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Passport to Nature

Billy Goat Trail


Washington's Water

Join the Conservancy's Stephanie Flack at the Potomac and see how the river sustains wildlife and people.

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By Daniel White

“Nature always wears the colors of the spirit.” As a student and former teacher of American Romanticism, I appreciate Emerson’s words and introspective view.

During my late-November visit to the Potomac Gorge, though, it’s the colors of the season that draw me in. The autumn hues may be fading and leaves falling, but the cusp of winter also means the views are opening up and outward.

Winter brings its own charms, besides. Consider, for instance, the stark white trunks of sycamores rising against a crisp cobalt-blue sky, both reflected in the waters of the historic Chesapeake & Ohio Canal.

You’ll find these sights and much more when you venture out to explore the Potomac Gorge, which The Nature Conservancy has been working to protect since the 1950s. Bear Island, where we work closely with the National Park Service, offers a spectacular introduction to the Potomac and its rich resources.

The island’s Billy Goat Trail is widely considered the most challenging D.C.-area hike.  Our audio guide will help you navigate the trail, highlighting rare plants and native specimens such as the "Sigafoos tree".  But you don't need your shoes to enjoy Bear Island's rugged beauty: You can explore the trail’s longest section via our slideshow.

Don’t stop there, though. Even if you stick to the gentle towpath or handicapped-accessible Great Falls Overlook, do lace up your shoes, grab a coat and go see the Potomac for yourself!

 


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