Friday, July 5, 2013

Kayaking on the Anacostia

I left Marshall early on Sunday to get down to Bladensburg Park outside DC where I was meeting Margie for a paddle. Emily and Jon were coming on the river too but in a canoe. It was overcast yet warm as I got Big Red ready and chatted with a gentleman who was rail fanning while I waited for Margie. She was renting a kayak, the rates are really cheap here. We set out late without Emily and Jon, who hadn't arrived, but had said they'd catch up with us.
We hadn't even been on the water 15 minutes when the rain started. It wasn't heavy and felt warm on my arms. But it got heavier and we were lucky to be able to hang out under a bridge while we waited for the worst to pass. We didn't see any other kayakers and Margie got concerned about being hit by lightning. I wasn't even mildly concerned but we stayed closer to the bank nevertheless. I did di some research later and couldn't find any statistics of kayakers being killed by lightning.
The rain stopped but the heavy clouds still hung in the sky. I looked around and really wasn't impressed with this river. It's heavily polluted with trash, I've never seen so many plastic bottles bobbing around in the open water and collecting along the banks. I'd assumed this would be the case around the park area but thought once we'd progressed down river they would disappear. Not so.  Every year volunteers pull over 60 tons of trash from the river but evidently more frequent clean ups are needed. There were people fishing from the banks and catching catfish. I sincerely hoped they weren't for consumption. Margie assured me that the river is being restored but so many of the waste I saw had evidently been floating around for a while, there'd been no recent clean ups. Stormwater run-off is also a major threat to this river, carrying pollutants and causing sewage overflows. I kept my hands and feet inside my boat!
 I didn't bother with many photos on this trip for 2 reasons, 1) I didn't want to get my camera wet and so I only took some snaps with my iPhone, and 2) we were paddling quite seriously, this was more of a work out than a leisurely paddle and we wanted to reach our destination before we came back upstream. We were paddling against the tide.
We'd only gone about another 10 minutes or so and the rain started again but this time we had no shelter and it came down harder. Within a few moments we were thoroughly soaked.
Margie took this one of me as we eventually found another bridge to shelter under although it was a little pointless by then!
But the sun persisted and eventually managed to show its face, warming us in our damp clothes and generally making everything around us look more cheerful. Despite the soaking and trash I was enjoying my paddle. Above are dredging boats. The Anacostia has to be dredged regularly to avoid the silt building up that's swept in from the Potomac.
Further down past the Nationals Stadium is an osprey nesting platform, and more nests were seen on bridges, all monitored by cameras. These were set up by local second graders to help provide a habitat for the birds when they were endangered.
The Matthew Henson Earth Conservation Center has a beautiful mosaic art piece on its walls. I grabbed a quick photo in between paddle revolutions!
We approached Washington Navy Yard and it was exhilerating to come around the corner and find USS Barry, a decommissioned missile destroyer, looming above us. I went on board for a tour a couple of months ago but it was great to get this perspective from water level.
We reached the Titanic Memorial which used to be located further up the Potomac River but was moved here in 1966 to make way for The Kennedy Center. It was erected by the Women's Titanic Memorial Association to commemorate the men who died ensuring that women and children survived the Titanic disaster. We hung out here for a few minutes and snacked on fruit and nuts before starting the return trip which again was against the tide, this time coming back out. We met Emily & Jon on the way back by the Navy Yard and found them also looking pretty damp.
Once we'd passed the built up areas on the way back and were back to trees hanging over the banks, we made a detour past Kingman Lake and went the back way through the wetlands. Initially I was delighted to see water lily plants and other foliage that I see on the lakes and rivers out my way but then I spotted all the plastic bottles and cans nestling among the stalks. We even passed an upturned sofa....
This area is a 45 acre restoration project and does seem to have a large wildlife population, we saw herons, egrets, grackles and turtles. There were also fish darting back and forth under the murky surface of the water.
The river entrance to the Kenilworth Gardens was now accessible since it was high tide. We paddled in and I located the bench that the park ranger had pointed out to me last weekend.
Our kayaks dumped on the bank and poor Emily trying to find a way to climb up the bank, watched by an amused Jon.
I only grabbed a few photos here since the park was closing in 10 minutes.
We paddled up the last stretch of the Anacostia to Bladensburg and I shook my head as I watched a tourist boat chug by leaving at least 8 plastic bottles bobbing in its wake. As I pulled big Red up the ramp I spotted my German trainspotter friend standing on the quay. He'd gone home for breakfast and then returned. We chatted for a while but then I spotted more ominous clouds hanging overhead. I got the kayak on top of the car but didn't get all the straps tied before the rain came down. I was once again thoroughly soaked by the time I left the park. The downpour got heavier and heavier, accompanied by thunder and lightning, and not letting up until I had passed Fairfax. Yet arriving in Marshall I could see there had been no rain at all.
I'd forgotten my cycling gloves for the paddle and after just a couple of miles my hands had got sore due to gripping a wet paddle with wet hands in the rain. I ended up with blisters on my left hand only. Does that mean I paddle harder with that hand? The map shows our route, totaling about 20 miles.

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