At a Glance
Hours: Daylight hours daily, year-round.
Tips: Bring a scope. ◾ Try to visit in early morning to avoid crowds. Avoid the area during the spring cherry blossom bloom season (date varies, late March or early April) when there are tens of thousands of visitors at the Tidal Basin. ◾ In winter, the area is best after about a week of sub-freezing temperatures when the Washington Channel and Potomac River are partially frozen. This may result in a fish kill that attracts large number of gulls. ◾ There are public restrooms in several locations in East Potomac Park and near the Tidal Basin.
Best Seasons: Fall, winter, and spring. During migration periods, shorebirds will be attracted to the golf course after rains that result in water pools and muddy conditions.
Breeding Bird Atlas Blocks: Washington West SE, Alexandria NE
East Potomac Park (Hains Point), West Potomac Park, & the Tidal Basin
1100 Ohio Drive SW, Washington DC, 20024
With its excellent location, East Potomac Park is the top eBird hotspot in Washington, DC, with over 250 species reported and more additions to the list coming in all the time. The park is located on an artificial 329-acre island in southwest Washington DC, and is reached by a bridge across the mouth of the Tidal Basin, connecting it to West Potomac Park. The Jefferson Memorial is located on the north end of the island. The island constitutes a grassy wedge at the confluence of the Potomac River, the Washington Channel, and the Anacostia River. The south-most area of the park is known as Hains Point. The park contains a golf course, pool, and tennis courts in addition to birding opportunities.
For birders, the top attraction is the view available over the waters of the Washington Channel and Potomac River. There is a circular drive around the park (Ohio Drive SW), with intermittent picnic areas and free parking all along its length. At the far south end is Hains Point. The birding approach is to drive slowly along Ohio Drive SW, find a convenient parking spot, and scope the waters and gold course, then move on to another spot.
The adjoining Tidal Basin is the circular pond of water covering about 100 acres at the north end of the East Potomac Park island, by the Jefferson and FDR Memorials. The Tidal Basin, part of West Potomac Park, attracts waterfowl and other water-oriented birds and should be checked when visiting Hains Point. The grassy areas between the monuments (about 125 acres) can attract many of the same species as at Hains Point.
Be aware that access to Hains Point is sometimes closed following heavy rains or during special events.
About 255 species have been reported on eBird from East Potomac Park, making it the #1 eBird hotspot in Washington, DC. There are separate eBird hotspots for East Potomac Park and for the Tidal Basin:
Gulls, present all year round, congregate at the Tidal Basin, the Golf Course, and on the Potomac. Ring-billed and Laughing Gulls arrive in August, with Herring and Great Black-backed Gulls in the fall. January through March is the best time for gull rarities, with Iceland, Glaucous and the demoted Thayer’s being possible (Thayer’s Gull is now considered a subspecies of Iceland Gull). Lesser Black-backed Gulls are frequently present from late September to early April. Franklin’s Gulls (rare) may be present summer and early fall and Bonaparte’s during April migration. In winter, the area is best after about a week of sub-freezing temperatures, when the Washington Channel and Potomac River are partially frozen. This may result in a fish kill that attracts large number of gulls.
Caspian and Forster’s Terns may be found during summer and fall migration. In the Channel and on the water beyond, look for Common Loon and Horned Grebe in March and November. Rarities include Red-throated Loon, Red-necked Grebe, Eared Grebe, Brant, Long-tailed Duck, and all three scoters.
In the trees along the river and in the sky in winter, search for accipiters, Bald Eagle, and Merlin. On the golf course, look for Black-bellied Plover, Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, peeps, Pectoral Sandpiper, Common Snipe, and occasional American Golden Plover, Upland Sandpiper, or Ruddy Turnstone. Cattle Egrets are regular in spring; Glossy Ibis is occasionally reported. During the winter months, the grassy areas have attracted occasional Short-eared Owl, Lapland Longspur, Horned Lark and American Pipit.
There are approximately 300 free parking spaces along Ohio Drive SW.
Because East Potomac Park can be birded from or near the car, it is great for those who are mobility-impaired. ◾ East Potomac Park includes facilities for tennis, golf, and swimming, and fishing is allowed. Paddle boats can be rented at the Tidal Basin, in the warm months. ◾ The nearby National Mall is the heart of the DC visitor area and there are innumerable gardens, museums, monuments, and other attractions. To start to explore the possibilities, see https://www.nps.gov/nama/index.htm. ◾ An iconic event is the annual bloom of the cherry blossoms on the trees around the Tidal Basin. The trees were a gift from the citizens of Japan. There are also over 250 cherry trees planted in East Potomac Park. The National Park Service hosts an annual Cherry Blossom Festival in early spring; check the website for predicted peak bloom times and other information. ◾ There are no MOS chapters in DC, but Montgomery Bird Club & Patuxent Bird Club are in the neighboring suburbs. Two organizations, 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.
- The DC Circulator’s National Mall Route provides the best public transportation option for reaching East Potomac Park. The closest Circulator stop is at East Basin Drive SW, south of the Jefferson Memorial, which is within easy walking distance of the park.
- Metrobus does not serve the park.
- The nearest Metro stop is the Smithsonian Station (Orange, Silver or Blue lines) at Independence Avenue SW and 12th Street SW, about six blocks away. To reach the park from the Smithsonian Station, walk west on Independence Avenue to Raoul Wallenberg Place. Turn left and cross to the Tidal Basin. After you circle the Tidal Basin clockwise, you will cross a small bridge. Turn left at the East Potomac Park sign, walk under the overpass and on down to Hains Point.
By Car: From US Route 50/New York Avenue NW in northwest DC, take I-395 south for 1.4 miles. At the junction where I-395 meets I-695, keep right to stay on I-395 southbound (although you will actually be heading west after this point). In another 1.2 miles, take exit 2 to go south as signed toward Potomac Park/U.S. Park Police. At the end of the ramp, turn right to go south on Ohio Drive SW, within the park. You will be circling the park in a clockwise direction with the water on your left and the golf course on your right. Hains Point is straight ahead.
Washington, DC: Anacostia Park, Battery Kemble Park, C&O Canal – Fletcher’s Cove and Boathouse, Constitution Gardens, Dumbarton Oaks Park, Georgetown Reservoir & Palisades Trolley Trail, Glover-Archbold Park, Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens, National Arboretum, 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
Prince George’s County: Bladensburg Waterfront Park, Colmar Manor Community Park & Anacostia River Trail, Fort Foote Park, Fort Washington (National) Park, Oxon Cove Park & Oxon Hill Farm, Piscataway (National) Park: National Colonial Farm, Boardwalk, Wharf Road/Farmington Landing & Marshall Hall, Schoolhouse Pond
Features:Ball Fields or Other SportsBeginnersBirding By CarFishingFree - No Entry Fee at Any TimeParkingPets AllowedRestroomsWater ViewWheelchair Accessible FeaturesYoung People / Families
Type:#1 Hotspot in County or CityCommunity and Urban ParksDriving Tour (Roadside Birding)Hiker-Biker Trails (Paved)National Parks & MonumentsThe Rivers of the Western ShoreWater Trails