What's your role in the Anacostia River's ecosystem?

What's your role in the Anacostia River's ecosystem?
July 28, 2022 by: Maureen Farrington

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Among the most frequently asked questions we receive here at the Anacostia Watershed Society is: How can I get more involved with the Anacostia River’s restoration? The activities involved in restoring the Anacostia River’s ecosystem are so myriad and varied that they practically make up an ecosystem themselves!  From volunteers who working in waders out to protect wetlands, to people who help shape the restoration plans at community meetings, and even out to the explorers and observers use our trails and marvel at our watershed’s biodiversity, there are so many ways for watershed residents to dig and and do more for Anacostia River.

Let’s take a look at some of the different activities that you can do to help you get closer to your Anacostia River:

Volunteer with the Anacostia Watershed Society

Work in a variety of river ecosystems by volunteering with the Anacostia Watershed Society!  Our restoration work can take you to the wilds of the riverside, removing invasive vines from choking out young trees, or taking a vegetation survey to document the biodiversity of our plant species. Venture out into the Anacostia River’s wetlands, and learn the tricks to walking in waders through mud as you help with our #MusselPower program.  Also: meet your neighbors and other watershed residents who share a passion for a cleaner river with you.

And we are excited to announce our new Volunteer Newsletter!  This monthly email will share upcoming events, pictures and stats about past volunteer successes, and seasonal tips to make the most of your volunteering experience.

Click here to sign up for the Anacostia Watershed Society Volunteer Newsletter.

Additionally, we have another list for #MusselPower-related events.  This work can require a more specific familiarity with the activities, so click here to sign up to join this specialized list.

Physical level and accessibilty: Varied, but generally moderate to high. Many sites require up to a .5 mile walk from the meetup spot to where the work is done and often on dirt/unpaved paths.
What it involves: Bending, lifting, digging, pulling, walking in waders in the water, getting at least hands wet in the water

Get to know the trails

The DC area is home to over 100 miles of biking, hiking, and even paddling and rowing trails, some of the most celebrated of which hug the Anacostia River!  You can check out the Anacostia River Trail (map here) which focuses on the Anacostia River proper. Check out rowing with the Washington Rowing School out of Bladensburg, or look into the offerings of the Anacostia Community Boathouse Association (ACBA) in DC. You can look into renting rackspace at ACBA through one of our programs, click here for more information. Our friends at the Washington Area Bicyclist Association (WABA) maintain a comprehensive list of trails both in the watershed and beyond, and WABA frequently hosts group biking events in addition to their amazing advocacy work.  If history is more your style, check out the offerings of the Anacostia Trails Heritage Area and even the National Park Service, as in their Star Spangled Banner Trail, where you can find interpretive signage at places of interest within our vast trail system.

But even if you just take a pleasant stroll along the trails, you can help us keep an eye on our local environment.  Trail users have alerted authorities to illegal dumping, and spread word of an angry wild Turkey wreaking havoc further upstream. With people regularly using the trails, we have eyes on more areas of the river, so we can better protect it.

Physical level and accessibility: Set your own!  There are many entrances to the trails that are very accessible to everyone, often steps away from some metro stations or parking lots with paved trails for wheelchair users. The dock at Bladensburg Waterfront Park also has accessible options for getting on the water.
What it involves: Walking, biking, rowing, paddling, and more!


It’s such a simple but addictive pastime, spotting our feathered friends and learning their songs. Many people find it rewarding at the casual level, seeing what’s at their birdfeeders; or you can level up your game by keeping a list; or you can even travel to see  .  This is a great activity for more introverted folks, where you can spend solitary hours with a pair of binoculars and a field guide. If you’re looking for more community, check out the photos from the MD Birding group on facebook, or join your local chapter of the Audubon Society  (Not to be confused with our other friends at the Audobon Naturalist Society, who we talk about below). Some of the best birding in the area can be found at Bladensburg Waterfront Park, where bald eagles, osprey, egrets, herons, and more are spotted on the average day. 

Physical level and accessibility: Set your own physical level!  Accessibility varies by site.
What it involves: Watching, Sitting still, using binoculars, using a camera, making a list

Go to your ANC or local government meetings

One of the best things you can do for the Anacostia River is to attend your ANC or local government meetings. You can make a big impact by adding your voice and your support for projects that happen right in your backyard.  From stormwater murals to pollinator meadows, the support of the community has been instrumental to the implementation of Anacostia Watershed Society projects that elevate the river’s reputation in the community.

Physical level: Low; many meetings provide virtual options
Activities: Listening, speaking, negotiating, building a better tomorrow

Take a class or earn a certification

The Anacostia Watershed Society offers continuing educational programs for adults such as our Maryland Master Naturalist course and the Watershed Stewards Academy. Beyond our organization, we also recommend the classes with our partners at the Audubon Naturalist Society (not to be confused with bird-centric DC Audubon!) or Capitol Nature.  Classes like these are a great way to deepen your knowledge of the Anacostia River and network with like-minded watershed residents.

Physical level and What is involved: Varies, check classes for specifics

These are just some of the options and groups you can join in the Anacostia Watershed that will help you be a better steward for the Anacostia River, and to have a more active part in restoring and protecting our treasured resource.

Maureen Farrington

Maureen Farrington

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