Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens

Just when I thought I was running out of things to see in Washington, DC, I discovered this place. It’s located on the far east side of the diamond that Washington DC’s borders form on a map, so I don’t normally head out this way. The park is actually in a run down area of DC; I was not even sure I was going to the right place when I turned off the highway. But I thought the trip was worth it because of the scenery and wildlife in the park, and the serenity and quiet I found there. Also excellent for birders.

Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens NE DC

Blue Heron

The Gardens

This is a great place to spend a few hours walking around the trails, provided they aren’t really muddy like they were the day I went. The gardens are a naturally occurring feature in DC, preserved by an act of Congress in 1926. I don’t know much about swamps and the wildlife found there, but I found the place to be really interesting. There were walkways all through the park, some leading to elevated platforms for viewing the wide expanses of marshland and open water.

Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens NE DC

I don’t know if the water was really shallow for the area or what, but there were these monstrous fish–I don’t know the species, but they looked like big carp– flapping around in the shallow water right near the pathways. It was really unsettling and startling every time one of these beasts broke the silence by splashing water all around it. These huge fish seemed to be stuck in the shallow sections of the marshland. Some were lying dead on the walkway half-dried out in the sun and picked open by birds. I took a picture of one but deleted it because it was pretty gross.

The park was virtually empty–I saw three or four other people the whole hour and a half I was there. If you’re looking for a nice place to get away from it all within the city, this may be among the top candidates. One negative thing was that there was garbage in the water. I realize that flooding brings in the litter from the surrounding city, but it seemed like there was little effort being taken to clean the stuff up.

Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens NE DC

Ollie on one of the walkways


An easy trip within the Beltway for nature lovers and others just seeking some peace and quiet.


  • Free parking
  • Be prepared for muddy trails
  • Birders will  love this place. Here is a visual guide to the birds that live there.


Kevin is based in Washington, DC and writes about his travel adventures in the Mid-Atlantic region and around the world. Through entertaining writing and eye-catching photography, he aims to provide readers with useful information as they plan their next trips.

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