ROCK CREEK PARK
CODE OF FEDERAL REGULATIONS TITLE 36, CHAPTER 1
Designations, closures, permit requirements and other restrictions imposed under the discretionary authority of the Superintendent.
This Compendium for Rock Creek Park lists the various restrictions, conditions, public use limitations, closures and other designations that are allowed under the discretionary authority of the Superintendent. The Superintendent’s discretionary authority is based on certain National Park Service (NPS) general regulations in the U.S. Code – 36 CFR – Parks, Forest and Public Property. 36 CFR Parts 1-6 as well as the park’s special regulation at 36 CFR 7.96, apply to the National Capital Region. The Compendium is separate and apart from the NPS general regulations at 36 CFR parts 1-6, the NPS Management Policies, and Rock Creek Park’s special regulation at 36 CFR 7.96, which may be found on the NPS’s website at http://www.nps.gov/aboutus/lawsandpolicies.htm and at the Government Printing Office’s website at www.ecfr.gov.
Julia Washburn, Superintendent Date
I. 36 CFR §1.5 - VISITING HOURS, PUBLIC USE LIMITS, CLOSURES, AND AREA DESIGNATIONS FOR SPECIFIC USE OR ACTIVITIES
(a)(1) The following visiting hours and public use limits are established for all or for the listed portions of the park, and the following closures are established for all or a portion of the park to all public use or to a certain use or activity:
Unless otherwise designated, all park land is open between the hours of sunrise and sunset.
The Rock Creek Park Nature Center and Planetarium:
Open Wednesday through Sunday, 9 am to 5 pm
Closed on the Fourth of July, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's days.
The Old Stone House:
Open year-round on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays, and Mondays from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. The museum section of the house (beyond the park store) may close earlier or not be available to the public for safety reasons at times (evenings, very cloudy days) due to very limited lighting in the historic house.
Closes at 5 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve, New Year's Eve, and New Year's Day.
Closed on Christmas Day.
The Peirce Barn/Peirce Mill complex buildings are open:
March 1 - October 31 on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
November 1 – February 28/29 on Saturdays and Sundays from 12 noon to 4 p.m.
Advanced reservations are required for groups of 10 or more.
Peirce Mill and Peirce Barn are closed on Christmas Day and New Year's Day.
Carter Barron Amphitheatre is currently closed for repairs.
Public Use Limits:
Picnic areas 1, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 13 and 24 require a reservation permit from May through November and are limited to no more than 75 people.
Picnic areas 2, 3, 4, 5, 11, 12, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23 and 29 operate as first- come, first-served, and are limited to no more than 25 people.
Picnicking is prohibited at Fort Stevens and Battleground National Cemetery.
Large group picnics of 25 or more people are not allowed outside of numbered picnic areas unless the Superintendent provides an exception in writing.
Informal picnics of fewer than 25 people are allowed in all other lawn areas except for the park areas listed above.
Coolers, scooters, rollerblades, bicycles, glass containers, picnic baskets, pets and cans are prohibited inside Carter Barron Amphitheatre and Rock Creek Tennis Stadium.
Service animals for the disabled are allowed inside Carter Barron Amphitheatre and Rock Creek Tennis Stadium when officially assisting a disabled person.
Photography and audio and video recording of events at Carter Barron Amphitheatre and Rock Creek Tennis Stadium is prohibited except as authorized under a Special Use Permit.
Old Stone House visitor limit is 25 people.
The Peirce Mill visitor limit in the basement and first floor is 25 persons on each level. All other areas and floors are restricted, and may only be accessed when authorized by the Superintendent.
Parking is allowed only in designated parking areas.
Weddings are allowed at Meridian Hill Park, Montrose Park, the garden at the Old Stone House, and at Georgetown Waterfront Park. Weddings in areas administered by Rock Creek Park require a Special Use Permit. There is a limit of 50 people; no chairs, balloons or decorations are allowed. Receptions are not allowed. Weddings at the Old Stone House are limited to one per day.
