Walking Paths Outside of DC: Roosevelt Island

Walk, talk, and embrace your inner "nature" person while in this Potomac River park.

Presidential retreat: Roosevelt Island is a quick escape from the city’s bustle. Photograph by Randy Santos.

A footbridge connects Theodore Roosevelt Island to Arlington. I’ve been going to the 88-acre park in the Potomac River for 20-plus years and consider that bridge a sign to relax and, on most walks, connect with my husband, Callan.

I wasn’t a hiker in the early 1990s when I met Callan, an outdoorsy South Dakotan. Coming to the island proved an easy way to ease me into being what he called “a nature girl.” On the tree-filled isle, we’d stroll the curving dirt paths, pausing on the boardwalk to watch great blue herons and kingfishers in the swampy wetlands.

Over the years, park rangers filled us in on the island’s past as a Native American fishing village, the site of a 1790s mansion with ornamental gardens, and a Civil War-era Union Army training ground. The natural-looking landscape, where we sometimes spotted frogs and even a fox, was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted Jr. in the 1930s and ’40s.

Mostly, we walked and talked, eventually finding ourselves married and serious hikers. Still, we end all our walks here the same way: at the fountain-filled plaza, where a statue of Teddy raises its right arm to the sky.

This article appears in our May 2015 issue of Washingtonian.

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