On August 25th, the National Park Service will be celebrating its 100th anniversary, commemorating a century of stewardship, recreation and land conservation. Looking for a way to celebrate? Across the country, you can make use of “fee-free days”—free admission to all National Park Service sites—from August 25th through 28th. Or you can check out one of the many National Park Service Centennial events happening at parks, battlefields and historic sites across the Chesapeake Bay region, such as the ones listed below.
Celebrating its tenth anniversary this year is the nation’s first water-based national historic trail, a nearly-3,000 mile trail that follows the combined routes of Captain John Smith’s historic voyages on the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries.
On August 25th, both the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail (NHT) and Star-Spangled Banner NHT will be staffing an informational booth at the city dock in downtown Annapolis, Maryland.
On August 27th, a Visitor Contact Station for the Captain John Smith Chesapeake NHT will officially launch at the Zimmerman Center for Heritage in Wrightsville, Pennsylvania. The celebration will include programs and activities for all ages, including a birthday cake.
Nicknamed “America’s front yard,” the National Mall is the most visited national park in the country. The National Mall and Memorial Parks consist of nearly 1,000 acres throughout Washington, D.C., including sites located off of the mall itself.
On August 27th, the National Park Service will be hosting a family fun day at Constitution Gardens, feature live music, storytelling, face painting and other activities. Exhibits will include Lego models of national parks, virtual reality park tours and more.
An 800-acre park located just 15 miles from Washington, D.C., Great Falls Park follows the banks of the Potomac River in Fairfax County, Virginia. The northern boundary of the park is home to the Great Falls—a series of rapids and waterfalls that make the site a popular kayaking and whitewater rafting destination.
On August 27, the park will be celebrating both the Centennial and its own 50th anniversary with a night under the stars, including a performance by the Loudoun Jazz Ensemble and a movie screening.
Managed by the Glen Echo Park Partnership for Arts and Culture in cooperation with the National Park Service and Montgomery County, Glen Echo Park is a cultural resource full of visual and performing arts, educational offerings and historic buildings.
On August 27, the park will be celebrating one hundred years of the National Park Service with a day full of events: a performance by the U.S. Army Band, National Park Service history lessons, face painting, historical reenactors and more.
For nearly 100 years, the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal provided communities along the Potomac River with coal, lumber and agricultural products. The nearly 185-mile waterway—which extends from Cumberland, Maryland, to Georgetown, Washington, D.C.—served as the primary means of transporting coal from the Allegheny Mountains during its operation from 1831 to 1924. Today, a towpath trail follows the length of the canal, allowing visitors to hike and bike along the scenic route.
On August 25th, the park’s Centennial celebrations will include a birthday card, cake and ice cream. The first 60 participants will receive a free boat ride along the canal, and visitors can hear a program about the legacy of the National Park Service or see a C&O Canal fashion show.
Located where the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers meet, Harpers Ferry National Historical Park includes land in West Virginia, Virginia and Maryland. Its nearly 4,000 acres are make up what Thomas Jefferson once called “perhaps one of the most stupendous scenes in nature” after visiting the area in 1783.
On August 25th, Harpers Ferry will be hosting a Founders’ Day Naturalization Ceremony, commemorating the Centennial with a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service naturalization ceremony featuring guest speakers, music and reception.
Located in Adams County, Pennsylvania, this historic site protects and interprets the landscape of the 1863 Battle of Gettysburg, the deadliest battle in the American Civil War. The park covers much of the battlefield and several non-battle areas, including Gettysburg National Cemetery.
On August 25th, the Gettysburg National Military Park Museum and Visitor Center will be hosting special programs and tours, as well as giving out free cake. And from April through October, the park hosts Living History Weekends, where Civil War reenactors encamp on the Gettysburg battlefield.
This historic battlefield located near Urbana Pike, Maryland, commemorates the site of the Battle of Monocacy, known as “The Battle That Saved Washington.” In summer of 1864, Confederate soldiers were planning to capture Washington, D.C., but federal soldiers along the banks of the Monocacy River were able to delay their approach long enough for Union reinforcements to arrive and defend the capital.
On August 25th, the site will host programs that focus on the history of the National Park Service, and the first 100 visitors will receive a cupcake and a chance to enter to win a Centennial gift package.
Located along the Potomac River near Fort Washington, Maryland, this park—celebrating its 70th anniversary this year—is home to a 200-year-old fort that served for many years as the only defensive fort protecting Washington, D.C.
On August 27th and 28th, the site will host a Centennial event that includes reenactors from the War of 1812 through World War II talking about military life in their respective time periods, as well as cannon firing demonstrations from the Fort Washington Guard.
In February, 1732, George Washington was born on his father’s farm in the Northern Neck of Virginia. Although the original home was destroyed in 1779, a memorial house was built in the early 1930s, where the National Park Service now operates a colonial farm and living historians demonstrate the typical life on an 18th-century plantation.
On August 27th, rangers and volunteers will celebrate the Centennial with a look back at the period when the monument was created—the 1930s—by showcasing the fashion, music and games of the era.
A pileated woodpecker chips away the bark on a fallen tree before probing for insects in Chenango Valley State Park in Broome County, New York.