Washing vehicles within Rock Creek Park is prohibited.
Moon bounces, carnival rides, dunk tanks, photo booths, livestock/petting zoos, or similar specialized equipment and activities are prohibited.
Hanging hammocks on park vegetation and on buildings or other structures is prohibited. Hammocks may only be used with a self-supporting frame.
Repair or maintenance of vehicles (other than short-term emergency repairs) by private individuals or commercial businesses within Rock Creek Park is prohibited
Unless otherwise designated, all park land is closed between the hours of sunset and sunrise except for vehicular traffic on park roads. Buses, commercial vehicles, and trucks over ½ ton are prohibited on park roads unless given specific permission in writing by the Superintendent.
The parks along 16th Street NW, including Meridian Hill Park, are closed midnight to 5:00 am from May through October, and 9:00 pm to 5:00 am November through April.
Sections of Beach Drive, Bingham Drive, and Sherrill Drive NW are closed to motor vehicle traffic on weekends and federal holidays. Sherrill, Bingham, Ross and Morrow Drives NW are closed to motor vehicle traffic when snow or ice is present.
Area designations for specific use or Activities
The following areas have been designated for a specific use or activity, under the conditions and/or restrictions as noted:
Docking or Mooring Areas:
Mooring of boats at the dock at Washington Harbour on the Georgetown Waterfront is prohibited between midnight and 6 am, as determined by the Superintendent, Rock Creek Park, dated January 30, 2002, 36 CFR 1.5, consistent with the determination by the Superintendent, C&O Canal NHP, dated June 22, 1998, and the Regional Director's memorandum dated November 20, 1997.
Bicycle Use Areas/Routes:
36 CFR 4.30 prohibits the use of bicycles except on park roads, in parking areas, and on paved routes designated for bicycle use. In addition:
Allowing electric bicycles on those roads, parking areas and paved trails noted previously will create new opportunities for recreation and access within the park, and provide additional benefits, including improved cardiovascular fitness, stress relief, reduction in body fat, and improved strength/flexibility. The NPS expects the following impacts on park visitors, resources or values – minor elevated noise levels, minimal air quality impacts (from electrical power generation for bike batteries), minimal disturbance of wildlife, potential safety issues from speeding, and improved access to natural and recreational resources. This action is covered by categorical exclusion A.8, specifically, “Modifications or revisions to existing regulations, or the promulgation of new regulations for NPS-administered areas, provided the modifications, revisions or new regulations do not: a) Increase public use to the extent of compromising the nature and character of the area or causing physical damage to it, b) Introduce noncompatible uses which might compromise the nature and characteristics of the area, or cause physical damage to it, c) Conflict with adjacent ownerships or land uses, or d) Cause a nuisance to adjacent owners or occupants.” This categorical exclusion is found in 3.3.A.8 in the NPS NEPA Handbook, page 34.
The following restrictions and/or conditions are in effect for the specific uses or activities noted:
The term "unmanned aircraft" means a device that is used or intended to be used for flight in the air without the possibility of direct human intervention from within or on the device, and the associated operational elements and components that are required for the pilot or system operator in command to operate or control the device (such as cameras, sensors, communication links). This term includes all types of devices that meet this definition (e.g., model airplanes, quadcopters, drones) that are used for any purpose, including for recreation or commerce. Launching, landing, or operating an unmanned aircraft from or on lands and waters administered by the National Park Service within the boundaries of Rock Creek Park is prohibited except as approved in writing by the Superintendent.
Justification: Rock Creek Park (United States Reservation 339) was founded in 1890 by the U.S. Congress as "a public park or pleasure ground for the benefit and enjoyment of the people of the United States." The founding legislation also noted that the management of Rock Creek Park, which transferred to the National Park Service in 1933, "shall provide for the preservation from injury or spoliation of all timber, animals, or curiosities within said park, and their retention in their natural condition, as nearly as possible." Under NPS Management Policies, the impact of the use of unmanned aircraft over Rock Creek Park on soundscapes, vistas, cultural landscapes, migratory birds, critical migratory bird habitat and other features of the park that must remain in the condition mandated by Congress must be assessed before the park can contemplate their use.
