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Posted by Gregory Maassen on February 23, 2021 - Latest revision March 2, 2021  Reading time: minutes remaining

Trail 7 – DC: E-biking from Hains Point to Kenilworth Park & Aquatic Gardens and the National Arboretum

E-bikers in front of the Visitors Center of the Kenilsworth Aquatic Gardens

E-bike along the Anacostia River 

Explore the Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens and the National Arboretum with magnificent views of the Anacostia River from one of DC's best biking trails, the Anacostia River Trail.

The trail (DC Trail 7A) has seven viewpoints. Use Google Maps or other app to navigate to each viewpoint. Click on Send to Device in the left top corner of the map (see below) to upload the trail to a smartphone.

A shorter version of the trail (24 miles) is available. Click here to download the GPS file and here for the PDF description of the shorter version (DC Trail 7B) of this trail.

Viewpoint 1: Hains Point

Hains Point, Washington, DC 20242

The trail starts at Hains Point in East Potomac Park, part of the National Mall and Memorial Parks Unit of the National Park Service. Hains Point is on the southern tip of East Potomac Park, a human-made island named in memory of Peter Conover Hains.

The island is home to the public East Potomac Golf Club, the East Potomac Swimming Pool, a 4.1-mile asphalt loop popular with bikers (the "Speedway"), and several cherry tree species.

Bikers in Hains Point 1935 sitting on grass with old mobiles parked on the speedway

Hains, a Civil War veteran, was a Major General in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers who designed the ingenious Tidal Basin and turned the Potomac Flats' swamps into a park.

As the Potomac River accumulated silt, it became too shallow for large boats. The river's smelly and swampy characteristics caused by sandbanks and stagnant water, attracted swarms of malaria-carrying mosquitoes.

Hains Point under construction

To construct the Tidal Basin and deepen the Potomac River's shipping channel, the silt was dredged from the river and used to build East Potomac Park. A seawall lined with trees was filled with mud to protect the new island from erosion.

Ghosts

of D.C.


-2012-

Washington was a nasty, swampy area which was horribly noxious in the hot, summer months. In August 1882, Congress allocated $400,000 to begin the reclamation of swampy flatland lining the Potomac in the hopes of improving city sanitation and getting rid of the nasty smell.

East Potomac Park frequently floods and has been sinking for decades. In 1987, the National Park Service removed a lovely teahouse from Hains Point, that was run initially by the Girl Scouts, as floods had seriously damaged it. Water levels continue to rise in D.C., and several studies are being conducted to protect Hains Point, East Potomac Park, and Washington DC from global warming.

The flooded teahouse with the awakening Haines Point

The flooded teahouse with The Awakening at Hains Point in 1985 (can you see the arm and the head of the giant below the tea house?) The Awakening was installed at Hains Point in 1980 and moved to the National Harbor, Maryland, in 2008 after real estate developer Milton Peterson purchased the sculpture for $750,000. The sculpture is a 72-foot statue of a giant embedded in the earth (or in the water in this image), struggling to free himself. The Awakening was created by J. Seward Johnson, Jr. A copy of The Awakening is on display in Chesterfield, Missouri. Call Number: HABS DC, WASH, 430 - 23 Repository: Library of Congress.


Viewpoint 2: Municipal Fish Market at The Wharf

1100 Maine Ave. SW, Washington, DC 20024

The trail follows the 4.1-mile asphalt loop on the island from the parking lot at Hains Point. Navigate to the colorful Municipal Fish Market at The Wharf. It is the nation's oldest continuously operating open-air fish market since 1805.

The Wharf fish market

Fresh seafood is laid out for customers on one of several floating barge vendors, as it appeared in March 2006. Credit: Bien Stephenson, Maine Avenue Fish Market.

Viewpoint 3: Titanic Memorial

Titanic Memorial, Washington, DC 20005

From the fish market, the trail leads to the thirteen-foot-tall Titanic Memorial, a statue from a single piece of red granite honoring the men who gave their lives to save women and children during the RMS Titanic disaster on April 15, 1912. The statue was designed by Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, the founder of the Whitney Museum of American Art in NYC.

Although 2,208 crew and passengers were on board (the Titanic had a maximum capacity of 3,547 passengers and crew), many of the 20 lifeboats were half-filled. Allegedly, the crew followed orders to evacuate women and children first, and over 1,500 passengers, mainly men, perished.

