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Smithsonian Associates - Entertaining, Informative, Eclectic, Insightful

The Potomac: A Natural and Cultural History

3-Session Morning Course

Friday, October 8, 2021 - 10:00 a.m. to Friday, October 22, 2021 - 11:30 a.m. ET
Upcoming Session:
Code: 1NV085
Select Your Tickets
$65 - Member
$75 - Non-Member

Materials for this program

  1. Oct 15 handout
  2. Oct 22 handout

The Potomac River in Great Falls National Park

The Potomac River is one of the most storied in North America, with a rich natural and cultural history reflected throughout its nearly 400 miles of waterways that extend from the Appalachian highlands of West Virginia to the Chesapeake Bay. Environmental historian Hayden Mathews brings that heritage to life in a three-parts series that focuses on how the Potomac has shaped the lives of the those who settled along its banks from their arrival after the last Ice Age to the present day and how those lives, in turn, have had an impact on the river. He offers a chance to gain a fresh appreciation for the riches of this lovely valley, the river that carved it, and the people that populated its shores. 

The Potomac flows through rocks that hold more than a billion years of Earth’s history and encompasses many different ecological areas that are home to an extraordinary diversity of plant and animal species. Mathews’ first program examines the natural, ecological, and geological forces that defined the character of the land we see today, covering continental collisions, glaciations, and species lost and gained.

He shifts to cultural history in subsequent programs that highlight some of the most notable aspects of the 15,000 years that humans have inhabited this area. Mathews moves from the lifeways of the Paleoindians and First Nations peoples to the stories of slaves seeking freedom, inventors, smugglers, fishermen, floods, and first ladies, painting a colorful portrait of Mid-Atlantic history and some of the memorable men, women, and events that played roles in that saga. 

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This program is part of our
Smithsonian Associates Streaming series.