At a Glance
Hours: Daylight hours, year-round.
Tips: No restrooms. ▪️ Take a friend. ▪️ Use a GPS unit. Though the park is small, the woods are dense and it’s easy to get disoriented.
Best Seasons: Spring, but fall and winter can be productive.
Breeding Bird Atlas Block: Washington West CW
Battery Kemble Park
3131 Chain Bridge Rd NW, Washington, DC 20016
Battery Kemble Park, located in the northwest section of Washington, DC, preserves a remnant of a Civil War-era fortification built to protect the capital city. It is administered by the National Park Service as a component of Rock Creek Park, a series of open spaces spread across the District. Rock Creek Park was authorized by the federal government in 1890, the third national park to be designated.
Battery Kemble is part of the Fort Circle Parks, a ring of parks that preserve the Civil War defenses of Washington, DC. In reality, what many refer to as Battery Kemble Park is actually a cluster of three adjoining parks: Battery Kemble, Palisades, and another section of Fort Circle Parks, and you may see all of these names on various maps. The park is long and narrow, with the long axis oriented slightly northeast to southwest, and is bounded by Chain Bridge Road, Nebraska Avenue NW, 49th Street NW, and MacArthur Boulevard.
Totaling about 70 acres, the Battery Kemble Park cluster provides a migration corridor for land birds and is known as a migrant trap. The park offers a narrow strip of woodland and meadow located on an elevated ridge. The topography is surprisingly hilly and steep in places. There is an abundance of pine trees as well as a stand of bamboo. The park is home to a National Champion Chestnut Oak. Maddox Branch flows through the park and then south into the C&O Canal and the Potomac River.
The parking lot and its small cluster of picnic tables is surrounded by small hills. Climb to the ridge and check each group of trees and bushes for migrants. In the fall, check the open areas near the hills if they have turned to meadow and grass. In fall and winter, also check the open stands of Virginia Pines.
South of the parking lot, there are two trails that lead to MacArthur Boulevard, about half a mile away. One follows the stream, the other the Western ridge. These two main trails connect to a larger network of trails running through the park. It is possible to continue south on the main trail past MacArthur Boulevard to the C&O Canal. See the trail map at the link at left; Battery Kemble is located near the center left edge of the map.
Over 145 species have been reported on eBird from Battery Kemble Park, including 30 species of warblers.
The park is alive with the songs of warblers, thrushes, flycatchers, and vireos on early spring mornings. A forested area along the Maddox Branch is good for migrant thrushes and has breeding Veery.
Meadows in fall attract large flocks of migrant Chipping, Field, and other sparrows. In winter, stands of Virginia pines may hold kinglets, Red-breasted Nuthatches, Pine Siskins, and perhaps crossbills. Red-headed Woodpeckers sometimes visit snags during fall migration.
As the site of a Civil War fortification, the park is rich in history, but lacks interpretative signage. Read up on the history before you go.
Local MOS Chapters
There are no MOS chapters in DC, but Montgomery Bird Club & Patuxent Bird Club are in the neighboring suburbs. Two organizations — Nature Forward (formerly known as the Audubon Naturalist Society) and the Audubon Society of DC — hold field trips to birding spots in the District and the Greater Metropolitan DC region.
There is a small paved lot that holds only a few cars just inside the entrance off of Chain Bridge Road, and a larger lot at the end of the entrance drive.
By car: From the north side of the DC Beltway/I-495, take Exit 33 to go south on MD Route 185/Connecticut Avenue. Go south for 2.7 miles to a traffic circle, and take the third exit to go southwest on Western Avenue. Go 1.8 miles and at the traffic circle, take the third exit to travel southwest on Dalecarlia Parkway NW. Stay on Dalecarlia for 1.0 mile, then turn left to go east on Loughboro Road NW. In 0.8 miles, turn right to go south on Chain Bridge Road. The entrance to the park will be on the left (east side of Chain Bridge Road) in 0.4 miles; there is a park sign at the entrance. Turn onto the entrance road and park either in the small lot near the entrance, or continue to the main, larger lot at the end of the entrance drive, near some picnic tables.
By Metro & Bus: Take the Metro Red Line to the Tenleytown AU Station. Then walk to the bus stop at 40th Street NW & Albemarle Street NW, about a block and half away: on exiting the Tenleytown AU Station, walk east on Albemarle Street NW and then make a left to go north on 40th Street NW to the bus stop on the left. Pick up the M4 bus toward Sibley Hospital. Get off at the bus stop at Loughboro Road and Indian Lane. It is a half-mile walk to enter the park. From the bus stop, walk east on Loughboro Road just about 50 feet, then cross the street and turn right to walk south on Chain Bridge Road. The park entrance will be ahead on the left in about a half-mile.
Washington, DC: C&O Canal – Fletcher’s Cove and Boathouse, Constitution Gardens, Dumbarton Oaks Park, East Potomac Park (Hains Point) and the Tidal Basin, Georgetown Reservoir & Palisades Trolley Trail, Glover-Archbold Park, National Zoo, Rock Creek Park, Theodore Roosevelt Island
Montgomery County: C&O Canal – Pennyfield, Violette’s & Riley’s Locks, McKee-Beshers Wildlife Management Area (Hughes Hollow), Rock Creek Regional Park – Lake Needwood, Rock Creek Regional Park – Meadowside Nature Center & Lake Frank, Seneca Creek State Park
Features:BeginnersFree - No Entry Fee at Any TimeHiking/Walking TrailsHistorical FeaturesParkingPets AllowedYoung People / Families
Type:Community and Urban ParksHistorical SitesNational Parks & Monuments