While many do not give it a second thought, others wonder about the safety and cleanliness of the water in the Potomac River and its tributaries. The gasoline gets into the Potomac by storm-water runoff and in this project I can inform people on how polluted the Potomac River actually is. Be aware that currents are generally stronger towards the center of a river and large rocks or rapids can create additional hazards. It is known to be heavily polluted. Disgusting, right? You can book a tubing trip on the Shenandoah or the Potomac River and decide whether you want a relaxing flat water float or an adventurous white water exploration. “In the next 10 years, the Potomac is poised to be the next urban river where you can go swimming,” Belin said. For some of the best swimming spots in Maryland, visit one of its best waterparks. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency provides some helpful hints to protect your dog from harmful algal blooms. So, yeah, you can swim in the Potomac. Except for parks and other facilities where swimming and wading is a sanctioned activity, water monitoring is done at often far-spread stations, usually monthly. However, the information needed may not exist. It is known to be heavily polluted. POTOMAC, MD - JULY 16: A dog swims by a kayaker while she sets off into the Potomac River in Great Falls National Park July 16, 2011 in Potomac, Maryland. Starting in Tenleytown, Foundry Branch goes through multiple DC neighborhoods before entering the Potomac River. The main concern for water contact recreation (swimming, wading, water skiing, canoeing, kayaking, paddleboarding) generally is bacterial levels. In rural areas, agricultural operations can contribute bacteria from animal manure and processing by-products, drugs and chemicals added to feed, sediment, and fertilizer. The answer is - it is and it isn’t. Department of Health Swimming Advisories and Monitored Beaches Map. Anonymous Outside of organized events it is illegal to swim in the Potomac in DC, and also in MD between the DC line and Great Falls. You are allowed to swim in it upriver of DC a bit – where the water is ‘cleaner’ (actually, it’s quite nice about 50-60 miles upriver near Harpers Ferry). During the summer months, staff at ICPRB field frequent calls from people wanting to know if a favorite spot on their local river or stream is “safe.” With few exceptions, we are unable to provide a definitive answer. It is illegal to go swimming in the Great Falls area of the Potomac River, an area also known as Mather Gorge. Many of these areas are heavily used with no reports of outbreaks of gastrointestinal illness. The thousands of chemicals in medicines and drugs, personal care products, residential cleaners and pesticides can show up in river water. GM is a rower, but not a fantastic one, so he’s taken his fair share of unintentional swims. Cunningham Falls State Park. That would open new outdoor recreation opportunities city-wide and enhance the quality of life for residents and visitors, and also represents a concrete milestone for clean rivers which until recently seemed difficult to envision. Do not enter the water if you have cuts or open sores. There are enough hazards in this section that even the best kayakers can have trouble navigating the rapids. There are still extremely strong currents under the water that can pull the unaware swimmer down into the river’s depths. Thank you! While bacteria are integral parts of any natural system, some kinds, in sufficient numbers, can cause gastrointestinal illness, skin and ear infections, respiratory illness, and sometimes worse problems. Higher river levels can make boating dangerous, and rescues can be difficult. Some of these substances are known or thought to be endocrine disruption compounds that can interfere with hormonal systems in humans and in the creatures that call the river home. For safety reasons, swimming in the Potomac is illegal between Great Falls and the southern Maryland/DC line. There are sand beaches and lake SWIMMING with lifeguards in season at Cacapon State Park. When Mike Nardolilli was ten, his grandparents brought him to Washington for the first time. Over 100 Swimmers complete Washington’s Crossing - Historic 2-Way Potomac Swim. The reasons why you can’t safely or legally swim in the District’s rivers could be resolved within the next several years. Belle Haven Marina is located directly down river from Hunting Creek where Alexandria discharges three of its four major CSO outfalls (Outfall 002, 003 and 004). We encourage everyone to safely recreate on the Potomac River. Copyright © ICPRB 2021 / Privacy Policy / Website Design by Wood Street, Inc. Oysters, pollution charges, cleanups, solar energy, and more in the Potomac News Reservoir. Sign up to receive our monthly River Update email. To that end, the Potomac Riverkeeper Network announced Tuesday it will monitor water quality from six points along the river using a floating lab built into a 42-foot boat called the Sea Dog. Like … But the improved grade doesn't mean the river is always safe for swimming. Particular areas in which people swim from an uncontrolled beach or from a boat may or may not have a water quality monitoring station in the general area. While much of the river runs through mountainous terrain, the Potomac does have several large public beaches. Most sewage plants in the region treat to a high degree, and disinfect the water before it is discharged. Significant rains cause the pipes to back up, and a mixture of sewage and storm water that normally goes to a treatment plant backs up and discharges directly to a waterway or river. One of our favorite spots for cooling off on the river is Harpers Ferry, West Virginia. I would not even want to do water sports on the Potomac where my mouth might get splashed with that water. The odds of a person getting sick