In October, 2014 an official with the National Park Service declared the walkway to the Fletcher’s Cove boat dock unsafe for public use, effectively cutting off access to the Potomac River from publicly available row boats, canoes and kayaks. The walkway, which once floated at the lowest tide, is now grounded and compromised by siltation. Unless immediate action is taken, there is a strong possibility the dock will stay closed next spring.
The continued operations of the Fletcher’s Cove concession as we now know it may be at stake. To ensure continued access to the dock in the spring of 2015, ACTION MUST BE TAKEN NOW. PLEASE mail and/or email the NPS expressing your concern and asking that it expedite a plan to save access to the river at this location.
Mailing address: Kevin Brandt Superintendent, C&O Canal National Historical Park Headquarters Office, 1850 Dual Highway, Suite 100, Hagerstown, MD 21740-6620
Send your email request to C&O Canal NHP Headquarters.
What follows provides more historical information and explains how we have reached this critical point in time. Please share this document or its link to anyone who will support this effort and also sign our petition to preserve river access at the boathouse.
The Potomac near its fall line has long been a cherished natural resource for the entire region. Providing access to the river since before colonials arrived, the area known as Fletcher’s Cove is a natural wonder within the boundaries of what would become the nation’s capital. Archeological digs have shown that Native Americans used this location to harvest and store fish and grain. The reliably deep water of the tidal cove also served as the first river access point for George Washington’s “Patowmack Canal.”
Early in our nation’s history, Andrew Jackson was rowed in a boat from this spot to fish for striped bass under Chain Bridge. After the Civil War the Fletcher family established a boathouse which allowed every man to enjoy this unique location for recreation and to partake in the bounty of the “Nation’s River.”
Over a century later and now part of the C&O Canal Historical Park, Fletcher’s Cove continues to draw visitors of from all over the world. The park and boathouse there today are precious Washington, DC landmarks for residents and tourists alike.
Siltation has been a growing problem at Fletcher’s for many decades, and it is largely a manmade condition. Traditional agricultural practices and overdevelopment upstream have played an obvious role by increasing the sediment runoff. The cove’s problems worsened after the construction of Metro and the Dulles Interceptor Sewer in the 1960’s. Excavated soil was dumped at the river’s edge just north of Fletcher’s Cove, with the intention of creating a more sheltered area for Fletcher’s Cove.
It was soon discovered that seasonal flooding deposited increased amounts of silt where it previously did not settle. The cove began to fill in at an alarming rate. In the early 1980’s a narrow channel was dug to improve flow, but it hit bedrock, often clogged with debris, and was deemed ineffective. Dredging projects that have been attempted only temporarily addressed the problem. The cove continues to fill in.
Not only is Fletcher's Cove an historic gem and a unique and vital resource for the outdoors person, but it is the ONLY access point for D.C. Fire and Rescue, Montgomery County Rescue and the D.C. Harbor Police from Georgetown to the dangerous Little Falls area. If access is closed off at this location, then response abilities to the frequent emergency incidents in the area will be severely compromised.
To increase awareness, a coalition of river enthusiasts has drafted this statement to inform the public. It’s well worth repeating we need your help to encourage officials with The National Park Service and the C&O Canal National Historical Park to implement a solution that will maintain the boathouse and provide access to the river from Fletcher's Cove by next spring. Please help get the word out by sharing this statement with others and asking them to reach out. The following individuals and organizations currently endorse this effort. If you would like to join us and be added to this list, please fill out this petition to save river access at Fletcher’s Cove.
Thanks to your support we have increased awareness. The NPS issued this C&O Canal National Historical Park News Release announcing a public hearing on Dec. 17. Please continue to sign and spread the word.