Potomac River Trail Planning

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Date: October 7, 2015
Contact: Cindy Chance, 410-260-2492

Annapolis, MD –In collaboration with federal, state, local government and non-profit partners, the National Park Service Chesapeake Bay Office recently published the Potomac River Segment Plan. This plan aims to serve park managers, visitors and residents through recreational and stewardship activities along the 140-mile tidal Potomac River where three national trails overlap.

The three national trails running nearly the entire length of the tidal Potomac River –from Great Falls near Washington, DC to the Chesapeake Bay –are the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail, the Star-Spangled Banner National Historic Trail, and the Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail. Each congressionally legislated national trail directs attention to America's historic moments, cultures, landscapes, and key resources that played a role in the country's development.

"The Potomac River is a national treasure. It has an incredibly rich history from the vibrant American Indian cultures John Smith recorded in the early 1600s though the American Revolution and Civil War eras of American history. Vestiges of this rich history persist today in modern American Indian tribes who still live along the river to the many sites devoted to protecting many chapters of history throughout the region, including NOAA's recently proposed Mallows Bay National Marine Sanctuary," said Chuck Hunt, Superintendent of the National Park Service Chesapeake Bay Office and the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail. "This plan provides a framework for all of us to work together to realize the full potential of the Potomac River as a corridor for recreation, education, tourism, conservation and restoration. We are so appreciative of all the partners who helped develop this plan."

The plan describes seven river sections and identifies specific opportunities for enhancing trail experiences at partner sites over the next two to five years by connecting trail partners within geographic focus areas.New or enhanced public access, landscape conservation, linking routes between partner sites, and compelling hands-on experiences are highlighted as opportunities to advance the national trails as educational, recreational, preservation, and tourism assets for the region.

An early result of the collaboration among partners is already helping paddlers who want to explore the national trails. Students in Virginia's Youth Conservation Corps have helped create paddle-in campsites at Caledon State Park, Leesylvania State Park, and Westmoreland State Park.

Key partners collaborating with the National Park Service on the plan include the Chesapeake Conservancy, Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, Maryland Department of Natural Resources, and the Potomac Conservancy. Over eighteen months, these partners engaged hundreds of stakeholders and citizens including public land managers, private developers and outfitters, and conservation groups through focus group meetings, workshops, and interviews. In this way, people could begin to work together with the national trails as tourism opportunities across a geographic region defined by the river, rather than by park boundaries or state boundaries.

"The Potomac runs deep through the nation's history and the hearts of all Americans. The river bends through the nation's capital, a major metropolitan area, and seemingly untouched scenic natural areas that provide a tremendous opportunity for people to connect with their ecological, cultural and natural surroundings," President and CEO Joel Dunn, Chesapeake Conservancy, said. "The Potomac River Segment Plan will help enhance the visitors experience at this important juncture where three trails overlap - the Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail, the Star-Spangled Banner National Historic Trail, and the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail."

The entire Potomac River Segment Plan along with the plan's Executive Summary is available on the website for the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail.


The National Park Service Chesapeake Bay connects people to experiences of the natural and cultural heritage of the Chesapeake Bay and its rivers. We help to conserve special places important to visitors, residents and the nation, for this and future generations. For more information, please visit www.FindYourChesapeake.comand www.nps.gov/chba.

The Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail commemorates the voyages of Captain John Smith and his crew as they explored the Chesapeake Bay between 1607 and 1609. The trail was established in 2006 and became America's first national water trail. Managed by the National Park Service, the trail traces Smith's routes and the key rivers linked to them, helping visitors imagine the world he encountered more than four hundred years ago. Modern‐day explorers travel the trail on land and water, enjoying a variety of recreational experiences at places reminiscent of the Bay in the seventeenth century. The trail is a touchstone for the nation's past, but also a means to experience the Chesapeake's natural beauty and to learn from American Indians who continue to live in the region today. For more information, please visit www.smithtrail.net and www.nps.gov/cajo.


Last updated: October 7, 2015

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