I’ve chaperoned a lot of field trips with my kids’ classes over the years, and one of my favorites is the annual third grade excursion to Kingman and Heritage Islands as part of the Anacostia Watershed Society’s Rice Rangers program. The visit involves planting arrow arum and wild rice in the muddy banks of the Anacostia River to help restore the wetlands, and there’s also a guided hike around the park to learn more about the ecosystem.
It was the field trip with Sasha’s class this week that prompted me to feature Kingman Island here on the blog. We’ve been to the park many times for various activities. It’s located next to RFK Stadium — you actually have to go through the RFK parking lot to access the entrance — which isn’t too far from our house. Besides field trips, we’ve gone for short hikes and just to get an easy dose of nature close to home. And, of course, we’ve also been for the Kingman Island Bluegrass Festival, which is probably what the park is best known for (and which I highly recommend attending if you enjoy bluegrass music).
The reason I haven’t covered Kingman Island on the blog until now is because I wasn’t sure if it was a great recommendation for a kid outing. The location is somewhat isolated, and there have been some safety concerns (this WaPo article from a few years ago touches on that). But on this recent visit, we saw several people there that weren’t part of our group hiking, biking, walking their dogs, and enjoying the natural oasis. The park is owned by the District, but operated by Living Classrooms, and along with other organizations like the Anacostia Watershed Society, they are working to help the area thrive and make it more accessible to the community.
There are two long wooden bridges in the park — the first crosses over to Heritage Island, the second takes you to Kingman Island. Both offer views of the wetlands, and you can spot turtles in the water below and birds all around. On this visit, we saw a box turtle, lots of tree swallows, mallards, geese, and a hawk. In the past, we’ve also spotted egrets, great blue herons, frogs, and foxes. There are short trails on both islands to hike, check out the vegetation, and try to spy wildlife. Some other things to know: Several tables are available in nice spots for a picnic, and a couple of port-a-potties are located along the trail on Kingman Island.
Occasionally, the Anacostia Watershed Society leads explorations of Kingman Island along with boat tours of the river (the next one is coming up on May 12). And a couple of events in their Anacostia River Discovery Series take place at Kingman, too.
Kingman & Heritage Islands are accessible from RFK Parking Lot 6 near 575 Oklahoma Avenue NE. It’s open sunrise to sunset, and admission is free.