On this bike ride I set off with no particular destination in mind. I initially rode to Southeast D.C., and then started following the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail. As I was riding past the Redskins’ old home at R.F.K. Stadium, there was a turn off on the trail that went through a gate and disappeared into the woods. So naturally I turned to follow it. As I followed the path I discovered it was the entrance to Kingman and Heritage Islands Park. I later discovered that there is also an entrance on the other side of the park, on Benning Road in D.C.’s Anacostia neighborhood.
Heritage Island and Kingman Island are located Southeast and Northeast D.C., in the Anacostia River. Kingman Island is bordered on the east by the Anacostia River, a tributary of the Potomac River, and on the west by Kingman Lake, while Heritage Island is surrounded by Kingman Lake (MAP). This makes both accessible to be explored by boat. The islands were developed from sediment dredged from the bottom of the Anacostia River. Additionally, the wetlands found around the edges of Kingman Lake were developed and constructed by the Army Corps of Engineers and several other partner organizations. The islands were federally owned property managed by the National Park Service from the time they were constructed in 1916, until they were turned over to the District of Columbia government in 1995.
The park is comprised of over 50 acres of natural area to be explored on these two island habitats. Riparian wooded areas, river views, and wetlands comprise much of the sights to be experienced, where a variety of flora and fauna native to the area can be viewed. And the area is an ideal spot for birdwatching as well. Over 100 species of birds have been identified at the park including Bald Eagle, Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, and osprey. The islands are home to many different types of animals as well, including beavers who can be observed build dams and foxes excavate holes. And the Kingman Island Trail provides over a mile and a half of paths for walking, hiking, and bike riding.
Interestingly, once each year the serene character of these islands is interrupted for the annual Kingman Island Bluegrass and Folk Festival, which draws up to 10,000 people to the oft-forgotten green oasis. Attendees bring lawn chairs and sunscreen, and sprawl in the sun for an afternoon of live music that is the biggest fund-raiser for the Living Classrooms Foundation of the National Capital Region, which currently maintains the islands along with the D.C. Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development.
Despite numerous efforts to develop the area over the last 100 years, the southern half of Kingman Island and all of Heritage Island remained largely undeveloped. A variety of proposals have been made in recent years, most focusing on retaining the islands’ character as one of the few remaining wild places within the city’s limits. As such, it continues to remain largely unknown, which makes it an ideal location for riding completely undisturbed, as I did on this ride.