Natural History in the National Capital Area

Region 1- National Capital Area of the National Park Service includes a rich cultural and natural history. Parks in urbanized and fast-growing areas of the Mid-Atlantic cover Washington D.C. and parts of Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia. Many sites include a diverse array of forests, mountains, and estuaries which support high levels of biodiversity in a narrow geographic range.

Parks are located in the Valley and Ridge region and extend east to the Fall Line, which demarcates the Atlantic Coastal Plain. Local rock reflects the tremendous tectonic forces that gave rise to the Appalachian Mountains. Dense, metamorphosed rocks underlie much of the landscape and ancient limestones have eroded into extensive karst formations.

For millions of years, the Potomac River, a prominent waterway, has shaped and reshaped the area. This river and its tributaries feed the larger Chesapeake Bay Watershed and are abundant in aquatic and terrestrial resources which are both ecologically and commercially important to this region.

The distribution and abundance of flora and fauna in the National Capital Area are inextricably connected to the ecological integrity and diversity of its habitats. Its varied physiographic features, geology and resulting soil types, topography, and climate support a range of terrestrial and aquatic environments that provide diverse habitats for wildlife and plants.

Giant Water Bug


Natural History Collections in the National Capital Area

Orange and black monarch butterfly


Stone Bridge with Trees in the Background

National Capital Area Parks

Beaver in water chewing on a tree limb


Gray shark with two yellow striped fish swimming around it




Closeup of Pink lotus flower with green leaves in the background

Image Gallery


Helen Shaw
Helen Shaw Fowler and Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens
Cherry Trees on the National Mall
Cherry Trees on the National Mall
Drawing of Storer College
Dr. Madison Spencer Briscoe, Storer College, and Harper’s Ferry National Historic Park
Depiction of Miocene great white shark
Dugongs and Megalodon Sharks in the National Capital Area
Chesapeake & Ohio Canal, Conococheague Creek Aqueduct
Maryland Mining Company
National Park Service Units in the National Capital Area

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