Answers to frequently asked questions about the Anacostia Watershed Society.

What is a Watershed?

When you think about it, we all live inside a watershed. Whether it’s the little rise that drains the rain off the front yard or the valley that carries a river from the mountains down to the sea, watersheds are at work all around us, even when it’s dry outside!

What is the Anacostia River Watershed?

If you live in, work in, or visit the metropolitan Washington, D.C. area, you probably spend time inside the Anacostia River watershed. While most of Anacostia River runs through Washington, DC, an estimated 82% of its associated watershed, its tributary creeks and streams, run through Maryland. This 176 square mile area of land encompasses most of the eastern half of the District of Columbia and large portions of Prince George’s County and Montgomery County in Maryland.

This map shows the watershed’s outline. Water falling inside the yellow boundary in the form of rain or snow drains into the Anacostia River and its tributaries. In turn, the Anacostia carries that water into the Potomac River where it eventually flows into the Chesapeake Bay.

What are the names of the Anacostia Tributaries?

The Anacostia has 13 major tributary creeks and streams: Northwest Branch, Northeast Branch, Sligo Creek, Paint Branch, Little Paint Branch, Indian Creek, Beaverdam Creek, Still Creek, Dueling Creek, Lower Beaverdam, Hickey Run, Watts Branch and Pope Branch.  Many of these creeks and streams have their own sub-watershed citizen advocacy groups.

What does the word Anacostia means?
The word Anacostia is derived from the Nacotchtank Indian word anaquash. Literally translated into English, the word means village trading center.

How long is the Anacostia River?
The Anacostia River begins at the confluence of its northeast and northwest branches near Bladensburg, MD, and runs for 8.5 miles before meeting the Potomac River at Hains Point in Washington, DC.

How deep is the Anacostia River?
In the 18th century the port at Bladensburg, Maryland, was 40 feet deep and served as a major center for colonial shipping fleets. Today, at Bladensburg Waterfront Park—site of the old port—the water often measures a scant 3 feet deep or less.

How big is the Anacostia Watershed?
The Anacostia watershed covers an area of 176 square miles and straddles the jurisdictions of Washington, DC; Prince George's County, MD; and Montgomery County, MD.

What types of wildlife can be seen along the Anacostia River?
The Anacostia River supports 188 species of birds and nearly 50 species of fish. Some of the animals you can see in and along the river include: bald eagles, beavers, white perch, ospreys, striped bass, cormorants, crayfish, herons, turtles, egrets, otters, herring, red fox, shad, kingfishers, and bullhead catfish.

How dirty is the Anacostia River?
Each year, Washington's antiquated combined sewer system dumps over 2 billion gallons of raw sewage and storm water directly into the river. Recent efforts have begun to reduce this overflow volume. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), more than 20,000 tons of trash and debris enter the Anacostia's waters each year. Between 1989 and 2009, AWS volunteers collected and removed more than 850 tons of trash from the watershed.

How does pollution affect fish species in the river?
Experts estimate that approximately two-thirds (23) of brown bullhead catfish in the Anacostia River have tumors. The bullhead is an environmental indicator species for the Anacostia.

What happened to the wetlands surrounding the Anacostia River?
In the 18th century, the Anacostia River flowed through 2,500 acres of tidal wetlands. Today, less than 150 acres of wetland remain. Much of this land was drained to prevent malaria and keep the river from flooding neighboring communities



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