As a young man in the 1950s, Bernie Fowler stood chest-deep in the Patuxent and was able to see his feet on the river bottom while netting blue crabs. Senator Fowler held the first Patuxent "wade-in" in 1988 to assess whether he could still see his feet while wading into the river. This became known as the “Sneaker Index.” His white sneakers - which he still has and uses for the annual event - disappeared from view in a disappointing 10 inches of water. Bernie Fowler, who served as Calvert County commissioner from 1970-1982 and as Maryland state senator from 1983-1994, joined more than 200 attendees at the 27th Wade-In on Sunday, June 8, 2014 at the Jefferson Patterson Park and Museum. His sneakers were visible until he reached a depth of 23.0 inches – down 11 inches from last year. The Wade-In has evolved into a symbol of the need for stewardship of the state's precious water resources. And the cowboy hat he always wears for the Wade-In with an American flag on top reflects his love of country as strong as his love of the river. See Fowler’s ‘Sneaker Index’ measured with new shoes from the June 11 Gazette.
A conversation with Bernie Fowler
MDP had the pleasure of conducting this video with Bernie Fowler in 2012 prior to his 25th annual wade-in. The senator reflected on his life-long commitment to the health of Maryland's waters and the 25 years of the annual wade-in event
Bernie's "depth" over the years
Click on chart for larger view
The red line in the above chart indicates the depth at which Bernie Fowler could see his feet in the 1960s and serves as the benchmark for a restored Patuxent River.