By Betty Turner
There is no gift shop, visitor center, or delicately maintained landscape, just a sign displaying a map of the trails and a schedule of ranger-sponsored activities. But you can catch a glimpse of local wildlife including deer, cottontail rabbits, muskrats, chipmunks, butterflies, garden snakes, many birds, and more. Or join a park ranger for a free “Island Safari,” usually on weekend mornings. The safari takes about one hour. Reservations are not required, but it is suggested to call ahead if your group is more than 10 people.
This 91-acre wilderness preserve is a living memorial dedicated to our nation’s 26th president. It’s the perfect retreat to enjoy nature and get away from the hustle and bustle of the hectic pace of daily life in D.C. Roosevelt Island is almost hidden from sight right in the Potomac River! It is accessible only from the northbound lanes of George Washington Memorial Parkway. A footbridge from the western bank of the Potomac River is the only land access.
A 17-foot bronze statue of President Theodore Roosevelt stands at the center of a Memorial Plaza. It is surrounded by four granite tablets, each reaching more than 20 feet tall. The tablets are inscribed with quotes representing Roosevelt’s philosophies regarding The State, Manhood, Nature, and Youth. Soothing sounds from two fountains fill the air as you listen to the quiet peacefulness of your surroundings and reflect on the history all around you.
In addition to the Memorial Plaza, there are more than two miles of hiking/walking trails through marshes, swamps, and woods following the banks of the Potomac. Benches are placed along the boardwalk, allowing you to pause, rest, or just observe nature. Various markers along the trails highlight the history of the island and its scenery in both Spanish and English.
The park is open year round from 6 a.m. until 10 p.m. daily. No cars or bicycles are permitted on the island. Parking spaces in the vicinity are limited and do fill up quickly on weekends. Rosslyn is the nearest metro stop and is about a 20- to 25-minute walk. Leashed pets are allowed.
The National Park Service maintains the island as part of the nearby George Washington Memorial Parkway. A fountain rehabilitation project has been in progress this year and is nearing completion. Many locals consider this the perfect place for a fall color tour. Contrary to numerous reports, there are bathrooms and drinking fountains on the island. Check the website at www.nps.gov/gwmp for more details or call visitor information at 703-269-2500.
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