Patuxent Wildlife Research Center

Description of Kenilworth Park & Aquatic Gardens

INTRODUCTION: Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens is a National Park Service site under the administrative management of National Capital Parks-East. It constitutes some 700 acres and is part of Anacostia Park. The Park includes the "Gardens", Kenilworth Marsh, ballfields and recreational facilities. The origins of Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens lie not only in the 1791 L'Enfant Plan for the District of Columbia, but also the McMillan Plan of 1901 which specifically recommended extension of public parkland along both sides of the Anacostia River.

TO GET THERE: Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens is located in northeast Washington, D.C., near the Maryland boundary along the tidal Anacostia River. The entrance to the Aquatic Gardens is just west of I-295 (Kenilworth Avenue), between Quarles and Douglas Streets, on Anacostia Avenue.

The entrance to Kenilworth Park (recreation area) is located at the westernmost end of Nannie Helen Burroughs Avenue, N.E., just off

I-295 (Kenilworth Avenue). It is approximately 0.5 mile south of the Aquatic Gardens entrance.

FOR MORE INFORMATION: For further information, you may contact a Park Ranger ark at the site by telephone at 202-426-6905. The mailing address is Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens, National Park Service, 1900 Anacostia Drive, S.E., Washington, D.C. 20020. To contact Park Service BioBlitz Coordinator you can E-mail Dan Roddy,

The Aquatic Gardens

The Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens is the only National Park Service site devoted to the propagation and display of aquatic plants. Situated on 14 acres along the east bank of the Anacostia River, the Gardens were begun as the hobby of Civil War veteran W.B. Shaw in 1882, and operated for 56 years as a commercial water garden. During the time that Mr. Shaw, and later his daughter,

Mrs. L. Helen Fowler, operated the gardens, they were successful in developing many new varieties of water lilies, two of which bear their names. In 1938, the Gardens were purchased from Fowler by the Federal Government. It was at that time that the facility ceased operating as a commercial enterprise and became part of the National Park system.

Today, the Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens are included on the National Register of Historic Places, and were also designated a Category II Landmark by the Joint Committee on Landmarks of the National Capital. It has many varieties of water lilies and lotus on display and is also great place to see birds, frogs, turtles, butterflies, and dragonflies. Late June through July is the best time of year for viewing the flowering aquatic plants in the historic area. However, the gardens serve as an oasis and is a wonderful get-away throughout the year. Call ahead to schedule a tour with a Park Ranger, or just stop by - we're open everyday of the year except Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Day.

Kenilworth Marsh

The 77-acre Kenilworth Marsh is a semi-natural area that borders the Aquatic Gardens on 3 sides. The Kenilworth Marsh is the Nation's Capital's last tidal marsh and provides a wonderful opportunity for environmental study and education activities. Although it has suffered from pollution, dredging and filling activities over the years, it, along with adjacent swamp forest areas, still support a diversity of wetland plant and wildlife species that are unusual in the inner city. These include wild rice, American bitterns, beaver, long-billed marsh wrens, and spotted salamanders.

Portions of Kenilworth Marsh were reconstructed during a major restoration effort in 1992-93. The cooperative restoration project that involved the National Park Service, the District of Columbia Government, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, and others, converted 32 acres of unvegetated mud flats into emergent tidal marsh.

Kenilworth Marsh and the adjacent swamp forest areas can be best viewed from the River Trail. The River Trail is 0.7 mile long and is accessed by entering the Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens. The trail ends at the channel that connects the marsh to the tidal Anacostia River.

Recreational Facilities

Kenilworth Park abuts the Kenilworth-Parkside Recreation Area. This site, which is managed and operated by the District of Columbia Department of Parks and Recreation, offers a wide variety of activities and has a track and play equipment for children.

Kenilworth Park offers some 180 acres of open area. Formerly used for open burning and landfill operations, the site was reclaimed during the 1970's and was converted into a multi-purpose recreation area with 9 ballfields, a picnic shelter, and a comfort station. The ballfields have become a popular location for soccer, rugby, and frisbee tournaments.

Along the perimeter of selected ballfields are managed meadows. The Park has been working to establish native grasses and wildflowers in these areas. Enjoy viewing the tall grasses and flowers of the meadow fringe. Keep a sharp eye out for butterflies and birds while playing ball at Kenilworth Park... we often get reports of birds of prey, ground-nesting birds (rare in such an urban location), and lovely spring azure butterflies!

Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens is one of the Nation's Capital's best kept secrets!

Boating at Kenilworth in the 30's (44k JPEG, 77k GIF)

Aerial Shot of the region surrounding the Gardens (124k)

Return to Kenilworth Blitz Page

U.S. Department of the Interior
U.S. Geological Survey
Patuxent Wildlife Research Center
Laurel, MD, USA 20708-4038
Contact: Sam Dreoge
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