Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens, Washington DC

#3 of 7 in Nature in Washington DC
Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens is a National Park Service site located in the north eastern corner of Washington, D.C., and the Maryland state border. Nestled near the banks of the Anacostia River and directly south of the Baltimore Washington Parkway, Kenilworth Park & Aquatic Gardens preserves a plethora of rare waterlilies and lotuses in the cultivated ponds near the river. The park also contains the Kenilworth Marsh, the only remaining tidal marsh in Washington, D.C. and an adjacent recreational area.


The land that is now Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens was originally purchased by Civil War veteran Walter B. Shaw in the 1880s. Feeling homesick, Shaw had wild waterlilies native to his home state of Maine brought and planted in the land. When the flowers Shaw brought thrived in the environment, Shaw brought in more plants and started a commercial attraction under the name W.B. Shaw Lily Ponds in 1912. In 1921, when Shaw died, his daughter, Helen Shaw Fowler, took over the prospering business which was being visited by many dignitaries, including US presidents.[5] Unfortunately, by this time the nearby Anacostia River had become filled with an excess of silt making navigation on the river difficult. The United States Army Corps of Engineers was called in to dredge the river which meant that the gardens were in danger of being destroyed. Helen fought to save the gardens and eventually in 1938, Congress authorized the purchase of the gardens for $15,000 to create the park.

Today in the Park:

Today, the park is under the administrative portion of National Capital Parks-East of the National Park Service. The total area of the park is about 700 acres (2.8 km2) large and constitutes the water gardens, Kenilworth Marsh, ballfields, and recreational facilities. The gardens have since been listed on the National Register of Historic Places and also designated a Category II Landmark by the Joint Committee on Landmarks of the National Capital. Portions of Kenilworth Marsh have also undergone restoration in 1992-1993 adding 32 acres (130,000 m2) of tidal marsh out of what was mud flats.
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Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens Reviews
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  • I have been to Kenilworth many times over the years and like to get there every summer. It used to be a privately owned aquatic plant selling business and now it is a national park! It is free to...  more »
  • We were (accidentally) able to time our visit to the gardens during the annual Lotus and Water Lily Festival. It was a great photo opportunity and perfect way to spend some time in nature-leisure...  more »
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