Theodore Roosevelt Island

Theodore Roosevelt Island

This wooded island is a tribute to the vision of our 26th President.  His passion for the earth's natural places and foresight in planning for their preservation contributed to the conservation legacy we treasure today.

The island has a diverse history.  Evidence shows that Native Americans used the island as a seasonal fishing village.  The site was named "My Lord's Island" when King Charles I granted it to Lord Baltimore.  One owner, a sea captain, called it "Barbadoes" after his childhood home.  In the 1790s, John Mason, son of George Mason IV (author of the Virginia Bill of Rights), built a brick mansion and cultivated garden on the island.  For years afterward, the island was a picnic resort.  During the Civil War, the site served as a training area for the Union Army, including the "First US Colored Troops."

Today, the National Park Service protects the island, while providing public enjoyment.  While you are here, savor the sounds of the outdoors as you travel through marsh, swamp and forest.  Or, ponder the quotes on the granite tablets in Memorial Plaza.

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Image Credit: Theodore Roosevelt Island

Hours

Theodore Roosevelt Island is open year-round from 6:00 AM to 10:00 PM.

(Note: Many places fill to capacity on busy, nice weather days, especially holiday weekends. Please call ahead or visit the official website to get the most up-to-date information before visiting.)

Fees

There is no fee to enter Theodore Roosevelt Island. Enjoy your visit!

Activities

Theodore Roosevelt Island makes a great classroom! With such diverse human and natural history, you are guaranteed to find landforms, wildlife, or historic resources that bring your curriculum to life. Park staff offer two formal field trips and a traveling trunk.

With the proper fishing license, you can fish in the park. Many anglers fish from the Virginia shoreline in the parking lot.

There is a statue to Theodore Roosevelt in the middle of the island, but the whole island was designed as a tribute to him. The Swamp Trail follows the shoreline and gives a good overview of the landscapes that were created in his honor. Theodore Roosevelt especially loved birds, and the boardwalk section of the Swamp Trail is a great place to see them.

More than 240 rare species and natural communities have been identified here. Of these, 134 still remain; sadly the other 113 no longer exist in the Gorge.  The Gorge contains rare groundwater invertebrates found almost nowhere else on Earth, and supports the highest concentration of rare plants in Maryland.  It contains the largest intact block of forest in Maryland's Piedmont and one of the most significant hardwood forests in all of Virginia.  On its passage through the Gorge to tidal water, the Potomac has one of the steepest and longest fall zones of any American river draining to the Atlantic.  The geology of the Gorge and the Great Falls of the Potomac are internationally known.  An incredible diversity of migratory birds spend part of each year in the Gorge.

Facilities

Restrooms on the island close for the winter, usually from October to April. During this time a portable toilet is located near the restrooms.

10.15.17: Please note: There are no working restrooms and no portable toilets on the island at this time.

Accessibility

contact us at 703-289-2500

History

In the 1930s landscape architects transformed Mason’s Island from neglected, overgrown farmland into Theodore Roosevelt Island, a memorial to America’s 26th president. They conceived a “real forest” designed to mimic the natural forest that once covered the island. Today miles of trails through wooded uplands and swampy bottomlands honor the legacy of a great outdoorsman and conservationist.

As President, Roosevelt rose to a conservation crisis.  Bison, beaver, and shore birds were fast disappearing, while other species had become extinct.  Approximately four-fifths of the nation's prime forests had been cut to make way for farms and provide building materials and fuel.  Years of continuous farming had compromised soil fertility.

Roosevelt's leadership changed the public's perception that America's natural resources were inexhaustible.  Under his leadership, the Federal Government expanded its role in conserving our nation's resources.

Weather

Last updated: October 17, 2017
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