Rock Creek Park currently administers over 3,000 acres in 99 federal reservations stretching across the northwest and northeast quadrants of Washington, DC. Unmanned aircraft use throughout these reservations is prohibited until NPS can make a determination of the security concerns and possible impacts from an unmanned aircraft launched from within Rock Creek Park on areas adjacent to or surrounded by National Park Service land. These include the Federal Aviation Administration's Prohibited Area P-56B, adjacent to Dumbarton Oaks Park, Whitehaven Parkway, Normanstone Parkway, and sections of Rock Creek and Potomac Parkway; the 41 foreign missions that border these reservations along Reservation 339, Civil War Defenses of Washington, Whitehaven Parkway, Normanstone Parkway, Rock Creek and Potomac Parkway, Klingle Valley, Melvin Hazen Park, and Glover Archbold Park, among other reservations; the United States Department of Homeland Security Headquarters, which borders Glover Archbold Park and the Civil War Defenses of Washington; Federal Aviation Administration communications facilities, located on Civil War Defenses of Washington land; United States Army Corps of Engineers drinking water processing facilities and reservoirs adjacent to Potomac Palisades; and DC Water reservoir and drinking water processing facilities bounded by Civil War Defenses of Washington land.
The preservation of the reverential and contemplative atmosphere of Battleground National Cemetery, at which 41 Union veterans of the Civil War Battle of Fort Stevens are interred, must also be considered in the assessment of this new use.
Given the requirement under NPS management Policies 2006 that any new use must be assessed for appropriateness and possible impacts, less restrictive measures that would allow any use of an unmanned aircraft will not suffice.
Regardless of vaccination status or local community transmission levels, all individuals over the age of two must wear masks, except when actively eating or drinking, in all common areas and shared workspaces in federally owned buildings administered by the National Park Service and in office space leased by the National Park Service.
Federally owned buildings administered by the National Park Service include, but are not limited to, visitor centers, administrative offices, maintenance facilities, and shared government quarters; buildings assigned to concessioners or other park partners; and buildings leased for commercial purposes to individuals or entities other than the National Park Service.
All individuals over the age of two, regardless of vaccination status or local community transmission levels, must wear masks in the following outdoor areas when others are present, except when actively eating or drinking, where the superintendent has determined that physical distancing (staying at least six feet apart) cannot reasonably be maintained:
Masks must cover the nose and mouth and fit snugly around the nose and chin with no large gaps around the sides of the face. Masks not designed to be protective, masks with ventilation valves, and face shields do not meet the requirement.
Regardless of vaccination status, all individuals must comply with all orders regarding masks issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
CDC prevention measures continue to apply to all travelers on public transit, regardless of vaccination status. Masks remain required on all forms of public transit that operate within parks, including busses, trains, and boats/ferries, and in transportation hubs
II. 36 CFR §1.6 - ACTIVITIES THAT REQUIRE A PERMIT
NOTE: The term "permit" covers a variety of instruments allowing us to manage activities within Rock Creek Park. The following definitions apply within areas
administered by Rock Creek Park:
Permits to reserve athletic fields within Rock Creek Park are obtained from the District of Columbia Parks and Recreation Department by calling 202-673-7646. The District of Columbia charges an administrative processing fee for these reservation permits.
Permits to reserve a picnic area are obtained on-line at www.recreation.gov, or by calling 1-877-822-6777. There are fees associated with picnic area reservations.
Permits for first amendment rights demonstrations, special events, or filming within any park area in the National Capitol Region (NCR) are required by 36 CFR to be processed through the NCR Park Programs Division. To obtain an application, contact 202-245- 4715.
Permits for construction, educational programs (not led by a park ranger) or to use or cross park land are obtained from the Environmental Protection Specialist for Rock Creek Park at 202-895-6000.
