32nd Annual Bernie Fowler Wade-in

Bernie's feet logo Bernie showing shoes

Senator Fowler's 32nd Annual Wade-In

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, led the 32nd Wade-In on Sunday, June 9, 2019 at the Jefferson Patterson Park and Museum​​. His sneakers were visible until he reached a depth of 47 inches – 11 inches up from the previous year and the highest recorded measurement to date. The wade-in has never really been about the number on the tape measure but the commitment to restore the Patuxent. The Wade-In has evolved into a symbol of the need for stewardship of the state's precious water resources. The cowboy hat he always wears for the Wade-In with an American flag on top reflects his love of country which is as strong as his love of the river.

Bernie's shoes 

A conversation with Bernie Fowler

The Department of Planning 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

2015 Bernie's 'depth' over the years 

Click on chart for larger view

logo of Jefferson Patterson Park and Museum


The horizontal 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. The Annual Bernie Fowler Wade-ins were held on Broomes Island from 1988 through 2009. Since 2010, this event has been held at the Jefferson Patterson Park and Museum in Saint Leonard, Maryland.

Fowler Wade-In Photo Album