St. Mary’s City, MD — With spectacular weather and Historic St. Mary’s City as the stunning backdrop, Riverfest 2014 brought out the best in Southern Maryland Saturday, Sept. 27.

There was plenty to do and see. From free kayak rides to raptors, sturgeon and song, Riverfest has established itself as a bona fide event to look forward to every fall.

The highlight of the day was a wade-in to the St. Mary’s River headed by former Maryland Senator Bernie Fowler, whose Patuxent Wade-in held annually at Jefferson Patterson Park & Museum in St. Leonard and at Broomes Island before that, established an old-fashioned method of still being able to see your feet on the river bottom as a measure for water quality.

“When I was a little boy, you could still your feet in the bottom of the river,” Fowler told his audience following a performance by the Chesapeake Public Charter School Chorus. “The water was crystal clear then. Around about 1969, we began to see up in the river, degradation was occurring.”

Fowler has fought for the past 27 years in his own quiet way, bringing congressmen to state senators and local politicians to his cause.

He praised the work of the St. Mary’s River Association for its efforts in bringing the estuary back to a restored state.

“They have done an outstanding job,” Fowler said.

With the Maryland Dove as a backdrop, the wade-in’s message was clear: this is what a river should look like. Waders went out hip-high in some cases, and could have kept going. The water was that clear.

It is an encouraging sign, Fowler said. Rivers can be cleaned up, he said. If chemical runoff and the things that have affected our estuaries for so long are abated, he asserted, the water quality will return.

One of the more interesting displays at this year’s event was GenOn’s Atlantic sturgeon exhibit. A species once dominant in the region’s bays and river, sturgeon date back to the time of the dinosaur and grew in length to 30 feet. Its eggs were highly prized for caviar to the point this ancient species almost became extinct.

Now sturgeon are being brought back, it is hoped they may once again return to the waterways and that by then, events like Riverfest, which help perpetuate Fowler’s battle for clean waterways, will result in an estuary to return to, one in which they may thrive for generations to come.

Contact Joseph Norris at joe.norris@thebaynet.com

Gallery photos by Ron Bailey