Welcome to the C&O Canal at Anglers. Did you come here for business or pleasure? Are you here to feed your family with the fish you caught or to feed your spirit through exercise, or a quiet walk along the canal?
Anglers, or fishermen, have been coming to this spot on the Potomac River for many, many years. Evidence of native people in the Potomac Gorge dates to over 12,000 years ago. From those first signs of prehistoric use, to European settlement in the 1600’s , and up to the 21st century urbanization of the Chesapeake Bay watershed, humans have been drawn to the waters of the Potomac River. Communication, fishing, travel, hunting, trade and war were all made possible because of the river.
A bounty of fish can be found in the Potomac and native people would have been familiar with the best fishing and gathering spots. Shad, striped bass, sturgeon, and eels were common catches. Even as indigenous people became less nomadic and relied more on farming to supply their food, fishing remained a very important part of life and an abundant food source.
Petroglyphs, or drawings in rock, have been found carved along the Potomac Gorge. Perhaps these petroglyphs marked a good fishing location, a safe spot to tie a boat up, seasonal gathering sites or dangerous obstacles in the river. These ancient carvings are just some of the many ways archeologists know people have been using the Potomac River for thousands of years.
Approximately 800 years ago, defined cultural groups began emerging among the people inhabiting this area. Below the Great Falls, the groups were primarily Algonquian. As Europeans settled the Potomac region, elements of the Algonquian civilization, such as agricultural practices, government structure, building techniques and vocabulary were adopted by the white settlers. In Algonquin the river’s name, Potomac, means “place where something is brought” - in other words, a trading location.
Today, thousands of people per month come to this area - which has been preserved by the National Park Service as part of the C&O Canal National Historical Park. If you are a regular visitor, you might be familiar with the overflowing parking lots you find on a sunny weekend day.
This is still a “place where something is brought” but instead of goods to trade, park visitors bring kayaks, bicycles, jogging shoes, fishing poles, cameras and paintbrushes, leashes to walk their dogs, and friends and family to enjoy the beauty of the Potomac with. Have you brought anything to this place? Or do you feel like this place brings something to you? Whatever your answer might be, each visitor to the park becomes a unique piece of the long history that is still being written about the Potomac River.