Kingman and Heritage Islands

Three-Hour Weekend: Kingman and Heritage Islands on the Anacostia River

Friday, July 17, 2009

When people think of weekend fun on a Washington river, the Potomac is first to come to mind. With miles of trails, monuments, shops and restaurants along its shores, many think of it as Washington's only river. But it is the Anacostia that is home to Kingman and Heritage islands, two thickly wooded refuges that offer a peaceful retreat from the city. With a mile and a half of trails on about 50 acres, it is easy to spend an afternoon getting to know the Anacostia.

The islands are connected to the shore by a walkway at the far edge of RFK Stadium's Parking Lot 6. In the shadow of RFK and with the clatter of Metro trains running overhead, it's hard to believe that such a lush green oasis is mere feet away, but, cross the walkway and there you are.

The wooden boardwalk gives the first hint that this is someplace special. Arrowleaf and cattails shoot up from the shores. Snowy egrets linger on the edge of the island oblivious to onlookers. Turtles, necks outstretched, sun themselves on partially submerged logs.

Both islands were built in 1916 using mud dredged from the bottom of the river; Heritage, the first you come to, is the smaller of the two. A trail loops the perimeter of the island and takes less than 20 minutes to complete. Be warned, Heritage also tends to be the muddier island.

The second boardwalk, which connects the islands, has a large, square pier in the middle that serves as a prime fishing spot. On the other side is the nearly 45-acre Kingman Island.

The out-and-back trail on Kingman is a bit longer. On a recent Saturday, Queen Anne's lace and purple loosestrife bloomed in abundance along either side of the trail. Here, the enthusiastic chirps of more than 100 species of birds make the hum from the Metro tracks little more than white noise. At the head of the trail, a Mimosa tree caught the eye of an amateur photographer.

The islands weren't always so inviting. They reopened to the public last year after multiple groups spent more than five years establishing wetlands and trails and hauling away trash. Living Classrooms, a nonprofit group, and the D.C. government maintain the islands and hope to make them more alluring to Washingtonians by building an educational center and more trails.

While that would be nice, even now a visit to Kingman and Heritage islands will have you forgetting that other river.

-- Amy Orndorff

WHERE IS IT? The entrance to the islands is marked with signs along Oklahoma Avenue. Parking is available at RFK Parking Lot 6, which is close to Oklahoma Avenue and Benning Road NE.

WHEN SHOULD I GO? The islands are open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. April through October and 9 a.m. to dusk November through March. Bring water as there are no water fountains; there is a portable toilet on Kingman Island.


WHERE CAN I GET MORE INFORMATION? Call 202-488-0627 or visit

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