Connecting Washingtonians to the Anacostia River can be as simple as offering free boat trips.
On a recent Saturday morning, one woman stood near the Anacostia boat ramp watching people board the Anacostia Riverkeeper’s boat for an hourlong trip from Kingman Island to the Benning Road Bridge.
One more spot was still available when Anacostia Riverkeeper Trey Sherard asked the woman, “We’ve got more room, would you like to join us? It’s free!”
The woman who identified herself simply as Jamiyah told WTOP she hesitated because she was just out for her regular walk along the Anacostia River Trail and didn’t have any money with her.
“I didn’t know whether there was a charge” for the trip, but once told that there was no fee, “Well, I said OK!” she said with a smile.
After the ride, Jamiyah, a resident of D.C.’s Ward 7, said of the trip, “It’s an adventure!” and added she would plan to bring her grandchildren for a ride in the future.
Another native Washingtonian, Kim Davis, was also on board for the ride. She told WTOP she’d visited the parks alongside the river with her family as a child, but had never actually been on the Anacostia River before.
“I didn’t think I could even feel more connected,” she said. “I hope more people come down and enjoy it.”
The Anacostia River Explorers boat trips are seasonal and run April through October. Public and private tours are offered, and those along for the ride get a chance to learn about the health of the river, the history of the area and the wildlife that is often spotted along the way.
On a sunny August morning, James Mitchell, a summer associate with the Anacostia Riverkeeper helped birders on board spot everything from hawks to kingbirds, calling out at one point, “You’ve got another heron as well, at one o’clock,” allowing those with binoculars or cameras to lock in on the position of the birds.
Anacostia Riverkeeper Trey Sherard said the Anacostia River Explorers tours are partially funded through the D.C. Department of Energy and Environment. That includes money generated from D.C.’s bag fees.
The tours are important, Sherard said, “because people who have actually lived in D.C. for their lifetime, or even generations” haven’t been on the river before.
While the passengers on board enjoy the rides, Sherard said the chance to show people the beauty they may drive by every day is one of his favorite things about his job.
“This river is gorgeous. And people need to see it so that they can begin to fall in love with it and build a relationship with it, and they become stewards themselves once we have that connection,” he said.