the Urban Jungle, the Resilient Red Fox

By: Maryn Foreman, Spring Stewardship Intern

Red foxes are everywhere, maybe even in your backyard! The red fox has become accustomed to an urban habitat by using sheds for nests, eating exposed garbage and mice. Since mice are abundant in cities, the fox offers great rodent control. It has been documented that fox even live longer in urban environments. The coyote and bald eagle are some other natural predators native to this area, but they do not adapt as well to the urban environment, giving the fox a competitive advantage.


Illustration: Dorling Kindersley, Getty Images.

The DC Bag Fee Is Cleaning Up the Anacostia River

By Bradley Kennedy

Nash Run is one of the dirtiest streams in the Anacostia River watershed. However, thanks to D.C’s 5-cent disposable bag fee, one major source of pollution is finally on the decline.

“Astronomical levels of trash” and “dirtiest of all streams” -- these are phrases used to describe the humble little Nash Run, a small tributary of the Anacostia River. Nash Run starts in Fairmount Heights, MD, and runs through the Deanwood neighborhood of DC before emptying into the Anacostia near the Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens. It is one of the biggest contributors of the litter pollution impairing the Anacostia River. But a study on this stream over the past 4 years offers hope that the litter problem can be reversed.

The Effect of AWS' Meadow Restoration on Bee Populations

By Emily Morrow and Jason Martin

As someone who used to get stung at least once every summer throughout my childhood, I’ve never been the biggest fan of bees. But after interning at AWS my opinion may have been altered, I’ve learned about the benefits of bees and the work AWS is doing in order to promote and increase bee species.

Despite the bad press bees get, they’re actually more of a benefit than a nuisance. Bees are important pollinators for our plants and, without them, researchers suspect that one-third of our agricultural crops could fail (Baker). Without bees, many of our flowering plants could not produce the important fruits, vegetables, and nuts that we rely on for food (Smith). Almost 100 types of crops require pollination by honeybees and, economically speaking, researchers estimate that the economic value of work done by bees is $215 billion worldwide and $14 billion in the United States alone (Cox-Foster).

Sustainable SITES Project at the GW House

By Alex Galbreath, AWS Fall Stewardship Intern

AWS is in the process of constructing a bioretention area and installing permeable pavement at its headquarters, the George Washington House. The project is part of the Sustainable Sites Initiative, an interdisciplinary effort by the American Society of Landscape Architects, the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center at The University of Texas at Austin, and the United States Botanic Garden to create voluntary national guidelines and performance benchmarks for sustainable land design, construction and maintenance practices. The aim of the project here at the GW house is to reduce runoff and erosion while capturing rainwater for irrigation purposes.

To Levee or Not to Levee?

By Daniel Braunstein, Stewardship Intern

In the aftermath of any hurricane there is discussion about what worked, what didn’t work, and what can be improved. One of the frequent topics of discussion is levees and how well they worked, and how best to improve them to prevent future flooding. Increasingly however the conventional wisdom of rebuilding levees is being questioned.


A levee along the Northeast Branch

River Herring and Shad

By Mathew D'Alessio

Shad and river herring are "anadromous" fish which means that they spend majority of their lives in the ocean, and only return to freshwater in the spring to spawn. Traditionally, these fish spawned in almost every river and tributary along the East Coast.

Reptiles from the Late Triassic

By Amanda Simms

Turtles Basking on the Anacostia

I’m not talking about dinosaurs; I’m talking about turtles. It may surprise you to know the turtles existed when the last of dinosaurs were evolving in the late Triassic period, about 230 million years ago. Turtles can be found all over the world and there are approximately 300 species living today.

In the Anacostia watershed, we have 19 species of turtles. The most common in suburban areas (your backyard) is the box turtle. In coastal plain areas musk and mud turtles are most common. In different types of water, from freshwater to brackish (a mix of salt and fresh water) we see more snapping turtles. And in larger bodies of water like the Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic Ocean, sea turtles lurk.

The (Once) Edible Anacostia: Wild Rice

By Emily Haynes, Stewardship Intern

One of the most common species we plant in our wetland planting events is wild rice, and people often ask us if it’s edible. While unfortunately today the river is too polluted for us to eat anything that lives or grows in it, the Anacostia once supported much of the Nacotchtank Indians’ diet. 

Wild rice was a staple of this diet, growing along the riverbanks in the twisting wetlands that flanked the Anacostia before it was straightened and its wetlands replaced by levees, seawalls, and berms. In our work recreating these lost wetlands, we at AWS always make sure to plant plenty of wild rice, as it was once quite populous here. Wild rice is a grassy, aquatic plant distinguished by its narrow, light-green leaves that can sometimes grow up to seven feet tall. Look out at the river today and you’ll see it flowering, showing off its beautiful greenish-yellow flowers.