Wednesday, April 18, 2012


Ahead the shadow of the first bridge loomed over our heads and as we passed beneath it the boat was enveloped in deep shadow, which was very welcome.  As we passed by the center support tier I noticed that two of the support timbers were broken and hanging at a drunken angle from the bolts that held them in place.  The old waterline came up close to the beams which indicated that at some past flood situation some steamer had clipped the main pier.  The fact that the break was an old one indicated that the accident had not been reported, so I made a quick not to include such on my report.  When the current took us out from under the bridge the lights of Washington City cast a yellowish glow over the sky.  From down on the river surface even the oil street lamps caused a glow overhead.  The southern bank began to recede away from us and I said to Hezzie," Let's move a little closed to the South bank so I can see the first of the streams coming into the river.  If there is a falls or strong rapids there it will make a good navigation point for any boats coming up the river.  It will help your friend when he brings the boat back to the ranch."

With in just a few minutes the first stream rippled gently over a lowland next the river.  No rapids or falls here and the water silently ran into the river without any noise .  Eastern Bridge Road was up on the heights but back from the river out of sight in the darkness, which was fine with me.  That was the turnpike that ran between Blandensburg and Uniontown, so we were right where we should be.  I hadn't expected any problems in navigation and these lowlands with their overgrowth of head-high brush and small trees right down to the river bank was a good background to coast slowly by.  On the North side of the river one could just make out the pointed end of the Redan at the Fort Lincoln Battery that overlooked the river.  However, we were shielded by the luxurious growth of small trees along the river bank, as well as the darkness of the night.

Second stream coming up, and again the creek had cut a v-shaped inlet in the river bank  which allowed the stream to enter the river quietly.  On the North side of the river there was a point of land which jutted out into the river.  The current was swifter here and there were several houses visible from our position.  These houses were the more run-down part of the city and were found adjacent to the docks and warehouse district.

The third stream was just visible as a set of rapids tumbling into the river and the sound of rushing water was soon heard.  The South bank was elevating as we moved toward the Main Potomac River.  The stream was falling perhaps ten feet or so into the river over some large rocks.  The sound was covering any sounds made by the boat or oars.  This was a good sign that maybe the fourth stream would be higher still.  Across the river we had passed the point of land and now the shoreline was crowded with piers and warehouses..  A small steamship was backing slowly out of its slip, and turning for its trip downriver to the Potomac .  It was probably the Alexandria and Aquia Creek Station ferryboat that connected with the Fredericksburg and Potomac RR farther down the Potomac River.

As the steamer completed its turn and Hezzie slowed the boat so as to remain in the shadow of the bank foliage,  I could hear the rush of water.  At first I thought it was an echo from the third stream, but then there was a white patch in the darkness towards shore.  We were moving a little faster now and it was only a few minutes before the fourth stream revealed itself as a twenty foot waterfall into the river.  I said to Hezzie, "I think that will mark his position pretty well when your friend brings the boat back.  We will have to remind him that rowing upstream will be easier on a rising tide.  By my mapping we have gone six miles altogether so far tonight, four miles since the Toll Road bridge.  It is four miles to Poplar Point and after one and one half miles more we will be in the Main Potomac River.  We should enter he river just after dawn if the current keeps this up.  I hope that the current will begin to pick up just past Poplar Point since it forms a kind of blockage across the Eastern River."

The South shore flattened out to some degree and within a few more minutes a house came out of the darkness.  It was sited almost on the shoreline sitting above the river about ten feet on the right bank of a small stream whose course as dug deep into the shoreline and choked with brush.  "That must be Mr.Talberg's house. No lights on, he must be asleep.  They tell me hat he is a former first mate on one of the China ships and lost his leg in one of the brushes with pirates on the way home, and there is Polar Point." I pointed at a light southwest of us.  That must be Mr. Barry's lighthouse.  He maintains a light for the Potomac steamers on the end of Poplar Point.  There used to be a lot of accidents before the light.  Barry worked for one of the steamer companies and when he retired put the idea to his company.  The city put up some money as did the steamer companies and built a light on top of his house.  They say he dresses like the Captain of a ship since he got the light."

In another half an hour we had rounded Polar Point and were headed South along the Eastern bank of the Potomac.  In the East just there barest beginning of a false dawn was lighting the night sky, and a new day of adventure had begun.

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