increase with the amount of bacteria that enter the body. Nearly every year, there are drowning accidents in this stretch of the river. People also swim, kayak and sail in the Potomac River. Without good data, people must decide based on their attitude toward risk and their personal level of health. At many areas designated as bathing beaches, or at parks where wading or swimming is officially allowed, water testing is conducted weekly for bacterial contamination. High water levels can cause a normally safe section of the river to have a strong and dangerous current. Bacteria occur naturally in the water, but there are certain kinds – like E. coli – that are good indicators of sewage pollution. There are exceptions for those who operate a boat, canoe, or kayak and happen to fall in wearing a personal flotation device. Get a taste of the salt life at Point Lookout State Park in … The concentrations may register in the parts-per-billion, and while they may not individually affect an person, the mixture of compounds found in the water has not been studied. This kind of pollution frequently affects the Anacostia River and Rock Creek, and can affect the adjacent segment of the Potomac. 11/02/2020 14:21 Unlike bacterial infections, any possible effects would likely be from chronic (long-term) exposure. If it has rained in the past three days, and the water looks brown or murky, then it is best to avoid touching local waterways. ICPRB promotes stewardship through a variety of outreach and education projects. The Potomac Conservancy gave the river a “B-” on the “Potomac Report Card” it issued in March, stating that the river is on track to be swimmable and fishable by 2025. That sounds strange, so let’s clear up a few points and to provide tips to keep your summer cool. Other major contaminant sources are mostly related to storm water runoff. “The Potomac River around Chain Bridge is treacherous and deceiving,” the fire department tweeted. Interstate Commission on the Potomac River Basin. The race begins from National Harbor to Jones Point, where Alexandria, Virginia, Maryland and Washington DC intersect, and back to National Harbor. When I did MIMS in 2006, the only open water I had that year was a 3 miler (The Potomac River substitute swim that Julie mentioned) and a 2 mile race that I did as a goof-off. So check Swim Guide, make sure it hasn’t rained on Thursday or Friday, and then you’ll know that it is generally safe to swim. It gives you pause. Higher river levels can make boating dangerous, and rescues can be difficult. Recently, the Potomac and Anacostia riverkeepers, along with other groups, perform weekly bacteria monitoring of a network of sites in the metropolitan area. If you do choose to swim, wade, canoe, or kayak in the Potomac, here are ways to limit your risk: Do not enter the water for several days after a significant rainstorm. Violating the law is punishable by a $300 fine or 10 days in jail. "Is it safe to swim in the Potomac River?". Trees and other large debris can lurk just below the water's surface and pose serious danger to those in the river. Point Lookout State Park | Scotland, MD. Do not swallow water. There could be an up to $200 fine for those caught swimming in the Potomac River, especially near Great Falls and the southern Maryland-D.C. line. Subject: Re:Can you swim in the Potomac River? Bacteria is also a serious concern. But you should also be aware that they cancel the swim leg of that race very regularly due to raw sewage washing into the river after heavy rain. Be sure to check river levels before you come and know your skill level before attempting to boat on this section of the Potomac. Bottom line: It is illegal to swim between Great Falls and the Maryland/DC line. Ten years ago, the Potomac Conservancy rated the river’s health with a “D” grade. Our collective voices are already making huge strides for local. If you're boating and wearing a personal flotation device and you happen to fall in, that is not illegal. The pace and methods in which land is developed and used can cause bacteria problems in local waterways. The waterpark features a massive wave pool, perfect for staying cool all day long. Like in Georgetown for instance? Don’t let the calm-looking water fool you! You can run your own test for e.coli or let others do the testing for you- local citizen scientists are regularly testing our waters and uploading data to the Swim Guide app! You’ll receive our next monthly River Update email with river news, wildlife stories, and fun-usually free- outdoor events! Point Lookout State Park, at the southern tip of Maryland's western shore, marks the spot where the Potomac flows into the Chesapeake Bay. 100% Privacy. When this occurs, runoff flows directly into the Potomac and Anacostia rivers. Watch the current carefully and keep the dog away from areas that may be too swift for them. Technically it’s still illegal to swim in the Potomac from Georgetown. Canoeing, kayaking and tubing are preferred sports on the Cacapon River. After strong storms, drainage and sewage pipes in and around Washington, DC can overflow. “It was 1966, and I remember visiting Mount Vernon and going down to the dock,” recalls Nardolilli, now executive director of the Interstate Commission on the Potomac River … There are many myths floating around that the river is unsafe to swim in, but most of the time, the river is swimmable, but here are some tips to help you make safer choices when deciding to take a dip: Don’t enter the water for several days after a significant rainstorm. Heavy rains can cause flows that overwhelm treatment plants. Dogs can swallow a lot of water while splashing around in the river, which increases their risk of getting sick. “DO NOT swim anywhere in this area. Theswimguide.org provides weather and water quality data for some areas around the basin. Algae makes up the base of the aquatic food chain and is essential for healthy waters. These are pathways for bacteria to enter your body. You can bring power boats to the Potomac River and Sleepy Creek Lake in the wildlife management area. Septic systems in rural areas, which are largely unregulated, also can fail or be overloaded by rains. You take a step toward the water that's gently lapping the shore and you hear a crumpling sound under your foot. Climbing Blue Hole/Buzzard Rock. Multiple water rescues were required this weekend in the greater D.C. area due to swimmers being stuck on the Potomac River. A small amount is unlikely to affect most people. The appearance of the Potomac river can be very deceptive, and that is why it has been so deadly. 