The Secret River in the Nation’s Capital


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October 17, 2011: Just 18 blocks from the Capitol dome, a river teeming with American history and spectacular wildlife winds gently southward. But it’s not the well-known Potomac River that’s the subject of today’s show. This week, we dedicate our entire episode to a very special journey by boat down the secret river in the nation’s capital, a river called the Anacostia. Plying its waters is an eye-opening journey through our nation’s history and natural heritage. Our guide is James Foster, Executive Director of the Anacostia Watershed Society, a group whose leadership is pioneering the way for restoring this neglected river and providing hope for the other great rivers across the country.

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The Secret River in the Nation’s Capital

Just 18 Blocks from the U.S. Capitol Building, Washington DC's "Secret" River teems with History and Wildlife, including Kingfishers, Ospreys, Eagles, Herons, Egrets, Blackbirds

Just 18 Blocks from the U.S. Capitol Building, Washington DC’s “Secret” River teems with History and Wildlife, including Kingfishers, Ospreys, Eagles, Herons, Egrets, Blackbirds

Their names are Delaware, Hudson, Potomac, Arkansas, Atchfalaya, Susquehanna, Colorado, Columbia, Mississippi, Colorado, Platte, Missouri and Ohio to name a few of the great rivers of the United States. Their waters have literally shaped the nation, carving the rich landscape over millennia, providing a bounty of clean water and food for wildlife and humans alike, floating the canoes of native Americans and eventually, merchant vessels from Europe.

The history of the country is inextricably linked to its rivers. The great cities of the United States grew up around their shores, depending on their waters for sustenance. Strategically critical, they framed some of the great battles of American history, from the Revolutionary War to the Civil War.? As the United States rapidly transformed into an industrial nation, the rivers were the lifeblood, providing transportation corridors for raw materials and manufactured goods, providing water to industry and serving as a place where municipalities and factories could dump their waste.

By the middle of the 20th century, many American rivers were brought to the brink. Some were so polluted that they actually caught fire. And although the Clean Water Act of the seventies accomplished much to help restore them, there remains much work to do to protect our rivers from the ravages of increasing populations, nutrient pollution, plastic waste, channelization and just plain neglect. And we can?t begin a conversation about the health of the oceans without considering the health of their tributaries?our rivers, bays and estuaries.

James Foster (R), Executive Director of the Anacostia Watershed Society, with his son, Garrett (L), our boat captain for the day

James Foster (R), Executive Director of the Anacostia Watershed Society, with his son, Garrett (L), our boat captain for the day

Just 18 blocks from the Capitol dome in Washington, DC, a river incredibly rich with history and wildlife winds gently southward. But it’s not the well-known Potomac River that’s the subject of today’s show. This week, we dedicate our entire episode to a very special journey by boat down the secret river of the nation’s capital, a river called the Anacostia. Plying its waters is an eye-opening journey through our nation’s history and natural heritage. Our guide is James Foster, Executive Director of the Anacostia Watershed Society, a group whose leadership is pioneering the way for restoring this neglected river and providing hope for the other great rivers across the country.

Anacostia Watershed Society

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