Anacostia Watershed Blog

Green Waters, Nasty Waters

This past Wednesday, we headed to the woods of Pope Branch, a small tributary of the Anacostia River in SE DC, with employees from DC Water. During our invasive plant removal event last Saturday, part of DC Invasives Day, I spotted an evident sewage leak in the creek. A light gray color, with nasty odors and the presence of a pale scum inhabited by Tubifex worms, was a clear sign of raw sewage. The nasty gray waters were seeping out of the steep stream banks of the Pope Branch, dying the clear waters coming from upstream with the nasty stuff. Sewage pollution from a leak like this one is the last thing our river needs! Sewage is known to possess a myriad of nasty substances and pathogens that could impair a small waterway like Pope Branch very easily. Sewage contains nutrients that can cause algal blooms that end up depleting the dissolved oxygen in the water, it also contains chemicals like detergents and all the drugs (legal and illegal) that people consume.

Exploring the Pine Barrens of the Watershed

When you hear about pine barrens you think about New Jersey, but we actually have pine barrens here in the Anacostia watershed! An excellent description of this and other ecosystems present in the watershed can be found in the journal of the Maryland Native Plant Society, Marilandica. For more information click on this link and scroll down to the Spring 2008 issue of the journal and you will find the article entitled "Conservation Priorities and Selected Natural Communities of the Upper Anacostia Watershed" by Simmons et al.


The 225-acre Greenbelt Forest Preserve was officially established in 2003 after many years of struggles by a local group of residents of Greenbelt to preserve this important forests located right north of the beltway.

Are you AWARE of the State of the Anacostia River Wetlands?

I guess a better question would be: are you AWARE of the state of the Anacostia River tidal wetlands? From being considered "malarial swamps" in the early 20th century the Anacostia wetlands have a (relatively) better connotation in people's minds; however, there is still a lot of work to do to restore them and to show people their value.

Carp Fishing in the Anacostia River

Contrary to common belief, there are a lot of fish in the Anacostia River! In the whole watershed there are about 61 species of fish, 11 of which are nonnative species. The main stem of the River seems to have healthy populations of many common fish species including the recent Asian invader the Northern snakehead, also known as "Frankenfish." Now, these are not fish you would like to be frying for your family dinner, particularly the bottom feeders. Unfortunately eating these fish is a rather common practice for many angler's that fish in the Anacostia River according to a recent study we have commissioned with other partners, available here

5 Good Nature Field Guides for your Smartphone

Smartphones can be extremely helpful when you are working in the field and you need to document with pictures, do some quick species ID or peek into your surrounding landscape with bird's-eye-view aerial imagery -- even for individuals like me, who at some point in our lives have been one of those cell phone rebels seemingly skeptical about the usefulness of all these cell phone technologies. Well, it turns out that now I'm an iPhone hog and my smartphone has really helped me at work and even in the field -- who knew!

There are a number of apps you can download for free or for very reasonable prices. Here are five I use regularly and I recommend to you:

Beating Back Phragmites

Our 2 years of hacking, mowing and spraying Phragmites in the mud are paying off! There's only about 37% regrowth of Phragmites reeds at our wetland restoration site north of NY Avenue Bridge in Colmar Manor, MD. This fringe wetland is located on the west bank of the River between the confluence with Dueling Creek and the NY Ave. Bridge, the MD/DC border. This site used to be part of a wetland revegetation effort that was left unattended (not by AWS, though!), the result, a 30,745 sq. ft. dense population of Phragmites (Phragmites australis). For the newbies, Phragmites is a fast-growing grass native to the Old World that aggressively outcompetes the local native wetland plants, forming monocultures that encroach upon both natural and restored wetlands and reduces the species diversity in the wetland ecosystem.


The yellow area shows the 30,745 sq. ft. population of Phragmites we have been removing for the last 2 years right by the MD/DC border.

Concocting a Solution to our Trash Problem, Thoughts from the Trash Trap Site

By Kelci Schexnayder, Stewardship Intern

Hello from AWS! Last week we had a group of elementary school girls come out with us to the river, take a ride on our pontoon boat, and do some activities to learn about the wide variety of sources of pollution. A fellow intern told me about one gal who drew a beautiful solution to the litter problem, a trash can smack dab in the middle of the river for people to use instead of tossing their litter into the waters. What she didn’t know is that the AWS already has their own similar version of this! Our "trash trap" was installed in early 2009 and replaced with an updated version just last summer.


This trash was intercepted by our trash trap during a rain event at Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens in Northeast Washington, DC. AWS has found that bottles make up 45% of the trash volume.

How not to be a “TREE KILLER!”

By Chase Bergeson, AWS Stewardship intern

The other day, I helped to lead a group of elementary schoolers on a field trip to the Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens in Northeast DC. Out in the mud some of the kids seems a little dubious about planting wild rice and were mostly worried about getting dirty. I wasn't thinking that we had a new group of environmentalists under our wing, but apparently they took their educational experience to heart. Upon passing a maintenance man pruning some trees along the trail, the kids began to shout: "Stop that!" "You’re hurting it." "Leave that tree alone!" "TREE KILLER!" I was astonished to learn that we had some tree huggers all along.

And while their hearts were in the right place, their shouts were uncalled for. The man was actually helping the trees. If you want to make sure that you don’t have a group of 40 ten-year-olds coming after you (they can be pretty scary when they want to be!), then keep reading for some tips about properly taking care of your trees!

Of Bees and the River

By Jason Martin, AWS Stewardship Intern

Hello, my name is Jason and I'm a Stewardship Intern here at AWS. In addition to the many wonderful projects that are done in and around the watershed, one new project that we will be doing throughout the summer focuses on the native bee populations in the watershed. Some of you might be thinking, "What do bees have to do with the Anacostia?" Well, bees are some of the best (if not the best) pollinators in nature and much of the plant life in and around the Anacostia River and its watershed depends on them to survive and thrive.

The Wildlife of the Watershed

With the help of our outstanding stewardship interns last year, we started an exercise of compiling checklists of the wildlife reported in the watershed, for which there is a considerable amount of information available out there. We were able to determine the conservation status of the species, at least on a state level (for Maryland and DC) by using NatureServe's Conservation Status Ranks. We consulted several sources including the District of Columbia Wildlife Action Plan, the National Park Service, the Anacostia River Watershed Restoration Plan, the website of Friends of Sligo Creek, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, and others.