The Titanic Memorial in Washington DC
Bikers at the Titanic Memorial with a view of the Potomac River

The Titanic Memorial was initially located at the foot of New Hampshire Avenue but was moved to make room for the Kennedy Center in 1966.

Did You Know?
The Titanic sinking is the deadliest sinking of an ocean liner in peacetime, but not in history

The German MV Wilhelm Gustloff was torpedoed by a Russian submarine on January 30, 1945, in the Baltic Sea. An estimated 9,000 passengers were killed, making it the greatest maritime disaster in history.

Viewpoint 4: Navy Yard

Navy Yard, Washington, DC

From the Titanic Memorial, bike to the Navy Yard. You can walk your bike on the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail in front of the Navy Yard or use streets to the 11th Street Bridge to cross the Anacostia River.

The Navy Yard is home to some 16,000 employees in 2.2 million square feet of office space. The complex was built in 1799, making it one of the oldest operating Naval facilities in the U.S.

Developments are underway to construct an elevated bridge park on the old 11th Street Bridge's pillars to connect the Navy Yard with Historic Anacostia. The project is managed by the nonprofit Building Bridges Across the River (BBAR), and construction is expected to be completed in 2023.

Viewpoint 5: Anacostia River Trail

Anacostia Fields, 2000 Nicholson St. SE, Washington, DC 20020

After crossing the 11th Street Bridge, follow the Anacostia River Trail to the Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens.

Viewpoint 6: Kenilworth Park & Aquatic Gardens

Kenilworth Park, 1500 Deane Ave NE, Washington, DC 20019

In the 1880s, Walter Shaw bought the wetlands now known as the Kenilworth Park & Aquatic Gardens to turn what was considered unusable farmland into an aquatic garden.

What started as a hobby was expanded by Shaw and his daughter, Helen Fowler, into a profitable internationally-recognized water gardening business. 

A picture of of a blooming lily. Come in the morning as flowers close in mid-day in Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens

www.nps.gov/keaq/

Deep within Kenilworth lies an oasis, hidden behind trees and cattails. It's a place where beavers build their homes and turtles sleep on logs. Lotus's rise from the muck and lilies sit on the water. The wind dances with the dragonflies, rustling through the trees, carrying the song of the birds until it brushes across your face, fading to a whisper, saying "come join."

To save the water gardens from being filled by dredging activities in the Anacostia River, Ms. Fowler sold the 8 acres of ponds (about the area of the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool) in 1938 for $15,000 to ensure its protection as part of Anacostia Park. 

Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens are famous for the Victoria Water Lily - E-bike Lovers

Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens are famous for the Victoria Water Lily.

Planning is underway to connect the aquatic gardens with the National Arboretum as part of the Anacostia River Trail (ART) Network, by constructing a pedestrian and biking bridge across the river.

The bridge is expected to be completed in 2023 and will connect the U.S. National Arboretum with the Kenilworth Park North, Mayfair, Kenilworth-Parkside, and River Terrace neighborhoods. 

An artistic rendering of the proposed Arboretum Bridge.

An artistic rendering of the proposed Arboretum Bridge.

Once completed, the National Arboretum can be visited by bike from the Anacostia River Trail. We will update the trail description and GPS files once the bridge is open to the public.

Viewpoint 7: National Arboretum (via Langston Playground)

Washington, DC 20002

From the Gardens, head back to the Anacostia River Trail and cross the Benning Bridge to the National Arboretum via Langston Playground to avoid busy streets with motorized traffic.

The Arboretum is part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service and was established in 1927 by Congress. The Arboretum is an ideal place to e-bike with its 9.5 miles of wide-open asphalt roads in pleasant hilly terrain with hardly any motorized traffic.

Although perhaps a lesser-known attraction in D.C., the Arboretum attracts over 600,000 annual visitors.

The National Arboretum is not to be confused with the National Botanical Gardens at Independence Avenue, Washington Avenue, or First Street S.W.
A screenshot of the ARBORETUM BOTANICAL EXPLORER ABE

The National Arboretum has developed an online platform with plant records, GIS maps, and images. Called the Arboretum Botanical Explorer (ABE), the application is a "powerful yet fun and easy-to-use search and mapping tool for researchers, die-hard plant lovers, and novice gardeners alike." It is also available as an app and can be used to plot your e-biking route in the Arboretum.