Information about permits for rights of way are obtained from the Environmental Protection Specialist for Rock Creek Park at 202-895-6000.
Permits for scientific research and collecting may be obtained online at: www.science.nature.nps.gov/research. For information about these permits, contact the Rock Creek Park Natural Resources Management Office at 202-895-6074.
Special Park Use permits required for construction within park land, to stage equipment, to cross park land with cables or other utilities, or to use park land for access to an adjoining site. Contact the Environmental Protection Specialist at 202-895-6000.
The following is a compilation of those activities for which a Special Park Use permit is required:
§1.5(d) The following activities related to Public Use Limits:
§7.96(k) Sale or distribution of printed matter that is not solely commercial advertising is only allowed as part of a first amendment rights event, and must follow permit conditions.
§2.62(b) Memorialization (scattering ashes from human cremation) is not allowed within Rock Creek Park.
§5.3 Engaging in or soliciting any business is not allowed within Rock Creek Park except under the provisions of a permit, contract, or written agreement with the National Park Service.
Filming Permit Requirements
The following types of filming activities may occur in areas open to the public without a permit and without advance notice to the NPS:
The organizer of any other type of filming activity must provide written notice to the Superintendent at least 10 days prior to the start of the proposed activity. Based upon the information provided, the Superintendent may require the organizer to apply for and obtain a permit if necessary to:
If the Superintendent determines that the terms and conditions of a permit could not mitigate the concerns identified above in an acceptable manner, the Superintendent may deny a filming request without issuing a permit. The Superintendent will provide the basis for denial in writing upon request.
The NPS will consider requests and process permit applications in a timely manner. Processing times will vary depending on the complexity of the proposed activity. If the organizer provides the required 10 day advance notice to the NPS and has not received a
written response from the NPS that a permit is required prior to the first day of production, the proposed filming activities may occur without a permit.
The following are prohibited:
Violating a term or condition of a permit issued under to this action may also result in the suspension and revocation of the permit by the Superintendent.
III. GENERAL REGULATIONS
36 CFR §2.1 - PRESERVATION OF NATURAL, CULTURAL AND ARCHEOLOGICAL RESOURCES
2.1 (b) Hiking and pedestrian uses are restricted to designated foot, horse, and paved recreational trails in the park as shown on the map in the park brochure.
36 CFR §2.2 - WILDLIFE PROTECTION
Hunting is not permitted on any park property. Trapping is not permitted on any park property.
Transporting of lawfully taken wildlife through the park is not permitted.
All park areas are closed to the viewing of wildlife with the use of an artificial light.
36 CFR 2.13 - FIRES
(a)(1) The lighting or maintaining of fires is allowed only in the following designated areas or receptacles, and under the conditions noted:
Designated Areas: Fires are allowed within fire grates in established picnic areas. Receptacles Allowed: Individual grills are allowed in established picnic groves. Charcoal must be doused with water completely and disposed of in a trash receptacle.
Fires are prohibited if the Superintendent declares a high fire danger and public notice given that fires are banned within the park.
36 CFR §2.14 - SANITATION and REFUSE
The use of government refuse receptacles or facilities for dumping household, commercial or industrial refuse is prohibited.
36 CFR §2.15 – PETS
Pets may not be left unattended tied to an object.
Visitors with pets must pick up all pet waste and dispose of it in a trash receptacle.
36 CFR §2.16 - HORSES and PACK ANIMALS
The use of horses or pack animals is permitted only on the following trails, routes or areas: Established horse trails within Rock Creek Park (see park map at www.nps.gov/rocr) Equitation Field
Free-trailing or loose-herding is not permitted on the Rock Creek Park trails or routes. Horse trailers and tow vehicles must be parked legally in designated parking spaces.
Groups larger than 10 horses and riders require permit from the Special Park Use office at 202- 895-6013.
