Friday, July 11, 2014

Island in D.C.--Theodore Roosevelt Island

 There's an island in D.C., did you know? It's got lovely trails and once you're on the island you forget that you are Washington D.C. The Theodore Roosevelt Island is a small island in the middle of the Potomac River that has a very diversified landscape: woods, uplands, and swamp. The trails are easy to follow and walk on, but the whole island feels "wild and natural" enough that you feel like you're on a little adventure.

The island is easily accessible through a bridge at Rosslyn station; it's like a magical bridge, one minute you are walking on the thin strip of pedestrian sidewalk as cars race by, and the next second you are on a dirt path, and my friend mentions that we should all check for ticks later.

Speaking of my friend who suggested the visit to the island, we haven't seen each other for two whole years! We had met during our exchange semester in Europe, and I'm glad that many of us are still in contact with each other, and that I would meet him in D.C., who knew? Life is magical like that.

Here's a map of the island:

Since the island is quite small, you will not actually get lost. There's a trail that circles the entire island, and several others that go all across it. We began our journey by seeing the Roosevelt Memorial first, and we stood there discussing for a few minutes why he had his hands like that. Perhaps he was saying, "A fish this big," since President Roosevelt was a outdoors man.

"A fish this big" says Mr. Roosevelt.

According the National Park Service website, Teddy Roosevelt Island was purchased in 1930 by the Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Association and donated to the Federal government in memory if the president and that all of us can enjoy this lovely island park. It was previously overgrown farmland, and landscape architects recreated the natural forest we see today. Well, the architects have done a good job, the island does feel quite wild and natural. The island has had multiple uses, including fishing island for Native Americans, training ground during Civil War, been a picnic island, owned by a man with the last name Mason, and also once owned by a fishing captain.

Read more about the island on the park service page:

The dirt paths through the forest was easy to follow, but the greenery was lush so you did need to push leaves and branches to the side to cross, hence adding the wilderness factor. There were some muddy beaches that you could walk on, and across the waters you can see Georgetown and the Scandinavia embassies. Another strange scene on the muddy banks was the "tree graveyard", my friend gave it quite an appropriate name. The name sounds gloomy but it is actually a lovely sight and quite interesting. All these trees and branches all piled up at this spot, how strange. As I tried to walk to the edge of the trees however, I saw a snake enjoying the afternoon sun, hence my tree walk was cut short.

On the island I sometimes forget I'm in D.C.

This is the tree graveyard, in the back the Scandinavia embassies reminding me I'm in D.C.
Muddy banks


After the forest path, we walked on to the swamp area. Raised wooden pathways guided us through a whole new kind of landscape, shallow waters covered the area, new plants, new insects; it's hard to believe we're still on the same island that dirt roads and trees.

The swamp area had nice wooden pavements to you don't walk in the swamp.

Teddy Roosevelt island is amazing. The diversity of such a small island will keep you busy for a long time as you take whatever turn or path your heart takes you. You don't need a map, you don't need to worry where you are, take off your shoes and step on the muddy beach, observe a stork, find a lizard, worst case scenario, you circle the entire island again till you find the bridge back to D.C. But while you're on the island, you won't remember you're in D.C. at all. 
I saw a lizard, actually, several lizards on the island.

View from the island--Key Bridge and Georgetown


  1. How come i've been here for three years and never thought to visit the place! I would love an island of animal kingdom, all those lizards, snakes and birdies. Btw, hmmm, 'the friend' from Europe huh? ring a bell?

    1. Genelee you really should, it's quite nice to "get out of the city" for a little while. Haha, my friend from Europe and I met while we were both exchange students there :)