Thursday, July 28, 2016

Paddle Green Spotlight: Paddle Potomac! Paddle Shenandoah!

Mark Frondorf, Shenandoah Riverkeeper, Brent Walls, Upper Potomac Riverkeeper and Dean Naujoks, Potomac Riverkeeper
Paddle Potomac! Paddle Shenandoah! was organized by Potomac Riverkeeper Network (PRKN) in partnership with the National Park Service, and timed to coincide with their centennial this year. PRKN works to protect the public's right to clean water in our rivers and streams. We fight polluters to protect the Potomac and Shenandoah, the source of drinking water for millions. Currently we are involved in 17 active suits and are holding Dominion Power accountable for dumping millions of gallons of waste water from their coal ash ponds into a tributary of the Potomac.

We believe the best way to build an appreciation for the river is by experiencing the river. With that in mind, we worked with local outfitters and boathouses to present a dozen events aimed at getting people of all skill levels on the river. While some paddles were free to the public, the ticketed events help support the work we do. The event is an effective way to introduce the public to the organization, and in some cases, to the rivers, as many first time paddlers participated. 

From June 8th-19th, several hundred paddlers joined us on outings ranging from overnight camping and bird-watching to whitewater and moonlight trips. It was our first time organizing an event of this size so it meant a lot to us to see a huge turnout and enthusiastic reactions to the wide variety of experiences we offered.

A few highlights:

  • Running the rapids above Harper’s Ferry to the confluence of the Shenandoah and the Potomac, then hearing a fascinating talk from the NPS about the role of the river in the Civil War. The famous cliff face and bridge where the rivers provided an impressive backdrop.
  • Forming a flotilla of our nearly 100 colorful kayaks, setting off from the Georgetown Waterfront to circle Roosevelt Island. Halfway through, as we round the end of the island, the stately monuments of the Washington skyline suddenly appear.
  • Floating from the Andy Guest Shenandoah River State Park down to Karo Landing with members of the Potomac Valley Audubon Society. We identified over 40 distinct bird species in just a few hours!

The event was a huge success and there is already talk of making it an annual tradition. So if you missed it this year, don’t worry, there’s a very good chance Paddle Potomac! Paddle Shenandoah! will be back in 2017!

Photo Credit: Nathan Ackerman.

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