September 2012

Friday -- September 7, 2012
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.1     Water Temperature: 82

There hasn't been much activity on the Island since Monday, but boy what a time we had that day. It was of course Regatta Day and we had a good turn out of competitors. The egg toss was my favorite event but the canoe race around the island was a lot of fun as well. This year we had to compete with some real challengers, National Champion Davey Hearn and Family took first place. It only took them 6:25 to paddle around the Island!

There is actually a rule on the books, Standing Rule 2-C, No person shall enter the club house or kitchen while wearing a dripping bathing suit. Rule or no rule, if you need to use the bathroom, dry off first. It's not that difficult.

There are a couple of other rules that I'd like to remind everyone of; Rule 2-A All club facilities shall be left, after use, clean and in their proper places, including dishes, kitchen equipment, game equipment, and furniture; and Rule 2-E No persons under twelve years of age shall use the pool table except under the immediate supervision of a responsible adult; any person using the pool or ping-pong tables shall return covers, balls, cues, bridge, rack and ping-pong paddles to their proper places;

Monday -- September 10, 2012
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.1     Water Temperature: 77

Well, it wasn't called a Dereche but we got some horribly strong winds here on Saturday. How strong does a wind have to be to blow a heavy wooden Adirondack chair off of the captain's float and into the river? The wind also caused a huge oak tree to fall across the trail and onto the metal bridge. Thankfully the bridge is not completely crushed but it will need a lot of attention. Right now it is very difficult to crawl under the big trunk and past the hole in the deck, but it is passable, but only barely. We did lose power for a few hours after the storm (reminder that we still need a generator down here) but the good news is that the tree narrowly missed pulling down the power line that supplies the Club. So we can feel fortunate that it wasn't any worse but it still complicates things down here. With the bridge being blocked we may have to move the monthly meeting, and the fishing derby that is scheduled for Saturday is in jeopardy as well. It also makes it hard for the caretaker to come and go. I guess I have to decide whether it's worth it to build another temporary bridge.

I didn't happen to be on the Island when the storm hit but I was close by. We had decided to ignore the looming clouds and paddle a canoe up to Cabin John Creek. Our plan was to go to the crab feast at the Clara Barton Community Center, so we were going to paddle to Cabin John Creek and then walk up the hill to the community center. Well we made it as far as we could up the mouth of the creek and stashed the canoe. We were picking our way up the creek on foot when the wind hit. The sound of it alone was frightening enough but when the huge branches started sailing through the air we quickly rushed for the shelter of a high bank. Thankfully the wind did not last long but then the rain hit. We made our way back to the canoe and used it as a shelter from the rain. It was wet and cold but we were in good spirits. We sat huddled under the canoe waiting for the rain to let up when a new problem arrived. The buckets of rain were collecting in the creek and soon the creek began to rise. At first it was interesting to watch the rocks in front of us slowly disappearing but soon the entire character of the creek began to change. Before long there were branches and bottles and other debris floating down stream and the gravel bar where we had been walking was gone. Soon the rocks that had impeded or progress up the creek were a class two rapid and the muddy beach where we parked our canoe was getting smaller and smaller. After a while the rain let up but there was no way to keep going to the community center, the small creek with gravel bars had turned into a raging river with high banks. We carefully launched the canoe and let the rushing current carry us back into the river. The rain was still coming down but the wind had shifted so that it was now at our back and we paddled back to the safety of the Island. I was pretty cold by this point and I was hoping for a hot shower but the power was out and there was no water to be had. I did the next best thing and that was to jump into the river, at 85 degrees it felt very warm compared to the air temperature which had dropped from almost 90 degrees to about 65.

Wednesday -- September 12, 2012
Water Level at Little Falls: 2.9     Water Temperature: 74

There is a meeting tonight! The meeting will be at Tryon's house 6216 Winston Dr. The meeting starts at 8:00 and don't be late because before official business begins, Whit Overstreet and myself will be giving a short slideshow about our recent kayak trip down the Potomac River!

Good news, both of the Adirondack chairs that flew into the river on Saturday have been recovered and are back on the captain's float!

The Clean Water Act is 40 years old! Come down to Georgetown waterfront on Saturday 11:00-3:00 and help celebrate this momentous occasion! Go to to get the details. My plan is to paddle from here, down the canal to Georgetown if anyone wants to join me. See you there!

More exciting news. I've been selected to be a presenter at the 2012 Forum for the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay. The forum is at the National Conservation Training Center in Shepherdstown, WV. September 28, 29, and 30. This is a great opportunity for me (and the Club) to network with other conservation groups and to promote the Sycamore Island mission of enjoyment and preservation of the Potomac River. Check out,

Monday -- September 17, 2012
Water Level at Little Falls: 2.7     Water Temperature: 73

There is a barrier on either side of the canal bridge and a sign that says "BRIDGE CLOSED" but this has not stopped the legions of towpath users from getting to their favorite linear trail. The fallen tree that was across the bridge was removed last Thursday but there is still a giant root ball in the middle of the trail. Between the barriers and the root ball, its like an obstacle course getting down here. The bridge inspectors came by earlier but I don't think that they are going to tell us anything that we don't already know, parts of the bridge will need to be replaced. The problem for us is that they will probably keep the barriers up and the bridge "closed" until all that work is done.

There is a mist on the river this morning, a not-to subtle indication that summer is coming to an abrupt end. The Equinox is this Saturday! Keep an eye out for the migrating warblers.

The fishing has been exceptional and it's fun to know that the bass are just waiting up there above Ruppert's Island. Speaking of fish, there has been a large school of small carp hanging out next to the captains float. The water is so clear now that its like looking into an aquarium!

Friday -- September 21, 2012
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.8     Water Temperature: 71

The bridge is completely impassible now. Yesterday they put up large sections of chain link fence with barbed wire on either side of the bridge. Between that and the fact that there is still a huge tree across the trail, I think I'll start biking down to lock six and park my van down there. Bummer.

The river went up to four and a half feet on Wednesday. It's back down below four feet now but it is all muddy, it looks like the fishing might be over for the year.

Monday -- September 24, 2012
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.5     Water Temperature: 69

I heard some bad news on Friday about our bridge over the canal. It seems that the tree did more damage than we thought. According to the Federal Highway Administration the structural supports below the bridge are damaged and they have basically condemned our bridge until repairs are done. I think we all know that repairs on the bridge are not going to start tomorrow so it seems safe to say that the bridge will be out for a long time.

The good news is that there is now a homemade bridge across the canal! Our Captain, Drew Walsh, led a small group of dedicated and creative volunteers yesterday and they made a fine bridge over the swampy prism. The bridge is narrow but sturdy.

The other good news is that the park service removed the tree and rootball that were blocking the upper part of the trail. So now, getting to the Island is like it was last year when the bridge was closed. In order to get here you have to come down the switchback trail to the broken metal bridge, when you come to the orange barracade follow a trail that goes off to the right. Follow that trail upstream and over the fallen logs until you pass the green sewer top, the bridge is on the left. Good luck and watch for poison ivy.

There were a couple of brave souls that went swimming yesterday but the water temperature is dropping and soon the swimming will be over.

I saw my first migrating grebe of the season, I think it was a female horned grebe. Also, while we were working on the bridge, we saw a small eel swimming in the shallows of the canal. It is rare to see an eel and we got a great look at it!

It's a bit of a challenge to get here but it is a great time of year to be outside. Plus, now all the bugs and spiders are gone