Boulder Bridge, Rock Creek Park by Carol Highsmith (Library of Congress)
There’s no more inviting time than spring to get a close-up look at the attractions of Rock Creek Park, Washington’s 1,700-acre urban oasis administered by the National Park Service that’s been welcoming visitors since 1890. Local natural historian Melanie Choukas-Bradley, author of A Year in Rock Creek Park, leads a tour of the wondrous sights, both natural and manmade, that the park offers. Local experts and historians join the tour along the way to provide context and comment on some of the park’s natural highlights.
The tour includes walks through diverse terrain. Trails can be muddy, so please wear appropriate “off-roading” shoes and layers of comfortable clothing. Bring binoculars if you wish.
9:45 a.m. Thompson’s Boat House
This landmark sits where Rock Creek meets the Potomac River, at mile marker 0 on the C&O Canal.
10:15 a.m. Peirce Mill
Meet local historian Steve Dryden, who interprets the history of this 19th-century mill, and park ranger Bill Yeaman, who talks about spawning shad and herring at the fish ladder..
11:15 a.m. Blagden Mill and Pulpit Rock
After crossing the aptly named Boulder Bridge, see Teddy Roosevelt’s favorite spot for his “scrambles” and notorious Rock Creek skinny dips.
11:45 a.m. Rapids Bridge Nature Walk
The area around the lovely footbridge offers an ideal place to witness budbreak among the flood-plain trees and plants.
12:45 p.m. Boxed Lunch at Rock Creek Park Nature Center
Box turtles, foxes, and of course, deer, make their home in the park. Learn about the abundant wildlife in Rock Creek and enjoy a picnic lunch.
1:45 p.m. Milk House Ford and Joaquin Miller Cabin
Native Washingtonians may remember driving right across Rock Creek at Milk House Ford, where the water was only a few inches deep. Eccentric poet Joaquin Miller (1837–1913) originally built this cabin in Meridian Hill Park, but it was moved to Rock Creek Park in the early 1900s. Miller and his cabin were a tourist attraction for years.
2:30 p.m. Boundary Bridge
Marking the line between the District and Maryland, Boundary Bridge was constructed by the Public Works Administration in the 1930s. It leads to a footpath bordered by towering sycamores and abundant wildflowers in spring bloom, including Rock Creek’s famous Virginia bluebells.
Bus departs at 9:30 a.m. from the S. Dillon Ripley Center; bus returns to this location at the program’s end.
S. Dillon Ripley Center
1100 Jefferson Dr SW
Metro: Smithsonian (Mall exit)