Monday, July 30, 2018

On the Water at Mattawoman Creek

The wild rice and American lotus were blooming on my first paddle along Mattawoman Creek, a freshwater tributary of the Potomac that winds through Prince George's and Charles County, Maryland.  I put in about mid-way up the creek at Mattingly Park boat ramp in Indian Head, MD,  and headed upstream away from the Potomac.


It's a beautiful creek that was a model of pristine conditions up until the early 1990s when  development started picking up in Charles County.  From what I can glean from reading various reports online, several groups, from local environmentalists to the Sierra Club, pushed the the county to implement a plan to protect the Mattawoman and its surrounding watershed from development and in 2016 the county board finally did. Meanwhile, in June of this year millions of gallons of raw waste flowed into the creek when sewage pumps failed during heavy rains.  So it is a somewhat familiar scenario of several steps forward and then a step back.  Those pumps need a backup! 


The combination of the lotus, pickerel weed, and wild rice creates beautiful layers.



I saw dozens of fishermen and women who say they catch bass, snakeheads, perch and other fish.  Mattawoman is also known for its anadromous shad and herring, which migrate back to the creek to spawn each year.



The wild rice is an annual grass, bearing wispy female flowers at the very top of the stem with chunkier male flowers appearing just below.  The male flowers develop rice grains.  



Mattawoman has several fingers that stretch out from the main channel and are perfect for exploring in a kayak even with the tide going out, which is was on Saturday morning.  Two of the fingers at the very north end wind their way until the tree canopy closes in above; at that point I finally had to turn around as the water became only a few inches deep.   It was a pleasant round trip of about 6 to 7 miles.  



I know the image below is a water scene, but it makes me think of the prairie -- or what I imagine the prairie must look like-- the tall wild rice like giant prairie grasses waving against a deep blue sky. 


Some white hibiscus appeared here and there like the ones below.  


No pictures, but egrets, blue herons, kingfishers and killdeer were abundant.

The remains of an old industrial site sits about a mile up the creek on the right hand side.  Surprisingly, I could find no information about its origins.  Perhaps it was connected to the Naval Support Facility downstream, which claims to be the Navy's oldest continuously running  ordinance station.  Did they make munitions here?  I would love to hear if anyone knows.




Try Mattawoman Creek if you're looking for a leisurely paddle with wildlife and beautiful scenery.  You won't be disappointed.

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