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Walking the border between Arlington VA and DC-Maryland

Hiking along the Potomac at Pimmit Run
Hiking along the Potomac at Pimmit Run
James George

The precise location of the start of today’s hike is at Pimmit Run and Chain Bridge. It is where you can have one foot in Virginia and the other in DC or Maryland depending upon where you are standing. I went there today for a couple of reasons:

Cormorants on the Potomac River
James George
  1. I was certain that at the time of day, I would find a place to park
  2. I knew that the view from the bridge would be interesting

It was supposed to rain at 3 p.m. today, but that didn’t happen. It wasn’t supposed to rain this morning, but it did. At the time of the hike it was close to 90 degrees in the sunshine.

Pimmit Run flows into the Potomac River. Its origin is in Idylwood, Virginia adjacent Fall Church. It runs for 7.8 miles. Of course it used to be a wonderful aboveground stream the entire distance but some say “development forced it underground.” No, people disregarded the environment and buried the stream. In some places in the nation, communities are insisting on restoring streams to a more natural state. We have done that in some places in Arlington County with excellent outcomes. It is a matter of building awareness that storm sewers need not always be underground pipes. We need wetlands to help filter the watershed.

Anyway, Pimmit Run flows past Pimmit Hills and eventually parallels the George Washington Parkway. It empties into the Potomac at Arlington Bluff.

I started to hike toward Cabin John on the Pimmit Trail for awhile until it got too hot. I u-turned and came back to the Chain Bridge. I walked onto the bridge to take some pictures of cormorants. They are always there catching fish, no matter what time of year.

There were a couple of fisherman who were walking on rocks below. I could see fish swimming in various holes. They saw them too. The fish may have been nesting, and the guys were trying to lure them from their nests. Fish that are spawning typically don’t feed, but will attack intrusions. That was what they were hoping for, but it wasn’t working.

History of the Chain Bridge

“The first bridge at the location was opened on July 3, 1797. It was a wooden covered bridge, and rotted and collapsed in 1804.[2][3] The second bridge, of similar type, burned six months after it was built.[2]
The third bridge was built four years later in 1808, and is where the bridge received its name. It was a chain suspension bridge, using 1¼ inch bars. It was designed by Judge James E. Finley, and was 136 feet long by 15 feet wide.[3] It was destroyed by flood in 1810 or 1812.[2][3] The fourth bridge was also a chain suspension bridge, and though damaged by floods in 1815, it lasted until 1840.[2] The fifth bridge was built in 1840, and made of chain and wood.[2] This span collapsed in 1852.

It was replaced by a crossbeam truss structure that resembled a long garden arbor or pergola, but retained its historical name. During theAmerican Civil War, the Chain Bridge was a popular place for the Union Army to access the countryside encampments from Fairfax County. The bridge is the site of the first Union Army Balloon Corps balloon crossing, which took place overnight on October 12, 1861, conducted by ProfessorThaddeus S. C. Lowe and a band of handlers who had to precariously traverse the outsides of the fully trellised bridge. In a nine hour ordeal, the balloonEagle was fully inflated in Washington and walked out to the battlefield at Lewinsville, Virginia.[2]

The truss bridge was swept away in an 1870 flood, and a lightweight iron truss replacement was erected in 1872-1874. Traffic restrictions were placed on the bridge in the 1920s, and it was fully closed following the record flood of 1936.[2]

The eighth and present version of the bridge is a continuous steel girder structure, completed in 1939 on piers dating from the 1870s.[2]”

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