This is the audio-only described version of George Washington Memorial Parkway's official print brochure. It presents the history of the parkway and information for planning your visit.
Side one of the brochure includes text and photographs regarding the history of the parkway, the natural habitats it protects, and the many sites related to George Washington's life and the nation he helped to build.
Side two of the brochure consists of a map of the parkway which follows the Potomac River as it winds its way past Virginia, Maryland, and Washington, D.C. More detailed information is provided on the sites and activities available to visitors exploring the park.
At the top of side one, an aerial photograph by NPS and Steve Ruth stretches across the expanse of the brochure. The caption reads, "Road, trail, and river meet near Fort Hunt Park along the George Washington Memorial Parkway." In this shoreline image, the upper third is filled with a dense forest of deciduous green-leafed trees, several of which are in bloom.
At the bottom, the Potomac River runs horizontally across the image. Small ripples can be seen in the reflected images of trees dotting the shoreline.
Separating the forests from the Potomac River and running in parallel, is the two-way road of the Parkway and the Mount Vernon Trail which hugs the river. On the left side of the image, two benches along the trail face the river.
By the time he became president in 1789, George Washington owned 8,000 acres along the Potomac River in Virginia, from south of Mount Vernon to several miles north of the estate. One of his dreams for post-Revolutionary America was to turn the Potomac River into the commercial gateway to the West. He lobbied for building the Patowmack Canal to route boats safely around the “great falls” of the Potomac, nearly 30 miles upriver from his home. George Washington Memorial Parkway includes remains of this late-1700s canal at Great Falls Park and sections of Washington’s tidal Potomac farmlands: Riverside Park, Fort Hunt Park, and Collingwood Picnic Area.
Other members of Washington’s family held land that is now within the parkway. Abingdon, home of Washington’s stepson John Parke Custis, is the site of Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport. Arlington House was the property of Washington’s step-grandson George Washington Parke Custis, who was raised by the Washingtons. Custis left Mount Vernon in 1802 after his grandmother Martha Custis Washington died. That year, on the 1,100-acre estate he inherited, Custis began building a Greek Revival mansion. He filled the home, finished in 1817, with Washington heirlooms. Later, Custis’ daughter Mary and her husband Robert E. Lee lived here until the Civil War broke out in 1861.
Two more U.S. presidents are honored at Lyndon Baines Johnson Memorial Grove on the Potomac and Theodore Roosevelt Island. Other sites recall the nation’s past: Claude Moore Colonial Farm recreates 1700s tobacco farm life. Military sites in Virginia include Civil War-era Fort Marcy and Spanish-American War and WWII-era Fort Hunt. Glen Echo, Md., features the home of American Red Cross founder Clara Barton, and site of a Chautauqua Assembly in the 1800s, now Glen Echo Park.
Turkey Run Park and Dyke Marsh Wildlife Preserve are natural habitats preserved within parkway lands. Watch for signs of the seasons: spring’s dogwood, redbud, and daffodils and fall’s fiery hues of oaks, maples, and hickories. Watch for wild turkeys, bald eagles, and other migratory and resident birds. As you travel the parkway, see how the Potomac River’s character changes between the falls and tidewater.
In this photo by Carol Highsmith, a series of short waterfalls can be seen in a section of a fast-moving river. White water pummels the craggy rocks and boulders as it winds its way downstream towards the viewer. The riverbank visible on the other side of the river displays a wall of green, dense forest. The caption reads, "At Great Falls the Potomac River drops 77 feet in one mile. The Patowmack Canal, built in the 1700s to promote trade with Western markets, skirted the falls."
This image of a brightly painted carousel horse and pole is credited to Carol Highsmith. The white horse, with dark mane and tail, sports a painted saddle with decorative trim. Painted leafy red flowers drape over the shoulder of the horse, and a golden pole extends through the midsection. A caption reads, "At Glen Echo Park in Maryland you can ride a high-stepping horse on the restored 1921 Dentzel Carousel."
This illustration by John Aikens depicts Arlington House and its grounds. Shown in the background, on a cleared hilltop surrounded by trees, the house is a white Greek revivalist mansion. The front of the two-story home is visible from afar. Its central section figures prominently with a triangular pediment supported by six massive posts. To the left and right of this middle section are single story extensions with three windows, though the right section is obscured by extensive foliage. Below the hill and in the foreground is a row of trees in full bloom with white and pink blossoms.
A photograph by Carol Highsmith provides an angled view of the Clara Barton House. The photo shows the front part of the building and paved walkway and ramp at the side of the porch that leads to the front entryway on a sunny, cloudless day. The sandy-colored clapboard house has two floors with many windows on each level. A front porch roof covers the entryway and several benches. The porch area is flanked by stone towers with steep red gabled roofs. Extending from the rooftops are two flags, one of the United States and the other of the Red Cross.
