Heat radiates off rowhouses, subways screech beneath you and vermin of all shapes and colors creep in the shadows of Washington. Around every corner there is at least one reminder that you are in a huge city.
But from Rock Creek to East Potomac to Meridian to Lincoln parks, there are quite a few places in the city where, if you close your eyes and block out the hum of highways, you can pretend you live in a more serene place. One of the most impressive — and least hyped — sits just blocks from the Maryland border, filled with flora and fauna not typically associated with the urban environment.
Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens, located at 1550 Anacostia Avenue NE near the Deanwood Metro and right off of 295, is a must visit for anyone that likes their nature wild. In addition to the Lotus flowers, which close up when the temp goes over 90 degrees but were out on a recent visit…
… we also spotted a gray fox, an egret and a Great Blue Heron, which moments after this shot, was snacking on a fish.
Both the above pictures are from the aquatic gardens section, which has been constructed with the visitor in mind and is full of palette-popping flowers. A bit further east, you have the choice to walk to the banks of the Anacostia, where we spotted the fox (and 0 other people), or visit the marsh boardwalk.
The boardwalk is the most impressive thing at the park. Segments of the marsh were rebuilt in the last 20 years, but for the most part, the area looks like the set of Jurassic Park, not the dumping ground for fertilizer runoff. Frankly, it’s incredible any of this stuff is still around.
Also surprising, there were almost no mosquitos (tons of dragonflies likely keep them at bay) during temps in the lows 80s with high humidity.
The biggest disappointment was the occasional glimpse of disgusting trash in the water. The informative signs could use updating too. But for a free, sweaty and informative wilderness adventure, the park is a nice alternative to dodging Middle America at the Smithsonian museums.
Bonus: In the wintertime the park is also supposed to be a great time for birdwatching — maybe more on that in a few months.