Growing up to 20 inches in length with a nearly 30 inch wingspan, the pileated woodpecker (Dryocopous pileatus) is one of the largest species of woodpecker. This striking bird with its bright-red crest can be found year-round throughout most of the Chesapeake Bay watershed. But don’t expect to see a pileated woodpecker as a backyard birder: this bird is most likely to be found in mature, old-growth forests full of dead trees and fallen logs (although it can sometimes be found in young forests, as well).
With a characteristic thunk sound, the pileated woodpecker uses its long neck and chisel-like bill to powerfully strike logs, stumps and dead trees, leaving behind a distinctive rectangular-shaped hole. It then uses its spear-like, barbed tongue to feed on ants, termites, beetle larvae and other insects.
Experts believe populations of pileated woodpeckers may have declined in previous centuries, due to the clearing of forests in the eastern United States. But since the mid-20th century, populations have steadily increased as the forests rebounded.
Image by Will Parson
The Chesapeake Bay, along with its rivers, streams and the lands that surround them form an extraordinary landscape that supports thousands of plant and animal species. But just as unique and inspiring as its natural beauty are the people and cultures that have called this region home for generations. Whether you’re a Bay native or a new visitor, check out these museums that showcase the distinctive cultures from throughout the area.
National Museum of the American Indian – Washington, D.C.
Part of the Smithsonian Institution, this museum is dedicated to the life, languages, literature, history and arts of Native cultures of the Western Hemisphere. A recent addition to the museum collections is an exhibit called Return to a Native Place: Algonquian Peoples of the Chesapeake. Through photographs, maps and interactive displays, the exhibit provides an overview of the history of the Nanticoke, Powhatan and Piscataway tribes from the 1600s to the present.
Banneker-Douglass Museum – Annapolis, Maryland
As part of the Maryland Commission on African American History and Culture, this site is the state’s official museum of African American heritage. Formerly known as Mt. Moriah African Methodist Episcopal Church, the building—which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places—served as the meeting hall for the First African Methodist Episcopal Church for nearly 100 years before opening as a museum in 1984. The museum serves to document, interpret and promote African American history and culture, particularly in Maryland.
Pennsylvania Anthracite Heritage Museum – Scranton, Pennsylvania
Part of the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, this museum highlights the state’s anthracite coal mining industry, featuring exhibits that focus on the lives of people who worked in the area’s mines, mills and factories. Its collection tells the story of European immigrants who came to northeastern Pennsylvania to work in coal mining and textile production, enduring harsh working conditions but building a rich culture and heritage.
Watermen’s Museum – Yorktown, Virginia
This museum, located on the banks of the York River, documents the history of Chesapeake Bay watermen from pre-colonial to modern times. The site offers both indoor and outdoor exhibits, including workboat displays and a boat building program. For a localized take on the stories and experiences of watermen, you can visit the Tilghman Watermen’s Museum in Tilghman, Maryland, which celebrates the unique traditions and culture of Tilghman Island watermen.
Jewish Museum of Maryland – Baltimore, Maryland
Through photographs, art, documents and everyday objects, this museum tells the story of the American Jewish experience in the city of Baltimore and throughout the state of Maryland. The museum also includes two historic synagogues: Lloyd Street Synagogue, finished in 1845 and the third oldest synagogue in the United States, and B’nai Israel Synagogue, finished in 1876. Visitors to the synagogues can explore a matzoh oven, a hand-carved Torah Ark and an active archaeological site.
Landis Valley Museum – Lancaster, Pennsylvania
Once a small settlement owned by German immigrants, this living history museum collects, conserves and interprets the history and heritage of the Pennsylvania German, or Pennsylvania Dutch, culture. Visitors can watch how Conestoga wagons—first created in Lancaster—are constructed, or stop in to the blacksmith shop, farmstead, one-room schoolhouse or other historic buildings.
Know another museum that highlights the life and culture of people in the Bay watershed? Let us know in the comments! And for even more ideas, check out our previous list of museums in the Bay region.
A recent report from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency outlines trends related to climate change in the United States, with data related to 37 climate indicators such as air and water temperatures, river and coastal flooding, ocean acidity and sea level rise.
New to the fourth edition of Climate Change Indicators in the United States is information on stream temperatures in the Chesapeake Bay region. After studying more than 50 years’ worth of data from 129 stream monitoring sites, experts found that stream temperatures are increasing throughout the watershed—across Delaware, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia and the District of Columbia—but the largest increases have occurred in the southern portions of the region. Water temperatures increased by an average of 1.2 degrees Fahrenheit (F) across all sites and by 2.2 degrees F at sites with trends considered statistically significant (to a 95-percent level).
Other effects of climate change throughout the Chesapeake Bay region are highlighted in the report. Washington, D.C., for example, has seen peak cherry blossom bloom dates shift approximately five days earlier since 1921. And from 2010 to 2015, Annapolis, Maryland, saw the second highest average number of coastal flood days: 46 days per year. The city has also experienced one of the most dramatic increases in overall frequency of flooding, where floods are at least 10 times more common than in the 1950s.
Also released in August is the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) State of the Climate report, which confirmed that 2015 surpassed 2014 as the warmest year on record since the mid-to-late 19th century. The report, which is based on contributions from more than 450 scientists from 62 countries, found that land and ocean temperatures, sea level rise and greenhouse gases all broke previously-held records.