when ships sailed the anacostia river

while our guide to the 18th century claimed that
he was improperly dressed for his time period
— he was missing his coat and hat —
he looked quite hot even in the air conditioned room
as he took us back to when ships sailed the Anacostia River.

he gave us a flashback to how life was in early Bladensburg:
how people and things traveled by foot, cart, carriage or ship;
how children played with simple toys like a jacob’s ladder
or hitting wheels of wood with flat sticks;
how bathing was seen as hazardous to your health;
and the many ways to ingest the area’s most widely grown crop: tobacco.

here’s some cool Maryland trivia:
there is a small Anacostia tributary called Dueling Creek
that got its name because gentlemen would come to its banks
and take care of their affairs of honor
since dueling was illegal in the District.

we followed up our trip into the past with a pontoon ride
down a much shallower Anacostia than was found in the 1700s
— during colonial times the river was 40 feet deep and Bladensburg was a busy seaport,
but clear-cutting of forests caused the river to silt in.

we saw blue heron, Canada geese, osprey,
something that looked like an otter,
and many turtles, their shells reflecting the sun,
resembling silver plates as they sunned themselves on logs.

it’s hard to leave Bladensburg Waterfront Park.
even after learning about early Maryland for an hour
and riding on the pontoon,
we just had to take advantage of the playground

and poke around in their vintage B&O caboose

allowing our children’s imaginations to take them where
this train may have gone in the past.

it only added to that creative energy
when a modern freight train drove by on nearby tracks,
it whistle momentarily drowning out their lively commotion.

we’ll have to come back to the Bladensburg Waterfront Park
for canoeing and kayaking,
the Arts on the Waterfront Summer Concert series,
river cleanups and plant restoration efforts,
more of their social studies and science programs,
or just to daydream on that old caboose.


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