To maximize your visit to the National Arboretum, we have developed a route that showcases the park's diversity, ranging from the National Bonsai and Penjing Museum to the Asian Collections, the National Capitol Columns and Hickey Hill overseeing the Anacostia River.

U.S. National Bonsai & Penjing Museum

The National Bonsai & Penjing Museum is located on the grounds of the Arboretum near the main entrance. It was established to "promote the art of bonsai, penjing and related art forms to visitors through masterpiece displays and educational programs while fostering intercultural friendship and understanding." Penjing is the Chinese equivalent of the Japanese bonsai art form. 

The museum's collection, including an Asian forest, remarkable natural viewing stones, and hundreds of miniature trees, began in 1976 with a gift of 53 bonsai trees from Japan to commemorate the United States Bicentennial. 

Bonsai Japanese White Pine

One of the stunning bonsai trees on display is the almost 400-year old Yamaki Japanese White Pine (1625). The tree survived the Hiroshima bomb in 1945. It was donated by the Japanese people as an offering of peace and reconciliation in 1976 during the Bicentennial. Courtesy of Ragesoss via Wikimedia.

Hickey Hill

From the museum, find your way to Hickey Hill for views of the Anacostia River and the Aquatic Gardens across the river. The hill is approximately 151 feet above sea level.

Asian Collections Parking, Washington

From Hickey Hill, bike to the parking lot of the Asian Collections for more views of the river valley and a unique collection of wild-collected plants.

National Capitol Columns

From the Asian Collections, bike to the National Capitol Columns. You may think that you have landed somewhere in a historical site in Greece, but the sandstone Corinthian columns were constructed for the east portico of the Capitol in 1828. They served as the backdrop for President Lincoln's second inaugural address.

The National Capitol Columns in the National Arboretum were dedicated in 1990 and have twenty-two columns on display. Image courtesy of Wikimedia.

President Lincoln delivering his inaugural address

President Lincoln delivering his inaugural address on the east portico (entrance) of the U.S. Capitol, March 4, 1865, with the columns in the background. Contributor Names. Gardner, Alexander, 1821-1882, photographer, Library of Congress Control Number 00650938.

A design oversight made the dome of the Capitol look unevenly supported, and the columns were removed in 1958.

National Grove of State Trees Parking

From the columns, continue the biking tour to the National Grove of State Trees parking lot. The 30-acre National Grove of State Trees represents the 50 states and the District of Columbia's official tree species.

Azalea Collections Parking 

Continue to the Azalea Collections' parking lot. Thousands of azaleas are planted on the flanks of Mount Hamilton and the collection is best viewed when the first warm days of spring arrive.

Mount Hamilton is one of the highest points in the District of Columbia. At an elevation of 240 feet above sea level, it affords nice views of the U.S. Capitol. You cannot bike on the footpath to the top of Mount Hamilton. 

The Arboretum's Azalea Collection is home to two columns that were part of the twenty-four original columns that were removed from the Capitol.

From the Azalea Collections, bike to the main entrance of the National Arboretum to return to Langston Playground, Washington, DC 20002. From the playground, bike to Anacostia Park Section F, Washington, DC 20003 to avoid busy streets. Return to Hains Point via the Titanic Memorial.

Trail Characteristics

A summary of trail characteristics

0%
Gravel Paths
70%
Flat Terrain
100%
Asphalt Roads
30%
Hills
Comfort Station Score 100%

Comfort stations are available at Hains Point in the beginning and the Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens and the National Arboretum halfway along the trail.

Which E-bikes Are Allowed on this Route?*

trail

CLASS I E-BIKE

CLASS II E-BIKE

CLASS III E-BIKE

Anacostia River Trail

Other Roads - Asphalt

River Trail in the Aquatic Gardens (walking path)

Anacostia Riverwalk Trail at Navy Yard (walking path)

What Members Say About this Trail

Below is a summary of the pros and sometimes cons of this trail

Pros of the Trail

  • Outstanding biking infrastructure along the Anacostia River
  • Car parking at Hains Point
  • Great views of the Anacostia River 
  • Picnic tables and restrooms are available along the Anacostia River Trail across Washington DC
  • Open wide asphalt roads in the National Arboretum

Cons of the Trail

  • The bridge connecting the aquatic parks and the arboretum (Arboretum Bridge) is not constructed yet

Conclusion

E-Biking from Hains Point to the National Arboretum is a wonderful nature adventure with the outstanding biking trail along the Anacostia River, magnificent aquatic gardens of the Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens and the plants, flowers and trees of the National Arboretum. 

