Tuesday -- September 3, 2002
Water Level at Little Falls: 2.6     Water Temperature: 72

This morning there was a beautiful low mist over the river. The water in the river is very clear, great for swimming! The weather's warm, so come on down.

Wednesday -- September 4, 2002
Water Level at Little Falls: 2.6     Water Temperature: 72

Tryon Wells came down today to teach a little computer stuff. USGS also came down to sink their ground water shafts to monitor ground water levels.

Friday -- September 6, 2002
Water Level at Little Falls: 2.5     Water Temperature: 76

Another day of perfect weather with temperatures in the 80s and low humidity. Yesterday, the U.S.G.S. finished installing the groundwater monitors and will return periodically to take readings.

I ran into Keith Kelly of the National Park Service, apparently they're planning on cutting down the Huck Finn Tree, otherwise known as the sycamore with the rope swing. It's too bad that it's come to this but a seventeen-year-old girl was seriously injured there three weeks ago and now the girl's mother has filed a lawsuit against the N.P.S. I'm hoping that the entire tree doesn't have to be sacrificed and that the problem can be solved by cutting just the upper branches.

Saturday -- September 7, 2002
Water Level at Little Falls: 2.5     Water Temperature: 76

It's another gorgeous day. There's a large party meeting here today, a mother daughter book club.

I had a rare visit from long-time member Betty Burchell. It was great to talk with her and hear stories about the island during the 50s and 60s. Her recent article in the Islander is just a small sample of the many colorful tales she has to tell. She also shared some of her vast knowledge of the historical and archeological sites along the Potomac.

Tuesday -- September 10, 2002
Water Level at Little Falls: 2.3     Water Temperature: 77

Today the National Park Service cut down the Huck Finn tree. The big machinery was brought in yesterday and today the chainsaws cut the massive limbs that held the rope swing for so many years. Stan Fowler and I were there to take pictures and pay our respects to that ancient sycamore that has witnessed and been a part of so much history down here along the river.

The island is busier than it normally is on a Tuesday since the kids aren't in school. The weather's great so I expect a busy evening as well.

Wednesday -- September 11, 2002
Water Level at Little Falls: 2.4     Water Temperature: 77

Today is very windy. Wind 20 to 25 MPH with gusts up to 60 MPH. Any wind above 20 MPH makes me hesitate to go out in a canoe but some brave women did go up river, white caps and all! Otherwise all is quiet here on this solemn date.

Every night at sunset I've noticed many small groups of small ducks flying down river, perhaps 60 in all. Possibly Buffleheads, its hard to be sure in the fading light. I'm still waiting to see some migrating warblers to spice up my day.

Thursday -- September 12, 2002
Water Level at Little Falls: 2.37     Water Temperature: 75

There was a good turnout for the monthly meeting last night. Vice President Ann-Marie Cunningham did a great job leading the meeting in the absence of President Carl Linden.

The river is now speckled with golden yellow as the sycamores begin to shed their leaves. The Jewel Weed on the Island has finally bloomed, needing that good rain of last week to bring forth it's pretty yellow blossoms.

Friday -- September 13, 2002
Water Level at Little Falls: 2.18     Water Temperature: 75

It's another nice day for canoeing. There's a light wind of 5 to 10 mph, air temperature in the mid 70's. River level is expected to go up slightly, with dam releases at both Randolf/Jennings and Little Seneca reservoirs. Dam releases are necessary to keep river above minimum flow level of 100 mgd (million gallons per day). Don't waste water!

The Potomac Conservancy is hosting a Potomac River Clean-up on the 21st and they are having a canoe and kayak swap on the 28th. Check out their website at

A ground hog was spotted on the banks of Ruppert Island. I didn't know they could swim.

Tuesday -- September 17, 2002
Water Level at Little Falls: 2.21     Water Temperature: 76

I apologize to you daily readers out there. My entries into the caretakers log have been somewhat less than regular. So allow me to fill you in on this past weekend's happenings.

The island got busy early on Saturday with the canoe class for beginners. Frank Daspit very generously gave his time to teach us the basic and not so basic skills of canoeing and canoe safety. Jim Drew also arrived early, bringing donuts and apple cider for all the participants. Jim was also kind enough to watch the ferry and allow my daughter and I to man one of the five boats that joined Frank for his lesson.

Thanks to the relief caretakers for being here on a rainy Sunday. I didn't get to meet Jean but it was great to meet the Vitkovics and their young daughter.

Yesterday there was no school so my kids got a visit from their cousins. We spent the afternoon catching minnows and sunfish off the captain's float. Monday morning I saw my first warbler here on the island, but alas it flew before I could identify it.

Today is the Old-timers Picnic and right now there are about a dozen "old-timers" feasting and visiting on this beautiful September day.

