In the spring of 2009, Washingtonian magazine listed 26 reasons to love living in Washington.
Impressive list, including Number One — "You Can See the Sky."
And of course, everyone had a — I can’t believe you left out...
With the benefit of seven years of hindsight, mine would be the Potomac River.
Like many people, I’ve appreciated its grandeur, beauty and calming effects many times. But it wasn’t until yesterday that I grasped a greater appreciation for it.
A morning walk through Scott’s Run Nature Preserve near McLean led to the river. The steep walk down the rocky pathway led to a dramatic view of the river and a waterfall. This patch of land was originally known as the Burling Tract. In the 1960s, preservationists went toe to toe with developers and won.
Another sign along the trail mentioned the Potomac Gorge. I knew this stretch of the river that crosses the Fall Line was something special, but I had never heard that term before.
Not much seems to have been written about the Potomac Gorge but the Oxford Journal penned a nice essay as well as the NPS. Below are some items culled from those two sources.
The Scots Run trail features several markers. One summarizes the effort in the 60s to save what became known as Dranesville Park.
As it turns outs, this fight was not the first along the Potomac to keep the river in its natural state.
In 1927, a firm called the "Potomac River Corporation" proposed to develop the river for hydro-electric purposes. Dams would have been built at Chain Bridge and Great Falls. Citizens opposed the plan at a hearing in the Interior Department Building and resistance built from there. The National Capital Parks and Planning Commission also opposed the plan. In May 1928, the Seventieth Congress passed the Capper-Cramton Act which restrained the Federal Power Commission from permitting “private exploration of Great Falls.” The Potomac River Corporation, supported by Byllerby Corp, a Cleveland, Ohio firm, gave up their efforts in 1930.
If the folks at Washingtonian magazine reprise the subject of the best of Washington, they might need to replace a few items that might have changed (see the cover). One thing that hasn't changed is the mighty Potomac River that runs through the region. If you need a fresh perspective on it, take a walk to its gorge.
The Potomac Gorge:
- 15 miles long from Great Falls to Georgetown.
- Probably the wildest urban river anywhere in the world.
- Perhaps the most diverse flora located within an urban area on the entire East Coast.
- On its passage through the Gorge to tidal water, the Potomac has one of the steepest and longest fall zones of any American river draining to the Atlantic
- Because of its Appalachian origins, the Potomac often carries seeds from plants usually found in the mountains and other nearby ecoregions and deposits them in the gorge.
- The Potomac's bedrock terraces are an unusual geological feature found in few other rivers.
- The steep hillsides and deep ravines on the Virginia side discouraged settlers from clearing the land for farming.
- The Gorge contains rare groundwater invertebrates found almost nowhere else on Earth.