Historic River Moments

1. Point Lookout, MD

1863-1865, the area housed an infamous Civil War prisoner camp. The prison held more than 50,000 confederate prisoners after the Battle of Gettysburg.

2. The Patawomeck Tribe

The Patawomeck, a large Algonquian-speaking nation, lived on the Virginia side of the Potomac (Stafford County).
The tribe did not pay tribute to the influential leader Powhatan, but were allies with most of the other Algonquian-speaking nations.

3. St. Clement Island

1634, the first Europeans to settle and form a colony in Maryland - 26 years after colonists arrived in Jamestown, VA.

4. George Washington

Feb 22, 1732, Popes Creek, VA is the birthplace of George Washington marked by the Birthplace National Monument. "The Potomac River then, is the center of the Union... It is the river, more than any other, in my opinion, which must, in the natural progress of things connect by its inland navigation the Atlantic states with the vast region which is populating to the Westward of it."

5. John Wilkes Booth

April 1865, Wilkes’ escape route after his assassination of President Lincoln. After heading through Zekiah Swamp in Maryland, Booth traveled south to Popes Creek. He acquired a boat from a Confederate agent to cross the river, but landed in Blossom Point, MD (near Nice Memorial Bridge).

Image Copyright Potomac Conservancy

Image Copyright Potomac Conservancy

6. Tidal Basin, Washington, DC

1977, Negative publicity about the polluted Potomac River and the Tidal Basin helped prompt Congress to pass the Clean Water Act of 1977.

7. The Patowmack Company

May 17, 1785, at Washington’s urging, the Patowmack Company was organized by directors from both Virginia and Maryland to design and build a canal to bypass the rapids of Great Falls on the Potomac. Washington’s hope was to make the Potomac navigable to the Ohio River to improve transportation and trade. The Company built five small canals on the Potomac, three on the Virginia side and two on the Maryland side. The Company went into bankruptcy in the 1820s.

8. Great Falls

1930, Congress deemed the Great Falls area of the river a national park and the National Park Service took over its operations in 1966.

9. The Battle of Antietam, Sharpsburg, MD

Sept 17, 1862, the first Civil War battle to take place in Northern territory and the single bloodiest day of the War with over 23,000 casualties. The Battle was Gen. Lee’s first attempt to bring war to the North.

10. Shepherdstown, WV

The Potomac River in Shepherdstown, WV was a meeting place for American Indians long before Europeans arrived, as it was close to a major Indian path (now Route 11). The Indians gathered to trade food, furs and news. Today, people often find Indian artifacts that are evidence of those times.