Wednesday -- September 18, 2002
Water Level at Little Falls: 2.18     Water Temperature: 76

This morning I watched the tall lanky figure of our resident Great Blue Heron as it fished from the canoe dock. It seemed unconcerned about my crossing toward it on the ferry. I see this bird every day either on one of the floats or along the banks, usually up near the head of the island. When it does fly away at my approach it makes a squawking noise as if to scold me for driving it from it's fishing spot. We also have an Osprey or two that live very near to here, possibly on Ruppert Island. I often hear its call just after dawn.

I received a visit from PEPCO this morning. A small crew came over to inspect one of the two utility poles on the island. The plan is to replace it later in October, no small job even if it wasn't on an island. They also plan to replace the pole on the mainland side, which may cause some inconvenience since they will be blocking the towpath with their machinery. The pole they're replacing on the island has been here since 1936, back when telephone poles were made from cedar trees not treated pine.

Friday -- September 20, 2002
Water Level at Little Falls: 2.31     Water Temperature: 76

The Interstate Commission on the Potomac River Basin and the USGS were down here yesterday to check on the wells they dug and to get additional information on ground water levels.

I saw an Oven Bird yesterday as I was working to reinstall the lights on the boardwalk. It's a small thrush-like songbird named for it's oven-shaped nest that it builds on the ground. It's great to see a different type of songbird to go along with the Chickadees, Titmice and Goldfinches that I see here regularly.

Saturday -- September 21, 2002
Water Level at Little Falls: 2.23     Water Temperature: 76

It's the end of another summer here on Sycamore Island. I'm sure everyone has great memories of the season gone by. Last night was absolutely incredible as I sat on the captain's float watching the light of the nearly full moon glisten off the water. I know we need rain but I'm hoping for the same tonight.

Yesterday some late afternoon swimmers were startled by a big, fully mature Bald Eagle catching a fish right off the southern shore of the island. That's the second eagle sighting I've heard of since I started. Hopefully I'll see one for myself soon. I did see an immature Black or Yellow-Crowned Night Heron as I pulled the ferry over for the first time this morning at about 10. It had been perched on a low branch on the island side, just ten yards upstream from the ferry.

It's been a quiet day so far, for a Saturday.

Monday -- September 23, 2002
Water Level at Little Falls: 2.23     Water Temperature: 76

Well I've had no visitors yet today, not surprising for 2:00 on a Monday.
I rode my bike 5 miles upstream this morning. It was great to get out and enjoy the towpath on this breezy fall day. Pedaling past the 7 locks it's interesting to see how the park service still uses the old gates to control water-flow on the canal. I saw a pair of Wood Ducks swimming in a newly flooded section of the canal and at mile marker 12 there was a Copper Head snake in the middle of the towpath. I also introduced myself to a couple of C&O Canal Patrol volunteers. They volunteer with the NPS to do daily monitoring trips up and down the towpath on their bikes.

Wednesday -- September 25, 2002
Water Level at Little Falls: 2.45     Water Temperature: 73

Another beautiful and surprisingly quiet day on the island. I was pleased to see a hawk today. It flew across the path up by the old railroad trestle. I was crossing the pedestrian bridge when I noticed something flying out of the trees on my right. Then, after it had flown over the trestle, it flashed in the sunlight showing the distinctive barred tail and streaked underparts of a Red Shouldered Hawk. It must have been a female for it seemed very large, maybe one and a half times the size of a crow.

Tomorrow there will be one hundred kids here for a field trip. They will be arriving at 10:00am and leaving at about 2:30pm. Just to warn you.

Stephanie Flack of the Nature Conservancy will be giving a lecture/tour about the ecology and biodiversity of Great Falls and the Potomac on Saturday Sept. 28th at 2:00pm. The lecture will be held at the Great Falls Visitors Center, Great Falls Virginia. Its free but call to reserve at 703-285-2965. See you there.

Friday -- September 27, 2002
Water Level at Little Falls: 2.94     Water Temperature: 69

Well I guess the big news is that we finally got some rain. No hazardous conditions are expected but the river is going to get above three feet with forecasts of 3.6 feet on Sunday. Finally, the ferry won't scrape bottom getting to the island shore.

The field trip was a success. One hundred kids were here yesterday and they all seemed to have a good time despite the rain. I enjoyed telling them about the animals that live on and around the island.

The weather is overcast and wet and the river looks murky from the recent rain, might be a slow day.

Monday -- September 30, 2002
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.25     Water Temperature: 71

My daughters and I explored Ruppert Island yesterday. We found lots of stinging nettles and poison ivy but we also found a groundhog's burrow and a Black-throated Blue Warbler. The warbler we found hanging by the tip of its wing about six feet off the ground. Amazingly, the small bird had become tangled in a very strong spider web and was helplessly trying to free itself. Luckily for it we came along and saved it from its predicament.

I recently learned that Sycamore Island is within the boundary of a new collaborative project of the National Park Service and The Nature Conservancy known as the Potomac Gorge Site Conservation Plan. The Potomac Gorge has been recognized as one of the most significant natural areas in the eastern United States. To learn more go to