Anacostia River (Things to Know About the Anacostia Watershed)

Anacostia River

Matthew Hurst

The Anacostia River is an 8.7 mile river that flows from Prince George's County in Maryland into Washington, DC. From Hains Point, the Anacostia joins the Potomac River for 108 miles until it empties into the Chesapeake Bay at Point Lookout. The name "Anacostia" derives from the area's early history as Nacotchtank, a settlement of Necostan or Anacostan Native Americans. It is the anglicized name for anaquash (a)-tan(i)k, meaning a village trading center. The Anacostia Watershed is approximately 170 square miles with a population of more than 800,000 people who live within its boundaries.
The Anacostia River and its tributaries have been the victim of more than 300 years of abuse and neglect resulting in pollution, loss of habitat, erosion, sedimentation, flooding, and destruction of wetlands. In recent years, private organizations, local businesses, and the DC, Maryland and federal governments have formed a partnership to reduce pollution levels and protect the ecologically of the watershed. Local community groups offer special programs and activities such as clean-up days to provide additional support. The Anacostia is slowly rebounding and hundreds of acres of wetlands are being restored.

The 11th Street traffic bridges that connect Capitol Hill and historic Anacostia neighborhoods will soon be transformed into the city’s first elevated park providing a new venue for outdoor recreation, environmental education and the arts. The bridge is sure to become an architectural icon. 

Recreation Along the Anacostia

Visitors enjoy outdoor recreation including fishing, boating and nature activities along the river, with the most accessible points at the parks listed below. The Anacostia Riverwalk is a 20-mile multi-use trail under construction for bicyclists, joggers, and hikers along the east and west banks of the river stretching from Prince George’s County, Maryland to the Tidal Basin and the National Mall in Washington, DC.

Points of Interest Along the Anacostia River

  • Magruder Park - A 32-acre park located t 40th Avenue and Hamilton Street in Hyattsville, MD has basketball and tennis courts, playgrounds and an outdoor swimming pool.
  • Bladensburg Waterfront Park - The park located at 4601 Annapolis Road features a public boat ramp, canoe and kayak rentals, and access to regional bike trails.
  • Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens – The park offers hiking, birding, photography, painting and is best known for its wetland habitat, including lotuses, lilies and forest wildflowers.
  • National Arboretum - The 446 acre attraction displays trees, shrubs and plants and is one of the largest arboretums in the country.
  • Langston Golf Course - The course was originally built in 1939 as a segregated golf facility to provide African-American golfers with a course they could call their own. Today it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is frequented by golfers of many ethnic backgrounds.
  • Kingman and Heritage Islands Park - Originally created by the Army Corps of Engineers in 1916, Kingman and Heritage Islands are now a recreational area with biking, birding, boating and educational programs.
  • Kingman Lake – The 110 acre lake provides a habitat for numerous bird and fish species and other reptiles and mammals.
  • Anacostia Park - The park offers miles of river shore, marinas, a boat launch, an 18 hole tournament golf course and putting range, picnic areas, athletic fields, and trails.
  • Poplar Point - Poplar Point offers wonderful views of the river and city skyline. The 110 acre site is expected to be developed into residential, retail, office entertainment, cultural, and park space.
  • Washington Navy Yard - The nation’s oldest naval facility is home to the Navy Yard Museum. The destroyer, USS Barry, is docked here and is open to the public.
  • Nationals Park - The Washington Nationals baseball stadium is a state-of-the-art ballpark attracting baseball fans from around the nation.
  • James Creek Marina – The full service marina is located near the heart of downtown Washington, DC.
  • Hains Point - This point sits at the tip of East Potomac Park, just southeast of the Tidal Basin. Recreation facilities include a golf course, a mini-golf course, a playground, an outdoor pool, tennis courts, picnic facilities, and a recreation center.

Additional Resources and Information

Anacostia Watershed Society – The organization is dedicated to cleaning the water, recovering the shoreline, and honoring the heritage of the Anacostia River and its watershed communities in Washington, DC and Maryland. Since 1989, AWS has worked to conserve and protect the land and water of the Anacostia River and its watershed communities through educational programs, stewardship efforts, and advocacy projects. AWS works to make the Anacostia River and its tributaries swimmable and fishable as required by the Clean Water Act.
Anacostia Watershed Restoration Partnership

– The partnership between local, state, and federal government agencies, as well as environmental organizations and private citizens works to protect and restore the ecosystem of the Anacostia.
Local Anacostia Watershed Society – Local groups encourage public participation and volunteerism with community-based programs and activities within the Anacostia watershed.
Anacostia Riverkeeper

– The advocacy group focuses on protecting the Anacostia River, focusing on the policy and land use decisions that shape the restoration process and impact the river. It works to identify and stop illegal pollution, prevent the destruction of riverside land and ensure that waterfront development is protective of the river.

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