From the Tiny Acorn, Grows the Mighty Oak

May 27, 2024

Finding myself in Davis, West Virginia last week, a beautiful place, indeed, I realized that I was a mere few miles away from the source of the North Fork of the Potomac River located in Fairfax Stone State Park. Just a reminder for those not keeping up with their potamology (study of rivers), the Potomac is divided into two sections, the North Fork and the South. These two meet near Oldtown, Maryland forming the single river we know so well. The Fairfax Stone not only marked the Western Boundary of the land granted to Lord Fairfax but also the headspring of the Potomac.

The Potomac River is the 4th largest river along the east coast of the United Status. Below the fall line, the river widens to eleven miles as it enters Chesapeake Bay. Where George Washington sat on his Mount Vernon veranda looking out over the river and considering ways to make it navigable, the river is one mile wide. Up here in the piedmont, the river seldom exceeds 1,300 feet in width and in some places, such as nearby White’s Ford, it is so shallow that you can easily walk from Maryland to Virginia and back without getting your shorts wet

.But even great things often have small beginnings and so too the source of this mighty river. As pictured above, a natural spring emerges from some rocks. As it continues on its 383-mile course it drains almost 15,000 square miles in Virginia, Maryland, West Virginia and Pennsylvania. Out of its flow of 7 billion gallons per day It provides more than 600 million gallons of drinking water to Leesburg, Falls Church and Arlington County as well as Washington, DC and other areas.

In June, I am going to visit Oldtown where the North and South Fork meet and in July, to Hightown, Virginia the source of the South Fork. From a Loudoun farmer who owns land in Hightown, I received the following intelligence. There is a barn in Hightown which is the source of two rivers both the Potomac and the Rappahannock, depending which side of the roof it rains on. I look forward to finding out if that is true and I’ll let you know.


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