Historically, the tidal Anacostia River in Washington, D.C. had been an extensive system of freshwater tidal marshes replete with a full array of wetland vegetation dominated by wild rice. The local Nacochtank Indians had found the abundant fish and wildlife sufficient to sustain their daily lives. White man's intrusion upon the landscape gradually brought about deterioration of the natural (and associated cultural) system. Total demise followed mid-20th century dredge and fill channelization, which was conducted from the confluence of the Anacostia with the Potomac near the heart of Washington, D.C. to the terminus of the tidal regime at Bladensburg, Maryland. The National Park Service (NPS) became the manager for much of the land along the Anacostia, particularly the eastern bank. As part of its planning effort, the NPS envisioned returning portions of the Anacostia under its control to a natural system as a vignette. The concept was based on bringing back as comprehensive a collection of vegetation and wildlife as possible through the reestablishment of tidal marshes at Kenilworth and Kingman. The resultant wetlands were to be made accessible to the public both logistically and through a well designed interpretative program. In fact, this vision has been realized due to an impressive cooperative effort among a number of Federal and local agencies and organizations. In 1993, 32 acres of freshwater tidal marsh were reconstructed at Kenilworth. Based upon the 5-year monitoring program that has been in place since reconstruction, several generalizations may be made concerning the degree of success of the marsh reconstruction. Water quality in the marsh system and nearby tidal waters has not been noticeably improved. The poor quality may be clue to the overwhelmingly high loads (e.g., sediment, nutrients, etc.) brought in on the twice daily tidal cycle from the Anacostia and to the relatively small volume of water which actually interacts with the emergent marsh. Revegetation, which is a product of direct plantings (16 species comprised of 350,000 plants) and by establishment of volunteer plants, must be considered successful. Remarkably, full vegetation cover was achieved by the end of the first year (1993). Species diversity is high with 100-130 wetland species occupying portions of the wetland. Good species differentiation (incipient plant communities) can be noted at areas of sediment elevation differences. There is a good range of predominant species (five to eight) with rice cutgrass (Leersia oryzoides) initially being dominant but in later years becoming codominant. Even the native wild rice (Zizania aquatica) is making a substantive comeback. Invasive plants such as purple loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria) and phragmites (Phragmites australis) are being watched and dealt with as appropriate. There has been important habitat creation, and a resulting increase in fauna can be expected, particularly as the acreage reconstructed at Kenilworth has more than doubled with similarly reconstructed wetlands at Kingman Lake (42 acres), which were completed during the summer of 2000, just a quarter of a mile down river. One of the challenges with the Kingman marsh reconstruction has been protecting against the grazing pressure of native Canada geese (Branm canadensis). In the long run, these revived Anacostia wetlands are bound to improve local conditions and will contribute to a rejuvenated Chesapeake Bay system.
Additional publication details
Reconstruction of Anacostia wetlands: success?
U.S. Geological Survey
Patuxent Wildlife Research Center
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Other Government Series
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Black ducks and their Chesapeake Bay habitats : proceedings of a symposium