Acknowledgments

We are grateful to Allan Starr for his suggestion to bike in this area. 

*Please see the disclaimer before e-biking and using our trails and GPS files. Trail requirements were compiled on 16 Sep 2021, They may be incorrect and may have changed.

References

Nps.gov. (2016). Hains Point Loop Trail - Cherry Blossom Festival (U.S. National Park Service). [online] Available at: https://www.nps.gov/subjects/cherryblossom/hains-point-loop-trail.htm [Accessed 3 Feb. 2021].

‌Nps.gov. (2020). East Potomac Park: Hains Point (U.S. National Park Service). [online] Available at: https://www.nps.gov/places/000/east-potomac-park-hains-point.htm [Accessed 3 Feb. 2021].

Washington.org. (2020). The Best Places to Photograph Cherry Blossoms in Washington, DC. [online] Available at: https://washington.org/DC-focus-on/top-spots-photographing-cherry-blossoms [Accessed 7 Feb. 2021].

Nps.gov. (2011). History of the Cherry Trees - Cherry Blossom Festival (U.S. National Park Service). [online] Available at: https://www.nps.gov/subjects/cherryblossom/history-of-the-cherry-trees.htm [Accessed 7 Feb. 2021].

Wikipedia Contributors (2021). Lifeboats of the Titanic. [online] Wikipedia. Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lifeboats_of_the_Titanic [Accessed 8 Feb. 2021].

Wilson, J. (2015). Tea, Golf And Somewhere To Cool Off: The History Of Hains Point | WAMU. [online] WAMU. Available at: https://wamu.org/story/15/07/31/tea_golf_and_somewhere_to_cool_off_the_history_of_hains_point/ [Accessed 8 Feb. 2021].

‌Ghosts of D.C. (2012). Hains Point: How Did It Get Its Name? - Ghosts of D.C. [online] Available at: https://ghostsofdc.org/2012/06/26/why-is-it-named-hains-point/ [Accessed 8 Feb. 2021].

The Commission on Climate Change and Resiliency First Report to the District of Columbia. (2019). [online] . Available at: https://dccccr.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/20191015-DCCCCR-First-Report-to-the-District-of-Columbia.pdf [Accessed 8 Feb. 2021].

Washington Post. (1977). How a Park Evolved. [online] Available at: https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/sports/1977/06/09/how-a-park-evolved/6783b0a1-07d4-4c73-9185-38da8ecd1206/ [Accessed 13 Feb. 2021].

Wharfdc.com. (2021). Municipal Fish Market at The Wharf. [online] Available at: https://www.wharfdc.com/fish-market/ [Accessed February 14, 2021].

Philibert-Ortega, G. (2016). Women's Titanic Memorial Fund. [online] GenealogyBank Blog. Available at: https://blog.genealogybank.com/womens-titanic-memorial-fund.html [Accessed 14 Feb. 2021].

Wilhelm Gustloff | History, Casualties, & Facts | Britannica. (2021). In: Encyclopædia Britannica. [online] Available at: https://www.britannica.com/topic/MV-Wilhelm-Gustloff [Accessed 14 Feb. 2021].

Streets of Washington (2013). The vanished teahouse at Hains Point. [online] Streetsofwashington.com. Available at: http://www.streetsofwashington.com/2013/08/the-vanished-teahouse-at-hains-point.html [Accessed 14 Feb. 2021].

DDOT AWI. (2013). Arboretum Bridge and Trail. [online] Available at: https://www.anacostiawaterfront.org/arboretumtrail [Accessed 15 Feb. 2021].

Usda.gov. (2020). U.S. National Arboretum. [online] Available at: https://www.usna.usda.gov/discover/plant-finder/ [Accessed 21 Feb. 2021].

Rubinfeld, K. (2020). National Bonsai Foundation. [online] National Bonsai Foundation. Available at: https://www.bonsai-nbf.org/blog-archive/2020/4/2/repotting-the-world-famous-yamaki-pine [Accessed 23 Feb. 2021].

Nps.gov. (2016). People - Kenilworth Park & Aquatic Gardens (U.S. National Park Service). [online] Available at: https://www.nps.gov/keaq/learn/historyculture/people.htm [Accessed 23 Feb. 2021].

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