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The place in the foto below, George Washington wanted to call it Paradise.  Any guesses what we call it?  Answer below.

For now, here’s a tour of some of the smaller watersheds I drove through in the past few days, from south to north.  I like “watershed” as a word for a new year, a new time, because it  suggests divisions that matter, potential change.  On such terrain, details matter.  Go a few inches one way or another , and the water there flows to the Atlantic or to the Gulf of Mexico.  Similarly, a few seconds one way or another gets classified as one year or another.  Most of us remember the hoopla around “y2k,” a watershed moment which–in that case–wasn’t as much as expected.


The Savannah River, below, carries a Taino name.


Answer to the Cape Fear River–ex-Charles River–question of yesterday:  it’s a corruption of Cape Fair, kind of like Hell Gate deriving from the Dutch hellegat “beautiful passage.”  More on that later.


The Tar River, fed by the Beaufort County ditches where I were spawned,  takes its named from the product of its pine trees, a smell I still love.


Chowan River . . . named for former inhabitants.


And the Dismal Swamp,  Washington’s paradise, with the canal running through it, prejudices first time visitors by its very name, like Johnny Cash’s song about a boy named Sue.


The Chesapeake–sorry foto here looking here from the bridge/tunnel toward Cape Henry–carries the name of earlier inhabitants, or might be an Algonquian word for “big river.”  Cape Henry was not named for Mr Hudson, but rather a Prince of Wales.  Hmm . . . prints of whales?  The Chesapeake watershed includes a large portion of New York state southwest of the Catskills.


All of which brings me to an article from the Gotham Gazette on ideas for re-naming our sixth boro river that isn’t a river.  Have an ideas yourself on re-naming the East River?  Enjoy Erik Baard’s thoughts.  “Gotham” might not be a flattering name itself.

From yesterday:  Assateague (ex-Northhampton) might come from a native word meaning “on the other side.”

All fotos by Will Van Dorp.

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January 2009