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kids meet sheep
Youth discover the woolly texture of sheep at National Colonial Farm. (Photo by Robert Magregor, courtesy of Accokeek Foundation)

Recreational water sports are popular along the Piscataway shoreline. (Photo by Accokeek Foundation)

ranger holding binoculars talks with wisitors on boardwalk
A ranger assists visitors with bird identification during a morning birding program. (NPS photo)

National Colonial FarmHomepage photo: Heritage livestock and seed-saving programs thrive at National Colonial Farm. (Photo by Accokeek Foundation)

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Piscataway Park

Experience the tranquility of southern Maryland’s beauty at Piscataway Park

Just 20 miles south of Washington, D.C., Piscataway Park offers an escape to a place where history, culture, and nature are intertwined. Once a homeland to the area’s indigenous tribes, the park remains culturally significant to the Piscataway Indian Nation and Piscataway-Conoy Tribe.

Visitors enjoy this waterfront park thanks to a group of conservation-minded citizens whose concerns about sprawling development during the late 1950s inspired them to urge Congress to preserve the natural view from Mount Vernon across the Potomac River.

Today nearly 5,000 acres of forested woodlands and tidal wetlands span two counties—from Farmington Landing to Marshall Hall. Piscataway Park is home to many species of wildlife and provides a space for visitors to enjoy the outdoors. With nature trails, wetland boardwalks, picnic grounds, a popular fishing pier and kayak launches, there are many options for exploring the native flora and fauna preserved at the park.

A premier destination for bird watching near the nation’s capital, the park’s interaction of forest, meadows, wetlands, and shoreline attracts dozens of species, from buzzing hummingbirds to majestic bald eagles to great blue herons. Trails in Piscataway Park are part of the Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail.

Fins are just as abundant as feathers in the surrounding waterways. Bass, bluegill, and catfish are always biting—much to every fisherman’s delight. Paddle the waterways near and around the park and you’ll discover the same shoreline once explored by Captain John Smith in the early 1600s. Overlooking the entire scene is the stately elegance of George Washington’s Mount Vernon estate.

The Accokeek Foundation stewards 200 acres of the park through a partnership with the National Park Service. At the National Colonial Farm, with its historic farmhouse and tobacco barn, visitors can experience the life of a typical Maryland tobacco farming family, while seeing rare breeds of livestock and heirloom crops preserved for their genetic diversity. The Ecosystem Farm, an 8-acre organic vegetable farm, introduces visitors to modern sustainable agriculture. Another historic point of interest is the Marshall Hall ruins, a mansion built by the Marshall family around 1690 on the Potomac shoreline. In the late 1950’s, Marshall Hall was a popular amusement park with a ferris wheel built circa 1905 and a carousel house with merry-go-round. Today, this site is a perfect destination for a blanket picnic on a lazy afternoon or a family fishing expedition.

Established in 1954, The Alice Ferguson Foundation’s Hard Bargain Farm encourages environmental sustainability of the Potomac River watershed. This non-profit organization shares the Piscataway lands and connects local cultural heritage with communities through education, stewardship, and advocacy.

Learn more about Piscataway Park and plan your visit!

By Elizabeth Jackson, acting south district manager, National Capital Parks-East;
Adam Gresek, ranger, Piscataway Park; and staff of Accokeek Foundation

Editor’s note:
On July 12, 2014 Piscataway Park will take part in commemorating the 200th anniversary of the British invasion of the United States during the War of 1812. Experience a weekend of activities that include day sails from the fishing pier aboard the “Pride of Baltimore II.” Get a front row seat along the shores of the Potomac as the tall ship glides by, hear the roar of the guns as she is saluted by cannon fire from Fort Washington Park down river.