A Little-Known Regional Treasure


Member Rating 4 out of 5 by BawBaw on April 1, 2012

On a small island in the Potomac River, one of the United States' most colorful and energetic presidents is remembered for his pioneering contributions toward conservation of the natural environment. For the most part, it is a nostalgic spot that is not frequently visited—certainly by DC standards.

Theodore Roosevelt Island is such a well-kept secret precisely because of its location. Nestled between the District and Virginia shores of the Potomac and lying quite literally in the shadow of the Theodore Roosevelt Bridge, the island can be reached in only two ways: via a footbridge just off the George Washington Parkway in Virginia or from the river itself. Given the traffic on the GW, the attraction is quite literally hidden in plain sight.

Once on the 91-acre island, visitors may choose a short, direct walk of a few dozen yards to the impressive plaza that is the TR memorial or they may elect to hike a network of nature trails through swamp, marsh, and mature woodland. By either route, you will rarely find more than a handful of other visitors, even at the height of the tourist season--unless you happen upon a scout troop or a class group making a pilgrimage. Indeed, beyond the memorial itself, the living creatures most likely to be encountered will probably have wings or will scamper about on four feet. The abundance of small wildlife is one of the island’s principal characteristics. "Teddy" would no doubt approve.

The memorial proper consists of a circular terrace featuring a larger-than-life bronze statue of the president placed in front of 30-foot tablet of granite. At the outer edge of the terrace, water captured in a massive granite moat seems to represent the importance of water to any conservation program. Four somewhat smaller granite tablets distributed evenly around the terrace are engraved with quotations reflecting Roosevelt's views in four key areas.

On the subject of NATURE, Roosevelt urged responsibility: ‘The Nation behaves well if it treats the natural resources as assets which it must turn over to the next generation increased and not impaired in value.’ Roosevelt was blunt in his criticism of those who would abuse the environment: I hate a man who would skin the land.

The president's views on MANHOOD indicated a belief in practical idealism: ‘A man's usefulness depends upon his living up to his ideals in so far as he can.’

Hence, he advised YOUTH to ‘Be practical as well as generous in your ideals, keep your eyes on the start, but remember to keep your feet on the ground.’

With regard to THE STATE, he warned that ‘A great democracy has got to be progressive or it will soon cease to be great or a democracy.’

Himself and Yours Truly have visited the island only a few times, and those visits are stretched over a period of nearly four decades. That means that each visit has been imprinted with special memories for us. We first explored the island not long after moving to the area, making our way with two small children in tow. Later, we occasionally visited with various older family members who have since passed on. Most recently, we shared the island with our grandchildren. Taken collectively, these memories replay a kaleidoscope featuring highlights from a substantial portion of our lives.

All that aside, it seems appropriate that a memorial to Theodore Roosevelt should be off the beaten path. One cannot but believe that the manner and message of this memorial--not to mention its location--would please him immensely.

© BawBaw/DAnneC/LovesTravel
Theodore Roosevelt Island
Potomac River
Washington, DC

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