Big Many-Hearted River

Vol. 8, No. 18
May 4-10, 2000
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Meet the South River
by Lori L. Sikorski

Bay Weekly always celebrates on the South River. You've joined us here for both our birthday parties, and - we hope- you'll celebrate with us here again this Sunday. This year, we're not only celebrating on the river - we are celebrating the river.

Look closer, and you'll see why:

A Little Closer

Some years ago, as the Sikorski family was heading south from Annapolis, we ventured off Route 2 and toward the shores of the South River. After many drives over the long sleek flow of water, we wanted to get a closer look at this gateway to Annapolis.

It was just before sunset, and the water had taken on a soft muted glow of colors. A nearby marina was full of boats. Big boats.

Some folks were loading up with luggage and pets, taking to the Bay for some vacation time. Others were just pulling into shore with their coolers full of fish and baskets brimming with crabs.

The sun reached down to melt into the western horizon, leaving a blush across the water. Distant sailboats faded in the shadows. Dim lights were starting to come into focus across the river at the homes that dot the land.

We would never have seen all this had we stayed above it all.

The closer you get, the better it gets.

Closer Still

Windsurfer Scott Johnson has ridden the river for 17 years.

"In 1983, my sister and I answered an ad for a weekend rental on the South River," Johnson recalls. "We wanted a place to windsurf."

Scott and his sister Blair found themselves on what he now calls "the most beautiful part of the entire Chesapeake Bay. Every inch of the South River has charm and beauty, from the cliffs that spill downward to the coves and sandy beaches. I think some of the happiest times of our lives were spent there."

It's good for windsurfing, too. "Thomas Point on a windy day can produce some of the finest waves I have ever seen," said Johnson, who's surfed up and down the Atlantic and through the Caribbean.

In hundreds of outings, the river has shown Johnson some amazing things. He's surfed with schools of skates swimming down the river. But stingrays are not the wildest things he's seen.

"A friend and I were sitting in three feet of water, waiting for the wind to kick-up some waves when a 10-foot bull shark swam between us. It was just incredible. Here all of this development and boat traffic is going on, and this enormous creature is just swimming right along."

Johnson has also witnessed lost worlds along the river. "There are huge ships that have become marooned or wrecked along the tributaries, grounded and rotting," he said. "It really is quite a sight."

Like the river, Johnson has changed. Marriage, children and a busting business have come along, the extended family has bought a summer house on Kent Island. Death has taken his beloved sister.

This is where his memories of the South River become bittersweet. "We scattered her ashes out where we first laid our eyes on the river. There will always be a connection for me there. Windsurfing is dictated by the wind direction, which, like life, takes you to different places. But my heart will always remain on the South River."

The River

The South River is a gateway linking and dividing the South from the North. To the north sprawls Annapolis and Anne Arundel County's urbane suburbia. To the South lies country: South County and Calvert.

The river runs 10 miles to the Bay from headwaters that extend another six miles into Crofton and Davidsonville. The mouth of the river spreads from Thomas Point in the north to Saunders Point in the south. Major bridges cross the river at Route 2 and, farther west, at Riva Road.

For much of its run, houses, marinas and restaurants line the river's cliffs and shores. Two of the county's major parks touch the river east of Route 2: Quiet Waters along Annapolis Neck and Historic London Town and Gardens along the Edgewater Peninsula.

This is a many-hearted river with room still for watermen to earn a days wage. Many of the oysters harvested for our area grew up in the South River.

Befriending the River

With so much going on, the South River needs many friends. Some of its best may be the South River Federation.

They're young, having just marked their first anniversary in April - though they follow in the footsteps of an organization that began in the 1950s. They're small, numbering about 50 members. They're moving in the right direction. "We not only want to enhance this wonderful river but to restore it as well. A healthy river and watershed is why so many of us enjoy living here," says Federation president Drew Koslow.

You'll find the Federation out wading in the shallows to plant grasses or gearing up in scuba apparatus to seed oysters on new reefs. As oyster planters, they've teamed up with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, the Chesapeake Bay Trust, the Oyster Recovery Partnership and Bay Weekly. Five oyster bars were created in Harness Creek from over 5,000 bushels of dumped oyster shell. The bars were planted with young, healthy oysters grown by Federation oyster gardeners. Many of the oysters were started in 'Flood buckets,' white utility buckets transformed by long-time Federation member John Flood into small-scale oyster gardens.

More projects are planned, and volunteers have signed up. What's lacking now is funding. So for the river's sake, the South River Federation needs your help.
Rockin' for the River

This year, Bay Weekly parties for South River and the South River Federation.

"We've had a lot of fun here on the South River the past two years," said general manager Alex Knoll. "So this year for Bay Weekly's annual birthday bash we wanted to give back to the South River, which has given so much to us."

What we give back will be money. The money comes from live and silent auctions, with friends of the Bay, river and newspaper bidding generously - even, we hope, recklessly - on hundreds of goods and services all wrapped up so appealingly you won't mind breaking your bank to buy them.

Among the bounty: fishing trips with Bay Weekly's outdoorsmen Bill Burton and Chris Dollar; dinners at many local and delicious restaurants; breakfast or lunch with your favorite politician - they pick up the tab and you bend their ear; baskets overflowing with life-sweetening goodies; tickets for concerts and plays; a summer of swimming at Herrington Harbour South; giant plants, gardening ornaments and tools; art and crafts; nights and overnights out.

In last year's auctions, heavy bidding on over 200 goods and services donated by Bay Weekly friends and advertisers netted over $8,000.

This year's silent auction continues throughout the afternoon, from noon to 4:30, while the spirited live auction starts at 3:30.

With your money, the Federation will invest in the river. "One of the things we'll be doing is a joint project with volunteers from both Bay Weekly and the Federation, where people can connect to the river and get out and get dirty," said Koslow.

Federation members will be on hand at the Birthday Bash to share photos and stories of their projects. There will be kid's games and newsletters. You can also ask questions and even sign up for some dirty hands-on volunteering.

But before it's time to get dirty, it's time to have fun. Just how much fun? See this week's photo feature.

The party runs from noon until 5pm on Sunday, May 7 at Surfside 7 Restaurant & Dock Bar on the South River at Route 2.

See you there.

Learn more about the South River Federation at

Help the Federation by donating at the party or directly in care of Drew Koslow, 3154 Arundel on the Bay Rd., Annapolis, 21403. Include your name and address to receive their newsletter.

Copyright 2000
Bay Weekly