36 CFR §2.19 - WINTER ACTIVITIES
(a) The following park roads and/or parking areas normally open to motor vehicle traffic may be used for skiing, snowshoeing, sledding, tobogganing, and similar winter activities under the conditions noted :
Sections of Beach Drive, Sherrill Drive, Ross Drive, Morrow Drive or Bingham Drive and portions of Glover Road are closed to motor vehicles. (Non-motorized winter activities are allowed in the closed sections.)
The towing of persons on skis, sled or other similar device by motor vehicle or snowmobile is not allowed.
Skiing, snowshoeing, sledding, tobogganing and similar winter activities are allowed throughout the park.
36 CFR §2.20 - SKATING, SKATEBOARDS and SIMILAR DEVICES
The use of roller skates, skateboards, roller skis, coasting vehicles, or similar devices are allowed only in the following areas:
36 CFR §2.21 – SMOKING
All buildings, structures or facilities are closed to smoking. Smokers in outside area must dispose of fully extinguished smoking materials in proper trash containers.
36 CFR §2.22 – PROPERTY
Property is not allowed to be left unattended for periods longer than 24 hours within Rock Creek Park, unless the property is part of an activity under a Special Park Use permit.
36 CFR §2.23 - RECREATION FEES
Recreation fees, in accordance with 36 CFR part 71, are established for the following entrance fee areas, and/or for the use of the following specialized sites, facilities, equipment or services, or for participation in the following group activity, recreation events or specialized recreation uses:
Entrance Fee Areas: Not applicable for Rock Creek Park.
Daily Site Use Fee Areas: Parking at Thompson's Boat House, fee charged through on- site collection system
36 CFR §2.35 -ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGES and CONTROLLED SUBSTANCES
(a)(3)(i) The following public use areas, portions of public use areas, and/or public facilities within the park are closed to consumption of alcoholic beverages, and/or to the possession of a bottle, can or other receptacle containing an alcoholic beverage that is open, or has been opened, or whose seal has been broken or the contents of which have been partially removed:
Alcoholic beverages are prohibited from all park areas administered by Rock Creek Park, except authorized concessions sales at Carter Barron Amphitheater, Rock Creek Park Golf Course clubhouse, and Rock Creek Tennis Stadium.
36 CFR §7.96 and Iskon v.Kennedy, 61F.3d949 (D.C. Cir. 1995)- NONCOMMERCIAL SOLICITING
The solicitation or demand for gifts, money, goods or services requires a permit under
§.96 and Iskon v.Kennedy, 61F.3d949 (D.C. Cir. 1995), and is subject to the terms and conditions specified therein.
NOTE: This section generally prohibits soliciting or demanding gifts, money goods or services except in accordance with a permit. The term "soliciting" includes asking, begging and non-verbal gestures, such as a hand out or palm up. [48 FR 30271, June 30, 1983]
36 CFR §3.6 - BOATING OPERATIONS
Launching boats is prohibited within Rock Creek Park unless water levels are at least 2 feet deep. Boats are not allowed to go over Peirce Mill Dam under any conditions. Canoes, kayaks or other similar human powered boats are allowed. Vessels must be less than 20 feet in length, with no motors allowed, and the vessels must be launched only by hand.
36 CFR §3.21 - SWIMMING AND BATHING
All Rock Creek Park areas are closed to swimming, bathing and wading by people and pets. 36 CFR §4.10 - TRAVEL ON PARK ROADS AND ROUTES
Park roads that open for travel by motor vehicle are indicated in the Rock Creek Park brochure and on line at https://www.nps.gov/rocr/planyourvisit/maps.htm. Off-road vehicle travel is not allowed.
Motorized Personal Mobility Devices. Unless operated by a person with a disability, motorized personal mobility devices may only operate on sidewalks or multi-use (paved) trails. Users of motorized personal mobility devices must also adhere to the following operating standards, most of which are also required under District of Columbia regulations on safe use of electric personal assistive mobility device:
36 CFR §4.21 - SPEED LIMITS
Speed limit is 25 mph on all park roads unless otherwise posted
Last updated: September 27, 2021