DC: Theodore Roosevelt Island

Last we checked in, this was my current DC to-do list:

  • MLK Jr. Memorial
  • Botanical Gardens
  • American History Museum
  • Pick fruit from a local orchard

Since then, I had plans to cross off the Botanical Gardens and the National Arboretum with my mom when she came to visit this past week. However, traffic in Richmond prevented her from getting here in time to really explore either of those. Since the arboretum is only open Friday to Monday, that one was quickly put on the back burner, but officially added to the list and since the Botanical Gardens are only open til 5 daily, it made it impossible for a mid-week trip. Instead, I remembered another little hideaway spot in DC I’d been meaning to explore: Theodore Roosevelt Island.


Located just off GW Parkway and open until 10 PM, Mom and I planned a last minute walking adventure which would be good for her hip and for my knee. I checked the National Park Service info and found out there are 3 trails – the largest, the Swamp Trail, with a distance of 1.3 miles. I told Mom it was “just over a mile” so she wouldn’t have any reservations. I knew she could do it 🙂 So yesterday after work, we explored Roosevelt Island.

It wasn’t really what I expected. Probably a lot less traveled that most other parks in the area, there were parts that were “rugged” in a totally urban way. Fallen trees in other parks would have a chunk cut out to maintain the path, but not on Roosevelt Island. In any case, it wasn’t anything we couldn’t handle.

While the view of the island itself isn’t that impressive, the views of the city are lovely. The Swamp Trail runs just along the outside of the island and gives you great views of Rosslyn:


And Georgetown:


I was hoping this trend would continue all the way around so you could see Watergate or the memorials, but the trail didn’t run that close to the edge on that side and you could only see snippets of them peeking through the trees. But if you keep going, you’ll finally hit the “swamp” that the trail is named after. The footbridge was a must.


I think Mom geeked out a little as she said more than once, “This would be a perfect biology class field trip to learn about the ecosystem here.” Mom is a retired HS biology teacher. Obvious now, eh?

I liked trying to spot the swamp wildlife (we saw a Cooper’s Hawk!) and loved that Mom was really into it, but perhaps my favorite part of the island was this tree.


Not that I haven’t seen graffiti-ed/carved trees before, but it’s like this one was chosen. It was the only tree that I saw on the entire island that had been carved, likely by young lovers. And maybe a few old ones too.

So if you have an afternoon in DC and you want to get off the beaten path and take in a bit of nature, Theodore Roosevelt Island is your place. Your mind won’t be blown, but it’s a nice little afternoon adventure.


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