Educational river trips floating to area this week

The Potomac Riverkeeper Network is holding several paddling and floating trips on the Shenandoah and Potomac Rivers to celebrate the National Park Service’s centennial and to promote responsible stewardship of the bodies of water. There will be more than 12 such trips, which began Wednesday and will continue through June 19.

Shenandoah Riverkeeper Mark Frondorf, who will be leading three of the trips, explained the reason for the events.

“This truly is a celebration of our rivers, history, and culture,” he stated in an email Wednesday.  “Paddling is fun.  We believe the best stewards of the river are the users of the river so we want to encourage everyone to get out and experience what our beautiful Shenandoah River has to offer.”

In addition to the commemoration of the National Park Service’s milestone, the events are planned to educate participants, especially when it comes to pollution.

“We work to protect the public’s right to clean water in our rivers and streams,” Frondorf stated. “We stop pollution to promote safe drinking water, protect healthy river habitats, and enhance public use and enjoyment.  We hold polluters accountable and ensure the Clean Water Act as well as the Commonwealth’s statutes are being followed and obeyed.”

The pollution mentioned exists not only in the forms of beer cans and empty chip bags, but in natural manifestations as well.

“Thick, heavy, algae is blanketing the river bottom, as a result of the heavy nutrient load entering our river, primarily but not exclusively, from agricultural activity not employing best management practices,” Frondorf stated.

While some may think an excess of nutrients sounds benign, Frondorf said the effects can be problematic to leisure seekers as well river inhabitants.

“Some algae with its long, flowing, mermaid-like hair, can make recreational activities such as swimming, paddling or fishing challenging,” Frondorf stated. “Other kinds of algae, like blue/green algae, can produce toxins that make the water dangerous for humans and animals and can cause fish kills by consuming all of the available oxygen in that stretch of the river.”

The 12 days of events have trips suitable for everyone.

“We have trips for all age levels and all skill levels,” Frondorf stated. “We are fortunate, living in the Shenandoah Valley, that we have gentle runs suitable for all age levels all the way up to rip roaring white water that will please the most discriminating adrenaline junky.”

Another purpose for the trips is to try to get people to take in the surrounding beauty which can so easily be taken for granted.

“Beauty is all around us,” Frondorf stated. “Sometimes we just need to take a moment and look at what is right before our eyes.  Our paddle trips are designed to get people to open their eyes and see the beauty of our river and the Shenandoah Valley.”

The trips will also include historical and educational components, such as ranger presentations and information from the Potomac Valley Audubon Society on local birdwatching.

Costs vary from trip to trip. For information, visit http://bit.ly/1WFbbNV.

Contact staff writer Nathan Budryk at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or nbudryk@nvdaily.com