My River


I don’t live by the river, I don’t even see it that often. I don’t boat on it or swim in it. But I realize that I do have a river I consider mine.

Because I was born and have lived here most of my life, the Potomac River is my river. It’s tributaries; Monocacy, Anacostia, Shenandoah and Occoquan, all good Native American names, are names I know from stories, street signs, news reports. It’s feeder Rock Creek is the spine of our local park, running through Washington DC and enclosing the National Zoo, Pierce Mill, and countless trails full of walkers, woodpeckers and deer. My neighborhood storm drains carry water down to it, whether clean or foul.

My river is not in my blood like some who live on a river, who may earn their living from the river, who travel on the river. But over the years I have hiked along the river and made countless visits to see and hear and feel the cool mist from its Great Falls. And rock-scrambled over the boulders along it’s shores. With my parents, with my first love, with my children and husband.

We have waded its creeks wearing old sneakers, and played Pooh Sticks over small footbridges. We have picked up stones and found crayfish. We have seen a water snake. We have identified animal footprints in sand at the shore.

My son rowed crew on this river, out before dawn on the cold gray water in a slim shell with fragile hull.

Whenever I drive across one of its big bridges- Chain, Key, American Legion, Memorial, and others, I look down into the water. How high or how low? How peaceful or how turbulent, muddy with fresh rain or melt?

My river is the Potomac. What is your river?

8 thoughts on “My River

  1. I don’t have a river, but I have my childhood lakes. Their stories and the stories that my father told of his lake. Perhaps that will be a post one of these days… Love the way you describe your river; its smells and feelings, even the memories associated with it.

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  2. Thanks for your slice. The Volta River which passes through Ghana runs into the Atlantic ocean at the Gulf of Guinea which covers the southern part of Ghana. What your slice did, was send me to do some research. The beach which is less than thirty minutes drive away, I have visited for parties, weddings and a number of weekends. It is so serene at the clean parts and I really should enjoy the proximity much more.

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  3. My river is the same as your river since I moved to DC many years ago. But my childhood river was the Lafayette River. I remember a really big flood, so big, the water from the river travelled a whole block down to our house to flood it. Later, we moved to a house right on the river where we could watch the egrets wade in the low tide, try to catch crabs and take our kayak out for a sail. My sister lives on another arm of this river and you can travel by river from my mom’s to my sister’s house, passing under at least one bridge. So fun to think about!

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  4. I was born on the Mississippi (in Wisconsin/Iowa) and will always feel drawn to it, but for the past 30 years my river has been the Kennebec (Maine). I wonder how many of us have rivers in our lives.

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  5. My first thought was, “NO! It’s MY river!” But I’ll share it with you, Fran. It’s a wonderful river with so much personality. I have so many memories at Great Falls, too. Now I prefer Riverbend Park because it is less crowded. Have you ever been to the Virginia side when the bluebells are in bloom. They usually come in early April. One of my favorite sights. The best bluebell meadows are at Riverbend.

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    1. I’ll visit Riverbend park as soon as I can!
      As for bluebells, I bought my husband a weekend in a canal lock house for us, for a gift. We stayed overnight on a disappointingly cold and rainy weekend. But when we got up and took an early hike, we were there in peak bluebell season! I agree- lovely and unforgettable! That color!

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  6. Living in and around Philadelphia, I have two rivers – the Schuylkill (Skool-kel) adn the Delaware. When I was in high school I was on a whitewater canoe team, and I paddle on both of these rivers quite often. I learned so many lessons by being on the river. I guess that’s why I am still drawn to rivers today.

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