Anacostia River
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Anacostia River
Anacostia River
Anacostia River.jpg
Anacostia River adjacent to the United States National Arboretum
Country United States
States Maryland, District of Columbia
 - left Northeast Branch
 - right Northwest Branch
 - location Bladensburg, Maryland
 - coordinates 38°56?33?N 76°56?38?W / 38.94250°N 76.94389°W / 38.94250; -76.94389
Mouth Potomac River
 - location Washington, D.C.
 - elevation 3 ft (1 m)
 - coordinates 38°51?13?N 77°01?13?W / 38.85361°N 77.02028°W / 38.85361; -77.02028Coordinates: 38°51?13?N 77°01?13?W / 38.85361°N 77.02028°W / 38.85361; -77.02028
Length 8.4 mi (14 km)
Basin 176 sq mi (456 km2)
Topo map USGS Alexandria
Anacostia River Watershed Map.png
Anacostia River Watershed

The Anacostia River is a river in the Mid Atlantic region of the United States. It flows from Prince George's County in Maryland into Washington, D.C., where it joins with the Washington Channel to empty into the Potomac River at Buzzard Point. It is approximately 8.7 miles (14.0 km) long.[1] The name "Anacostia" derives from the area's early history as Nacotchtank, a settlement of Necostan or Anacostan Native Americans on the banks of the Anacostia River.

Heavy pollution in the Anacostia and weak investment and development along its banks have led to it becoming what many have called "D.C.'s forgotten river." In recent years, however, private organizations, local businesses, and the D.C., Maryland and federal governments have made joint efforts to reduce its pollution levels in order to protect the ecologically valuable Anacostia watershed.


The mainstem of the Anacostia is formed by the confluence of the Northwest Branch and the Northeast Branch just north of Cottage City, Maryland. Tributaries of these sources include Sligo Creek, Paint Branch, Little Paint Branch, Indian Creek; Upper Beaverdam Creek, Dueling Branch, and Brier's Mill Run. Tributaries of the mainstem Anacostia include Watts Branch, Lower Beaverdam Creek and Hickory Run.


The watershed of the river roughly covers 176 sq mi (460 km2) in eastern Montgomery County and northern Prince George's County, as well as parts of Washington, D.C.


Captain John Smith recorded in his journals that he sailed up the "Eastern Branch" or Anacostia River in 1608 in his search for the main branch of the Potomac River and was well received by the Anacostans. On earlier maps, the river was known as the "Eastern Branch of the Potomac River" until it received its current, official name.

The Washington City Canal operated from 1815 until the mid-1850s, initially connecting the Anacostia to Tiber Creek and the Potomac River; and later to the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal. The city canal fell into disuse in the late 19th century, and the city government covered over or filled in various sections.[2]

Anacostia River 1936 flood

During the American Civil War, an extensive line of forts was constructed south of the river in order to prevent Confederate artillery from bombarding the Washington Navy Yard, which lies adjacent to the river.

Pollution sources

One of the biggest problems facing the Anacostia River is raw sewage that enters the river and its tributaries because of antiquated sewer systems. The sewage creates a public health threat because of fecal coliform bacteria and other pathogens; it also impairs water quality and can create hypoxic conditions that lead to large fish kills.

The Anacostia Watershed Society (AWS) sued the Washington, D.C. Water and Sewer Authority (WASA) in 1999 for allowing more than 2,000,000,000 US gallons (7,600,000 m3) of combined sewage and urban runoff (stormwater) to flow into the river via its antiquated combined sewer overflow system. In settling the lawsuit, WASA agreed to invest $140 million on pump station rehabilitation, pipe cleaning and maintenance and public notices of overflows.

The Washington Navy Yard and its vicinity circa 1960. The Anacostia River runs diagonally from upper left to lower right center, crossed by the Eleventh Street Bridge (in center) and the Sousa Bridge (Pennsylvania Avenue) near the top.

Pursuant to a stormwater discharge permit issued by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the D.C. government is implementing a stormwater management program to improve water quality in the Anacostia.[3] The governments of Montgomery County and Prince George's County also operate stormwater management programs in their respective jurisdictions.[4][5]

In late 2004, AWS and other organizations announced plans to sue the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission (WSSC) over similar problems with river contamination from the Maryland suburbs. According to WSSC, more than 4,000,000 US gallons (15,000 m3) of raw sewage were released into Anacostia tributaries between January 2001 and June 2004.

Another large source of river pollution is the Washington Navy Yard, which is sited alongside the river and is believed to be a source of PCB contaminants in the river and sediment.[6]

In May 2009, a Bandalong Litter Trap floating litter-control system was placed in the Watts Branch tributary of the Anacostia River as part of Mayor Adrian Fenty's "Green DC Agenda."[7] In its first year of operation, it removed more than 500 pounds (230 kg) of floatable litter per month from the river.[8]

Aerial view of Southeast DC in 2009 showing the progress of the Anacostia River

Recreational amenities

The Anacostia River, in Washington, DC, near Kingman Island, June 2017

The Bladensburg Waterfront Park, part of the Prince George's County Department of Parks and Recreation, currently occupies the banks of the Anacostia near Alternate Route 1.[9] The Port Towns Community Boathouse at the park is home to the rowing crews of the University of Maryland, The Catholic University of America, and several local high schools.[10]

The Anacostia Riverwalk Trail (partially complete as of June 2016) connects Bladensburg Waterfront Park the Tidal Basin via 28 miles (45 km) of paved, shared-use path with connections and spurs to the National Arboretum, Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens, Nationals Park, Maine Avenue Fish Market, and other locations.[11]

See also


  1. ^ U.S. Geological Survey. National Hydrography Dataset high-resolution flowline data. The National Map Archived 2012-04-05 at WebCite, Retrieved August 15, 2011
  2. ^ *Heine, Cornelius W. (1953). "The Washington City Canal". Records of the Columbia Historical Society. 53-56: 1-27. JSTOR 40067664.  Now called Historical Society of Washington, DC. Archived 2009-12-07 at the Wayback Machine.
  3. ^ District of Columbia. Department of the Environment (DDOE). August 17, 2007. 2007 Implementation Plan: District of Columbia NPDES Permit No. DC0000221 Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System. Archived 2008-02-27 at the Wayback Machine.
  4. ^ Montgomery County. Department of Environmental Protection. Rockville, MD. May 2003. Montgomery County's Commitment to Anacostia Watershed Restoration. Archived February 27, 2008, at the Wayback Machine.
  5. ^ Prince George's County Government. Upper Marlboro, MD. October 26, 2007. Prince George's County Announces Anacostia Initiatives.[permanent dead link] Press Release.
  6. ^ David Fahrenthold,, online interactive map. June 17, 2008. Improbable Legacy of Cleaning Up the Anacostia River
  7. ^ "DDOE: Bandalong Litter Trap". Retrieved . 
  8. ^ Storm Water Systems Inc. (2011-03-28). "Bandalong Litter Trap(TM) Case Study: Washington, D.C.'s Anacostia River" (PDF) (Press release). Cleveland, Georgia. Retrieved . 
  9. ^ Prince George's County Department of Parks and Recreation, Riverdale, MD. "Boating Information." Retrieved 2012-12-03.
  10. ^ "The Boathouse - CUA Rowing". Retrieved . 
  11. ^ "Anacostia Riverwalk Trail | Anacostia Waterfront Initiative". Retrieved . 

External links

  This article uses material from the Wikipedia page available here. It is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.



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