English explorer Captain John Smith was the first to write about the river, whose name comes from the Native Americans who had lived on its banks for thousands of years before the arrival of the first Europeans.  Capt. Smith explored the Anacostia in the summer of 1608, when he and 15 men sailed up the river in a 28-foot open sailboat called a shallop.

In 2010, with generous funding from the Morris & Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation, we joined forces with local and regional partners to develop and publish the Anacostia River Water Trail Guide. The new guide gives history buffs, nature-lovers and modern-day explorers a chance to paddle, hike, bike or drive down the Anacostia and experience the natural landscape that captivated Capt. Smith. It highlights historical, cultural, natural and recreational points of interest on or adjacent to the river, such as the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail.

Our Role

We secured a grant to support the project, and worked with consultants to design the trail, prepare educational materials on the river’s history, identify potential new access sites and develop print and online versions of the trail guide.

Why This Project Matters

The Anacostia is a river that has suffered from neglect and pollution. We’re hope this project will be a catalyst to increase the number of citizens actively engaged as stewards of the Anacostia. By partnering with local and a regional conservation organizations, we want to bring increased federal attention to the Anacostia, and to encourage the National Park Service (NPS)  to make the Anacostia River Water Trail an official connector to the John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail.  

“The goal of the guide is to generate more attention to the Anacostia River’s incredibly rich history and natural assets, for visitors and current residents alike. The Anacostia River Water Trail connects us to the earliest days of American history and helps us see an exciting future for the local economy, community and environment tied to increased visitation, recreation, and restoration activity.” 
--Erik Meyers, Vice President of Sustainable Programs, The Conservation Fund


Download the Guide

Click here to download the Anacostia River Water Trail Guide

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