Patuxent River 2005

Patuxent River Cleanup 2009

Last updated February 27, 2009



About the Cleanup | About the Patuxent River | Schedule | Tide Table | Weather | Directions | Miscellaneous | Register

About the Cleanup

April is National Volunteer Month. Not that one shouldn't volunteer during other months but there are many opportunities for volunteerism in April.

I've participated in the Patuxent River Cleanup for the last few years. The beautiful wetlands along the Patuxent (Pax) River are full of wildlife, are scenic, and well maintained. It comes as no surprise that this area is one of my favorite places to paddle on the western shore.

At first glance, the area appears fairly clean. But upon closer examination, one finds a significant amount of trash, mostly in the forms of bottles and cans, deposited inland. Most of the garbage isn't seen until one steps ashore and walks inland. As the water level rises and falls, litter accumulates and gets caught by vegetation. Since the river is the lowest point in the area, trash naturally collects along the shore. Hence, there is a large amount of garbage in a small area.

Anyone can help Patuxent River Park with their regular cleanup. I, however, have arranged with park officials and reserved several canoes to take eager, hard working volunteers into the marshy areas that others cannot access quite so easily. It is a dirty job but one with great personal rewards.

Previous efforts have been fruitful with several hundreds of pounds of trash removed. See
  • March 31, 2007
  • April 5, 2008

  • If you are interested in helping me all day on Saturday, April 4, 2009, read on.

    About the Patuxent River

    I moved to Maryland in 1995 and took up kayaking in 1999. Since then, I've explored many of the rivers, streams, and other tributaries of the Chesapeake Bay. One thing that I found interesting about Maryland is the number of large rivers that start with the letter 'P': Potomac, Pocomoke, Patapsco, Piscataway, and one of my favorites, the Patuxent River.

    The Patuxent (Pax) begins in the hills of the Maryland Piedmont near the intersection of Howard, Frederick, Montgomery and Carroll Counties. The section of the Pax considered a navigable tidal estuary flows 52 miles into the Chesapeake Bay and is never wider than 2.3 miles. I've paddled roughly from Bowie to Benedict (about 28 miles), exploring almost all the major (and many of the minor) tributaries in between. I've seen blue herons, ospreys, hawks, eagles, a barred owl, turtles, snakes, a possum, muskrats, and beavers along the way. I even found a shark's tooth!

    The Pax marks the boundary between Montgomery, Prince George's, Charles and Saint Mary's Counties on the west and Howard, Anne Arundel, and Calvert Counties on the east. The Chesapeake estuary's deepest point, 130 feet below sea level, is in the lower Patuxent. For the paddling we'll be doing, you'll likely be able to touch the bottom of the river or be very close to shore.


    First, you'll need to register with me. See registration.

    Assuming you've registered, arrive at the Patuxent River Park Visitor Center at 0830 (8:30 am) on Saturday, April 4, 2009. You can park either in the main lot by the Visitor Center or down below at Jackson's Landing. See Directions. Please arrive on time so we can fill out waivers, issue personal floatation devices (PFDs), pass out paddles, team people up in boats, and distribute trash bags. Canoeing experience is helpful but not required. Basic safety and paddling tips will be discussed.

    The actual work will be comprised of paddling into the muddy wetlands, disembarking from the boats, picking up trash, then hauling it back out to where park employees can remove it. This will be about 6.5 hours of hard, dirty work and a one hour lunch break around noon. I expect we'll be done between 1630 (4:30 pm) and 1700 (5 pm). Afterwards, I guarantee you'll have a great sense of satisfaction knowing you made a difference in helping the environment. Unlike fundraisers, demonstrations, awareness activities, or letter writing campaigns, your efforts will be direct and hands-on, with immediate, measurable results. Note that an overwhelming majority of the work will be done from the shore, not on the water.

    This event isn't just about hard work. You'll have a chance to see the wetlands in or near Jug Bay. You may see some interesting wildlife. In 2008, we saw beavers and snakes (non-poisonous). You'll get to work on your canoeing skills or maybe try it out for the first time. Of course there's the team building that comes with working together for a common cause. When it's all over, we'll change out of our grubby clothes and head to a well deserved dinner at a nearby restaurant, probably Pizza Hut. I expect the entire day's festivities will be over around 1900 (7 pm).

    Tide Table

    The tide table for Jackson's Landing may be found at "2009 Tide Tables Patuxent River" which is available in hardcopy at the park Visitor Center.

