Dolphins Are Finally Living and Breeding in the Potomac River Again
When George Washington chose to build his Mount Vernon estate along the Potomac River, he declared the then-pristine body of water “the nation’s river.” At the time, even dolphins were a common sight. In fact, as Karin Bruillard at the Washington Post reports, the porpoises were seen as far upriver as Alexandria, Virginia, in the 1840s.
But by the 1960s, the river that flows through the nation’s capital had lost its luster. Bald eagles—the national bird—struggled for survival on its shores. Dolphins had long since disappeared from its waters. The Potomac became overrun with algae, trash, human waste and pollutants. The nation's river became a “national disgrace,” as President Lyndon Johnson called it at the time.
Over the past four years, researchers from Georgetown University’s Potomac-Chesapeake Dolphin Project have been cataloguing dolphins in the lake-like area where the Potomac joins the Chesapeake Bay, reports Bruillard for the Post. In 2015, they counted only 200 individuals. Now, population has reached more than 1,000 individuals in the area, with several small groups of 200 dolphins hanging out in the river. Some have even swam upstream within 50 miles of Washington, D.C.