Theodore Roosevelt Island
This 88-acre island in the middle of the Potomac River across from Washington DC provides a beautiful wooded setting for a quick and easy getaway from the city.
Aside from Rock Creek Park, this is my favorite spot in DC to walk my dog. It’s easy to get to, provides great views of Georgetown and the river, and has a few miles of trails through beautiful woods and marshland.
Suggestions for a visit:
After crossing the footbridge from the parking lot area, I usually make a right once I get onto the island, and head eastward along the trail towards the I-66 bridge, which spans over a slice of the island. Here I make a left at the bridge, where there is a wooden walkway leading over the water. DC is straight ahead.
Here the National Park Service, which maintains the park, constructed a quarter-mile long walkway over the tidal marshland. On your right is the Potomac River, and on your left is the marsh, with several turnoffs where you can have a seat and view the wildlife that have made the island home.
There are signs along the way with interesting tidbits of information about the forest ecosystem and the natural history of the island. The walkway ends near the northwestern coast of the island, where you can get great views of Georgetown and the Key Bridge ahead.
Teddy Roosevelt Island is also a good spot for learning a bit about the geological history of the eastern United States. The island sits on the boundary line of the Piedmont Plateau and the Atlantic Coastal Plain. The marshland I was in before is part of the Atlantic Coastal Plain, while the exposed bedrock on this side of the island are part of the older Piedmont Plateau region.
If you turn around and head inland again, but towards the footbridge, you’ll come to the Theodore Roosevelt memorial. I think this one of the best memorials in DC, but it’s not very well known. It’s in a forest clearing, hidden from view from the DC and Virginia sides of the river.
The centerpiece is a twenty foot tall statute of the 26th President, hand upraised as if giving a speech. There are huge concrete slabs placed upright in a broad circle, inscribed with inspiring quotes from TR. The memorial contains a lot of fountains and pools, but they were shut off on the day of my visit (and past visits). Maybe they’re only on in the summer. But I imagine the memorial is really cool when all the pools are full of water and the fountains are running.
- The small parking lot fills up early. If you get there late in the morning on a nice weekend day, chances are that you will end up waiting in your car for a parking spot behind a line of cars doing the same thing.
- There’s a bathroom on the island.
- When you exit the park with a car, the only way back to DC is to go up quite a ways on the George Washington Parkway and make a U-Turn. You can’t easily make a right onto the Key Bridge.