What lies beneath, turns out be an awful lot.
More than one hundred volunteers with the Ocean Conservancy and other local organizations came out to the Anacostia Park Riverfront this morning to pick up trash.
Volunteers on boats and on land filled trash bag after trash bag with trash found along the shoreline and in the water. Plastic bottles, food wrappers, and styrofoam were among the most common items found.
Others found more unique items in the water - such as oil cans, a muffler, a bumper and a football.
The effort, organized as part of the International Coastal Cleanup day, happening at riverbeds and coastlines across the country and the world this month, hopes to help the health of the world's waters.
Locals say the Anacostia waterfront for years has served, unfortunately, as a place where people came to dump things.
"it's not very pleasant to come out here on a weekend with your kids and try to have a picnic and there are needles and plastic garbage bags and just crap lining the shores," DC resident and volunteer Lynn Labieniec said while helping pick up trash today.
Now that the waterfront is trying to bring in visitors as a local destination, officials say, a periodic trash cleanup is necessary and a lot easier with volunteers chipping in.
"People have been told for two generations that river's dirty, don't go there," Jim Foster, President of the Anacostia Watershed Society said today, "So people don't come here."
Foster said he believes within three years, with additional clean up days like today and broader education within the city about trash disposal, the river can reach a proper standard of cleanliness.
One thing that volunteers did not find a lot of today as they waded through water and muddy banks are plastic shopping bags.
Officials say there has been a large decrease in the amount of plastic bag trash thanks to the five cent bag charge started in 2010. With more people using reusable bags less of those plastic, less unwanted bags wind up in the water.
"It is much better than it was, it's not perfect," Foster said of the river water now, "It's probably never going to be perfect."
He admitted that it is a challenge for the river to attract people who live in the city to view the Anacostia waterfront as a place to come and spend free time.
And volunteers today say they hope their trash pickup effort will be one part in the move to make the riverfront more of a must-see DC destination.
"As time goes on and the word goes out that we're trying to make the waterfront a much better place," volunteer and Howard University student Jordan Butler said today, "I think it's going to attract a lot more people."