A photo by Carol Highsmith depicts the full length of a 19-foot tall granite megalith on a bright, sunny day. Encircled by paving stones, the giant, rough-hewn rock is broad at its base and narrows towards one side after about a third of the up. A brilliant blue sky fills the image behind the megalith. Also visible are a grassy meadow, a waterway, and trees in the distance.
In this color photograph by John Skowronski, we are provided with a water-level view of an empty expanse of still water viewed through a patch of reedy cattail plants. Beyond the water, an overcast sky blankets a shoreline and forest.
In this photo by John Skowronski, a larger than life statue labeled "Theodore Roosevelt" stands on a pedestal looming over the heads of about two dozen people. The statue, three times as tall as the people milling below it, shows Theodore Roosevelt in a standing position with his legs shoulder width apart and his right arm raised high as if in the middle of giving a speech. He appears neat and professional, sporting a three piece suit with long coat and his hair trimmed short, parted off-center.
George Washington Memorial Parkway was designed to bring people closer to nature and history. With rapid suburban growth, the parkway is now a major commuter route. The very qualities that set this roadway apart—a rolling, winding course bounded by stone walls, with wildlife and eye-catching scenery—now make it unsafe at high speeds. When driving, observe posted speed limits. Keep in mind that first and foremost, the parkway is a park!
The parkway has two main sections, Virginia and Maryland. The 25-mile Virginia section runs northward from Mount Vernon along the Potomac River to I-495. In Maryland, the Clara Barton Park- way follows the Potomac River for seven miles from Chain Bridge in Washington, D.C., to north of I-495. Along the way are historic sites, memorials, and scenic and recreation areas, listed below north to south. Unless otherwise noted, entrances to these sites are directly from the parkway. For directions from Metro stations call 703-289-2500.
A map of the Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, DC area shows both the Clara Barton and George Washington Parkways as they follow the Potomac River. The map is oriented to the north. In the top half of the map, the river runs in a southeasterly direction, separating Virginia to the west from Maryland and Washington, D.C. to the east. The river then turns slightly and heads in a more southerly direction towards the bottom of the map. A boxed boundary marks the borders of the Washington D.C. area from surrounding Maryland, with the other half of the box showing the Historic District of Columbia boundary in Virginia. The additional map description will follow the George Washington Parkway from North to South in Virigina, followed by the Clara Barton Parkway in Maryland.
Starting at the top of the map, beyond the start of the George Washington Parkway is Great Falls Park in Virginia. The George Washington Parkway starts at I-495 near a bend in the river. Nearby, visitors will first encounter Turkey Run Park, Parkway Headquarters, Claude Moore Colonial Farm, and Fort Macy.
Heading further south along the parkway brings visitors to a Historic District of Columbia area of Virginia which sits on the opposite riverbank from Washington, DC. In this section of the parkway, visitors can visit Theodore Roosevelt Island, US Marine Corp War Memorial and Netherlands Carillon, Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument, Arlington House, Arlington National Cemetery, Lady Bird Johnson Park, LBJ Memorial Grove on the Potomac, Navy and Marine Memorial, Gravelly Point, and Roaches Run Waterfowl Sanctuary.
Continuing further south on the parkway at spaced intervals, visitors will find Daingerfield Island, Belle Haven Park, Dyke Marsh Wildlife Preserve, Alexandria Avenue Bridge, Collingwood Picnic Area, Fort Hunt Park, and Riverside Park. The George Washington Parkway ends at Mount Vernon.
At the top right of the map is the Clara Barton Parkway in Maryland. It hugs the opposite riverbank from the start of the George Washington Parkway in Virginia near I-495. Almost directly across the river from Park Headquarters, visitors will find the Clara Barton National Historic Site and Glen Echo Park.
Additional information about each of the sites along the Parkway is provided under its own section.
Overlooks have views of the Potomac’s most dramatic series of falls. Nearby are remains of the Patowmack Canal, promoted by George Washington and built 1786–1802. Visitor center, trails, picnic area, snack bar.
Open 7 am to 10 pm daily except December 25. Entrance fee. Information: 703-285-2965.
Directions: From I-495 take exit 44, Va. 193 (Georgetown Pike) west for 4.2 miles; right on Old Dominion Drive; follow signs to park entrance.
Emergencies: call 911 or U.S. Park Police, 202-610-7500
The parkway is narrow and winding. Speed limit varies from 25 to 50 mph. Do not speed! • Watch for deer, wild turkeys, and other wildlife and pedestrians. • Metal detectors are prohibited. • For firearms regulations see the park website. • A license is required for fishing; local regulations apply. • Do not destroy or remove plants, animals, or other natural or cultural objects; all are protected by federal law.
George Washington Memorial Parkway c/o Turkey Run Park, McLean, VA 22101
The parkway is one of over 390 parks in the National Park System. To learn more about national parks and National Park Service programs in America’s communities, visit www.nps.gov.