Rock Creek and Potomac Parkway
Driving through the attractive, tree-lined valley of Rock Creek, motorists may not realize they are in a carefully planned landscape that has changed dramatically over the past century. Many people do not even know that Rock Creek Park and Rock Creek and Potomac Parkway are two separate parks, created at different times and for different purposes.
Rock Creek Park surrounds Rock Creek from the National Zoo north into Maryland. It is nearly a mile wide in places and totals approximately 1,750 acres. The park was created in 1890 to preserve an extensive area of woods and farmland as a suburban nature reserve. It contains numerous picnic grounds, trails, and recreational areas. The roads in Rock Creek Park provide access to the park's scenery and recreational resources. They were designed for slow speeds and light traffic.
Rock Creek and Potomac Parkway extends from the southern border of the National Zoo to West Potomac Park and the Lincoln Memorial. The parkway is 2.5 miles long and only a few hundred yards wide. It was constructed in the 1920s-30s to restore the polluted lower Rock Creek valley and to provide an attractive drive between Washington's monumental core and Rock Creek Park. The winding four-lane road dominates the parkway landscape, but the parkway also includes a multi-use trail and several quiet park areas.
Rock Creek and Potomac Parkway was originally conceived as a pleasure route for recreational drivers, but it soon became a major commuter artery for traffic from Washington's northwest suburbs. The parkway drive was always intended to carry more traffic than the park roads, yet it was carefully designed to surround motorists in a secluded forest setting and provide delightful views of the reclaimed valley's naturalistic landscape.
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