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POTOMAC RIVER ISLANDS

A Well-Known Conservation Organization Has Offered to Donate Three Islands to the Chapter. Find Out More Here.
05
Aug

POTOMAC RIVER ISLANDS

The Bethesda-Chevy Chase Chapter has been presented with the opportunity to acquire three islands in the Potomac River. The three islands, Ten Foot, Sharpshin and Minnie’s, are currently owned by the Potomac Conservancy, which has offered to transfer the islands to the Chapter at no cost. Potomac Conservancy is prepared to transfer the islands to the Chapter because of the Chapter’s conservation mission, its interest in using the properties for recreational and educational purposes, and the Chapter’s willingness to ensure the islands remain undeveloped and used for conservation-related purposes.

At the August 19, 2020 membership meeting, we will discuss and vote on whether to accept the islands. Go to the calendar, find the August 19, 2020 membership meeting and click on the event. You will find the invitation to the meeting, which you can use to access through your web browser or your phone.

The northernmost islands, Ten Foot and Sharpshin, are very close to one another and abut the McKee-Beshers Wildlife Management Area. Minnie’s Island is farther south, less than half a mile north of Glen Echo Park

Here are some map views of the islands, to help you better understand their locations and sizes:

The Potomac Conservancy approached the Chapter about the possible transfer of the islands in 2018. In 2019, a 9-member committee visited the islands, researched and discussed the potential costs and benefits of ownership, and issued a report to the Board of Governors describing the islands, explaining the costs and benefits they considered, and their conclusions. Five of the committee members concluded that the Chapter should acquire all three islands. Two concluded that the Chapter should acquire the northern two, but not the southernmost island. One committee member concluded that the Chapter should not acquire any of the islands. The Committee’s report and the minority report are available to Chapter members upon request (email your request to jeff_seaman@hotmail.com).

After receiving the Committee’s report and the minority report, and after meeting with members of the Committee, the Board voted unanimously to accept all three islands from the Potomac Conservancy. The issue will be presented to a vote of the membership at the Chapter’s August membership meeting.

Below are descriptions of the islands from the Committee’s report.

Ten Foot Island: 15 acres. Ten Foot Island is populated with hardwoods including large tulip poplars and an understory dense with smaller trees, including a large number of pawpaws.  The southern end of the island is slightly higher than the northern end.  There is “washout” in the northern center of the island where the River runs through when it is high.  The Committee members observed no evidence of deer on the island.  There was a very small abandoned shack.  At the northern end of the island, there is a clearing among tall trees, which clearing opens to a small sedimentary “beach” where canoes or kayaks can easily land and be pulled ashore.

Sharpshin Island:   5.3 acres. Sharpshin Island is very narrow, at most points just a few feet across.  There is one location on the northern end that was wider. 

Minnie’s Island:  8 acres. Minnie’s Island is located near the Cabin John area, less than half a mile north of Glen Echo Park. It is within about 80 yards of the Maryland bank of the River.  The Committee members who visited Minnie’s Island accessed it from the bank about 100 yards north of the northern edge of the island, and this appears to be the best way to access it by canoe or kayak.  When the water is very low, one can reportedly walk from the Maryland bank to the island. There is a small parking lot at the bottom of a road where the Committee members parked and from which they carried a canoe, down hill, across the C&O towpath, through the woods to the bank.

The northern end of the island is populated by large boulders, some of which form a sort of lagoon that provides a reasonably navigable landing spot for kayaks and canoes.  This end of the island is built upon large boulders.  The terrain of Minnie’s Island ascends to a higher level than the other two islands. A trail from the landing area leads southward along the Maryland side past a sheer rock face, which bears a plaque placed there by the Potomac Conservancy. The path ascends along this rock face to a plateau.

At the top of this trail and on plateau is a one-story, enclosed structure or lodge built of wood and resting on rock and block piers.  This lodge is approximately 30 feet long and 15 feet wide.  The lodge has a wooden deck facing the interior of the island, which deck is accessed from a short staircase. The structure is in fair to poor condition aesthetically. It appears to be structurally sound, and it appears to have been in this location for a substantial period of time. It has intact glass windows on the interior side and windows facing the Virginia side.  The deck appears to be in sound condition structurally, though it is also in poor condition aesthetically.   

A LOOK AT THE ISLANDS

SHARPSHIN and TEN FOOT

Following is a series of short videos taken during a trip from Seneca Lock northward from the Maryland side of the River toward Sharpshin, then on to Ten Foot, around the northern tip of Ten Foot, then back southward along the islands from the Virginia side.

Approaching Sharpshin Island from the South

Heading northward

along the Maryland side of Sharpshin

(Ten Foot visible to the north)

The northern end of Sharpshin

Approaching Ten Foot Island from the south

Heading northward along Ten Foot

The northern end of Ten Foot Island

Rounding the northern end of Ten Foot

The southern end of Ten Foot from the Virginia side

Heading back past Sharpshin

Bald Eagle on Sharpshin

MINNIE’S ISLAND

Following is a gallery of photographs of Minnie’s Island, some in winter and some in the summer

Vegetation on the island is heavy in summer

Flow during a summer visit on the Virginia-facing side

The River in Summer along the Maryland side of the island

Without foliage, February

Leaving Minnie’s Island

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