In the early days of the Republic, the lower Patuxent River in Southern Maryland figured in naval warfare. Much later, in the Chesapeake Bay steamboat era, it became a commercial route for boats from Baltimore that went upstream as late as the early 1920s as far as a landing at Lyons Creek, above Nottingham. Now the Patuxent's primary maritime activity is the annual Jug Bay Raft Regatta.

The 11th regatta is this week.

The Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission (which is sometimes referred to by that marvelously unpronounceable set of initials, M-NCPPC), will hold its annual nutty raft cruise from noon to 4 p.m. Saturday, weather permitting. Homemade rafts, of any shape or size but presumably floatable, may enter.

They can be registered prior to 11 a.m., but the sponsoring group prefers that you contact them no later than today at 627-6074.

Jug Bay is an arm of the Patuxent, opposite the main body of M-NCPPC's Potomac River Park near Croom. And Croom, if you're uncertain, is on Maryland Rte. 382, off U.S. Rte. 301 south of Upper Marlboro.

A limited number of life jackets and paddles will be available to rafters needing them. If the paddles run out, you'll learn the meaning of the old saw about being up the creek without a paddle. You might get down the creek but tough to get back.

P.S. Are there any old-timers from the Nottingham/Lower Marlboro area who remember the steamboats that served that area? Metro Scene would like to share your memories with our readers.