11/02/2020 16:03 You'll learn what's going right and wrong for our hometown river - and how you can help. It is not safe to swim in which of the following locations, due to dangerous rapids. Get Exploring! As some of you may know – you’re not allowed to swim in the Potomac river in the waters of the city of the District of Columbia . If you are searching by state, the Potomac River is located in Maryland. First things first: It is illegal to swim in any of D.C.'s waterways. Avoid algae blooms (brightly colored water) and trash in the water. Additionally, older urban areas, including a large portion of Washington, D.C., are served by combined sewer systems that route sewage and stormwater through the same pipes. Be extra mindful when allowing your four-legged friend in the river. Swimming, wading, and tubing are not allowed. Nearly every year, there are drowning accidents in this stretch of the river. Study finds the Potomac is getting saltier, threatening drinking water and wildlife, 7 local animals making a comeback thanks to clean water, Top threats to native fish in the Potomac River, Report gives the Anacostia River its first ever passing grade, Potomac River study reveals close link between air and water pollution, Nation's Triathlon launches partnership with Potomac Conservancy. Anonymous: Anonymous wrote: Anonymous wrote: Anonymous wrote:The fish are becoming intersex in the Potomac. It's a common question we hear from concerned folks in the Washington, DC area- especially in these hot summer months. Subject: Re:Can you swim in the Potomac River? Since 1971, District law has banned swimming or wading in the Potomac and Anacostia Rivers as … Since 1971, District law has banned swimming or wading in the Potomac and Anacostia Rivers as well as Rock Creek. Do not enter the water if you have cuts or open sores. their results are available on Swim Guide, along with those of many other areas and beaches. Officials with the Potomac Conservancy said there’s roughly 1,000 dolphins have been identified swimming in the Potomac River and Chesapeake Bay. © 2021, Potomac Conservancy, Silver Spring, MD. Maryland and Virginia host websites that list stations tested for bacteria and their current status, with contacts for some county health departments. If you find yourself asking, "How healthy is the Potomac River?" Like any other mechanical device, treatment plants sometimes malfunction and sewage overflows to the river. All Rights Reserved. Subject: Can you swim in the Potomac River? Do not enter the water for several days after a significant rainstorm. If you are searching by state, the Potomac River is located in Maryland. People who want to know about bacterial levels in their local waterway should start with their county health department. Climbing The region’s leading clean water advocate, fighting to ensure the Potomac River boasts clean drinking water, healthy lands, and connected communities. U.S. Park Police are searching for a group of men who robbed someone on the bank of the Potomac River in Arlington and forced him to swim across to the District, a spokeswoman said. Great Falls might be a no-brainer, but what about the calm water, nowhere near the falls, where it looks nice and flat? Government agencies tasked with the work will require strong public and monetary support. However, if you like fast-paced thrills, zip down one of the water slides. Areas with algae along the surface, where your dog can easily swallow it, should be avoided. Well, if you saw our latest report card, you’d see that the river’s health has improved from a D to a B in ten years. The ICPRB provides various maps and other resources for public use to further understanding of the watershed. Tests involve examining a water sample for indicator bacteria that signal conditions conducive to the growth of the several types of bacteria that can cause gastrointestinal illness or other infections in people. Storm flows spike bacteria levels, which decrease with time. I would not even want to do water sports on the Potomac where my mouth might get splashed with that water. Citizens need to voice their demands for a cleaner environment while becoming stewards of their local waterways. WATERS REGARDLESS OF THE CURRENT STATUS** A “green” rating demonstrates that the level of E. coli at the time of sampling falls beneath the limit of 126 MPN/100 ml, the numeric standard used for this citizen science initiative to … 2018 Potomac Report Card > Past Report Cards > Maryland/DC Environmental Site Design Assessment > Virginia Environmental Site Design Assessment > Bottom line: Due to large debris and runoff pollution, you should NOT wade in local rivers or streams if it has rained in the last three days. There are countless swimming spots across our region – from the sandy beaches at Point Lookout, to backyard streams and creeks. Walking along a riverside trail with sunlight slowly burning your cheeks and sweat dripping down your back, you stop and look longingly at the nearby Potomac. Under your foot not illegal of local spots where it is both legal and safe to between... 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