where I live :: the elizabeth river {life}


We are lucky enough to live near water of all sorts. The Atlantic Ocean, the Chesapeake Bay, and here, in these photos, the Elizabeth River.


The Elizabeth River is a roughly 6-mile long tidal estuary along the south end of the Chesapeake Bay. When settlers first arrived at Jamestown, they looked for a harbor to set up trade with the New World and found it here. This river, named for Princess Elizabeth, daughter of James 1, is the largest nautral harbor in the world.


The Elizabeth River launched of much of America's maritime history, including the battle of the great ironclads the Monitor and the Merrimac during the American Civil War. This battle took place where the Elizabeth and Nansemond Rivers meet the James (just past the upper right of the above photo), and the Merrimac was built at the ship yard here. The Elizabeth is now the home to the world's largest naval ship yard and many other maritime concerns. Centuries of use have not treated the Elizabeth well, however. As far back as the 1800s the river had lost much of her tidal wetlands, and much of the industry that made the river and the region so successful and prosperous contributed to a decline in her health. In 1983 the Environmental Protection Agency named the Elizabeth River one of the most polluted areas along the Chesapeake Bay watershed, with portions of the river entirely dead to living organisms.


With a goal of restoring the river, The Elizabeth River Project was founded in 1991. These folks, combining the forces of government and industry, scientists and private citizens, have done some pretty remarkable stuff.


Bald eagles are returning. Oysters are returning. Wetlands are being restored. In one year alone, according to the ERP, port pollution was reduced by 3.4 million pounds and by the year 2000, the Elizabeth River showed the most improving trend for water qualtiy on the Chesapeake Bay!


We've taken to walking or biking down to the river at sunset a couple times a week.


What our neighborhood does not have that I wish it does, is a parkway around the river, with bike and walking paths along the water. Some neighborhoods do have this, but in ours, private homes line the waterfront, with streets dead-ending at the water along the way.


Maybe that's okay though. When we get to the end of the street, there's only water and no where else to go. You have to stop. Watch the lights at the shipyard come on as dusk deepens.


Watch the sun dip lower in the sky. Watch the water lap against the shore.


The river is coming back to life. Sometimes we see dolphins. Fish are always jumping, and birds are always skimming the surface of the water.

ES Birds.jpg

As the sun dipped closer to the horizon, these clouds grew pinker and pinker. We never got a storm though. And the dock that you're looking at here, well that's a new dock. When Hurricane Irene hit last fall, the old dock ended up pretty much where I was standing to take this photo. I try to remind myself of that when I regret the few blocks we have to take to get to the water!


Sun is gone. Good night.