Wednesday, July 11, 2018

A Jungle Swamp in Washington, DC

Who would believe that there is an extensive jungle swamp right here in Washington, D.C? The swamp is part of the flood zone of the Anacostia River or estuary. The water rises and falls with the tides. The area is administered by the National Park Service and is called the Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens. It is really a formerly private water garden. Here is a very short history from the website.
Remnants of this original wetland edge two sides of the ponds near the boardwalk. The value of local wetlands was lost to the English, accustomed to English bogs. They cleared the high land of protective forests to build farms in the1600s. Later, the Industrial Revolution increased deforestation for fuel, fences, and homes. Unprotected by forest, soil washed into the Anacostia River and deep channels that once harbored sturgeon, filled with silt. 
Coming here in the 1800s,Walter Shaw found the wetlands were a good place to build his water garden. By building the paths that separate ponds from the tidal marsh, Shaw built a garden that would provide beauty and profit. His daughter, Helen, would become an ambassador for water gardening and the Shaw Gardens. It was Helen who would successfully lobby Congress to save the gardens from dredge operations in the Anacostia River, and accidentally save a section of the original marsh. 
It would be many decades before we rediscovered the social value of wetlands. Today the historic ponds and the natural wetland areas that support them are managed by the National Park Service, in a balance that demonstrates sustainable management known to those first residents. Explore, see what stories the land can tell and, perhaps, see value in the park that is unique to you.

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