    For the date we will be working, Saturday, April 4, 2009, the table reads as follows:

    High/Low      Tide Time
    Low           7:29 AM
    High          1:21 PM    
    Low           8:46 PM    


    I can't tell you for certain what the weather will be but according to Weather Underground the historical data for Upper Marlboro, Maryland for the date of the event as follows:

    April 4, 2007
    High: 56.2 degrees
    Low: 44.5 degrees
    Average: 49.4 degrees

    Sunrise: 6:47 AM
    Sunset: 7:33 PM

    I urge you to dress in layers since it will likely be cool when we begin working and warmer in the afternoon. For more details on how to dress and what to bring, see Miscellaneous.

    In the event that weather conditions prevent canoe launching but don't cancel the cleanup, we will join the main group with picking up trash in areas we can access without canoes.


    Patuxent River Park
    16000 Croom Airport Road
    Upper Marlboro, MD 20772-8395
    Park phone: 301-627-6074

    Directions from Baltimore (about 70 minutes):
    From where highway 97 and the Baltimore beltway (highway 695) meet, start by taking highway 97 south. Follow for 9.8 miles.
    Take exit 7, route 32 west/route 3 south toward Bowie and Odenton. Follow for a half mile.
    Merge onto Crain Highway (route 3) heading south. Follow for 21 miles. The road will eventually turn into route 301.
    After crossing Pennsylvania Avenue (route 4), continue for another 1.6 miles and turn left (south) onto Croom Station Road. Follow for 1.6 miles.
    Turn left (southeast) onto Croom Road (route 382). Follow for 1.5 miles.
    Turn left (east) onto Croom Airport Road. Follow for 2 miles.
    To get to the park office or Jackson's Landing, turn left on Park Entrance Road (look for sign) and follow for 1.4 miles to end.

    Directions from Washington D.C. (about 45 minutes):
    From where Pennsylvania Avenue (route 4) and the Washington D.C. beltway (highway 495) meet at exit 11A, take route 4 east towards Upper Marlboro. Follow for 6.5 miles.
    Take the Old Crain Highway ramp towards Crain Highway (route 301). Follow for only a tenth of a mile.
    Turn left (east) onto Croom Station Road. Follow for 2.5 miles.
    Turn left (southeast) onto Croom Road (route 382). Follow for 1.5 miles.
    Turn left (east) onto Croom Airport Road. Follow for 2 miles.
    To get to the park office or Jackson's Landing, turn left on Park Entrance Road (look for sign) and follow for 1.4 miles to end.


    Required items:
  • Hard-soled close-toed shoes. Tall rubber rain boots or waders are ideal. Expect to sink down in mud to your knees...maybe further. You can find tall rubber boots at Bass Pro Shop for $17. Southern States probably sells them for cheaper. Just enter your zip code on their website to find a store nearest you
  • Long sleeved shirt, preferrably something thick to protect you from getting scratched by vegetation or trash
  • Long trousers
  • Lunch
  • Water bottle
  • I recommend wearing dark clothing. Light clothing may become permanently stained.

    Recommended items:
  • Eye protection. It is amazingly easy to get your eye poked by vegetation
  • Sun protection (hat and/or sunscreen). It may be early April but if you haven't been getting sun throughout the winter, it is likely you will burn since we'll be working for several hours when the sun is brightest
  • Change of clothes (including shoes) for an after event meal. You WILL be filthy!
  • Bag for all your dirty clothes, especially if you're hitching a ride with someone else

  • I'll have a dry bag for valuables that should not get wet but I recommend that you simply leave most things in your vehicle.

    You can bring bug spray if you want but I've never found that to be a problem in early April.

    While we will be on the water, we won't be far from shore and we will generally be in shallow water. But if you can't swim or aren't a good swimmer, please let me know.

    Strong canoeists will be paired up with weaker ones to keep the whole group moving at a satisfactory speed.

    If you take photos and feel like sharing, please post them where the group can access them.


    To register, send me an e-mail letting me know you are interested. Click the icon below.

    E-mail icon

    Since we have a limited number of canoes, I can only take the first 16 volunteers. Everyone else will be put on a waiting list and moved to the participant list as openings become available. Out of courtesy to the others, please don't register unless you are quite certain you can participate for the whole day and in the unlikely event you must cancel, please let me know ASAP.

    No experience is required but let me know if you have significant canoeing experience (how many years?), paddling certifications, or special first aid skills.

    I will need your e-mail address, home phone number, and cell phone number. On the morning of the event, you'll need to fill out a waiver.

    If you can provide your own boat, please let me know and I'll put you on a separate list.

    If you would like to help with the park's cleanup on land (not via canoe), sign up at Individual Volunteer Opportunities. Scoll down to the second "Nature Trail and Maintenance Aide" entry which is for Patuxent River Park. Then click on "Click here for details or to sign up." This will take you to another window and from here, you'll need to click on "Sign Up" to register. The park cleanup via land is a half day event so if you have limited time but want to help, this might be the way to go. Unless the weather conditions prevent canoe launching, my group will be working separately from the cleanup on land.