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  • Not-So-Hidden D.C.: Roosevelt Island

    One of the best “not-so-hidden” places in Washington, D.C., is actually an island on the Potomac River.

    Theodore Roosevelt Island, an 88.5 acre piece of land named after our 26th president, is considered part of our nation’s capital even though it is accessible from land only by a bridge connected to the Virginia bank. 

    Roosevelt was known as a great outdoorsman and conservationist, and the park’s “real forest” was designed to look like natural forest that once covered the island, according to the National Park Service.

    A narrow channel separates the island from the bank, while the main channel of the Potomac is between the island and Georgetown. The island is considered part of D.C. because the Virginia state line follows the southern bank of the river.

    The island, which is maintained by the park service, has various trails and a plaza that includes a statue of Roosevelt and several of his quotes about nature and the environment. It was purchased in 1931 by the Theodore Roosevelt Association and donated to the federal government, which waited almost 30 years to allocate funds for the memorial.

    First occupied in 1668 by the Nacotchtank Indians, the island was owned by the Mason family — aka George Mason University — for more than 100 years until a causeway stagnated the water in 1831. It has been uninhabited since the Mason family left except when Union troops were stationed there during the Civil War.

    A mansion built by the Mason family was destroyed by fire; today only part of its foundation remains on the property.

    The island is accessible only by foot — no bicycles or motorized vehicles allowed — and only during the daytime hours. It is a fascinating outdoor oasis and a step back in time.

    For other stories about off-the-beaten path places to visit in our nation's capital, click here for the "Not-So-Hidden D.C" archive.