At a Glance
Hours: Park grounds are open 8 am – sunset, daily. The Visitor Center and Historic Fort are open daily 9 am – 4:30 pm. Closed January 1, Thanksgiving, and December 25.
Cost: Free. As of fall 2019, Fort Washington no longer has an entrance fee, although the park map still indicates that fees are collected at the entrance gate. There is still a reservation fee for the reserved picnic areas.
Tips: Bring a scope for waterfowl viewing. ◾ Restrooms are located throughout the fort; see park map at link below.
Best Seasons: Winter, spring and fall. Winter views are best.
Breeding Bird Atlas Blocks: Mount Vernon NE, Mount Vernon NE
Fort Washington (National) Park
13551 Fort Washington Road, Fort Washington, MD 20744
Fort Washington Park is located on the Potomac River in Prince George’s County, just south of Washington, DC. With a strategic location on a peninsula between Swan Creek to the north and Piscataway Creek to the south, the original fort at this site was built in 1809 to defend the river approach to Washington, DC. The fort saw heavy battle during the War of 1812 and was in fact destroyed by the British Navy. The fort was reconstructed and was again operational by 1824. During World War I, the fort’s guns were shipped to more vulnerable areas, and during World War II, the fort was called into service as a military training facility. It was turned over to the Department of the Interior in 1946 and is now managed as a park by the National Park Service.
For the birder, the 341-acre park offers outstanding views of the Potomac River. There is a three-mile trail that follows the perimeter of the park boundary, skirting the Potomac and also offering views of Swan Creek to the north and Piscataway Creek to the south. Both of these creeks offer prime wintering grounds for waterfowl. The open areas of the fort host Eastern Bluebirds and swallows, and the fields are a good spot from which to watch the skies during spring and fall raptor migration. The park is about two-thirds wooded and has good habitat for warblers, flycatchers, vireos, thrushes, and small woodland birds.
Activities at the park include picnicking and fishing and there is a park store and small museum. Historical re-enactments are held periodically at the fort but most of the time, it is a quiet place.
Over 180 species have been reported on eBird from Fort Washington. Waterfowl in winter can be well viewed on the Potomac from the parking lot for the lighthouse. Take the foot trail to the north end of the park to view Swan Creek, or the foot trail to the south end of the park to view Piscataway Creek. Loons, grebes, and diving ducks are usually present in the winter and early spring. This park can be a migrant trap in spring and fall, for songbirds migrating along the Potomac, so be sure to check the wooded areas and the fringes around the picnic groves for migrants. Black Terns are somewhat expected in August, and Bonaparte’s Gulls come through in both fall and spring.
Rarities occasionally turn up at Fort Washington, including a Tufted Duck in February 2000 and Little Gull in April 2015. This can be a good spot to watch for storm-blown seabirds such as jaegers and storm-petrels.
Several paved lots, including a large one at the Visitor Center and smaller lots in the picnic area. See park map at the link at left.
Fort Washington Park is a part of the Chesapeake Bay Gateways Network of the National Park Service. ◾ The local chapter of the Maryland Ornithological Society is the Patuxent Bird Club, which offers field trips and meetings with informative programs, all free and open to the public.
From I-95/I-495 (Capital Beltway): Take Exit 3 for MD Route 210/Indian Head Highway Southbound. Travel south about 4 miles to Fort Washington Road and turn right (west). The park is located at the end of the road.
From Waldorf, MD and other points south: Take MD Route 228 to MD Route 210/Indian Head Highway Northbound. Then turn left onto Old Fort Road. Continue to end of road, at the stop sign turn left onto Fort Washington Road, continue to park entrance.
Prince George’s County: Beltsville Agricultural Research Center (restricted access) ◾ Bladensburg Waterfront Park, Colmar Manor Community Park & Anacostia River Trail ◾ Fort Foote Park ◾ Fran Uhler Natural Area ◾ Governor Bridge Natural Area ◾ Greenbelt (National) Park ◾ Greenbelt Lake Municipal Park (Buddy Attick Lake Park) ◾ Lake Artemesia Natural Area ◾ Merkle Natural Resources Management Area ◾ Milltown Landing Natural Resources Management Area ◾ Oxon Cove Park & Oxon Hill Farm ◾ Patuxent Research Refuge – South Tract (National Wildlife Visitor Center) ◾ Patuxent River Park – Jug Bay Natural Area ◾Patuxent River Park – Mount Calvert Historical & Archaeological Park ◾ Piscataway MOS Sanctuary ◾ Piscataway (National) Park: National Colonial Farm, Boardwalk, Wharf Road/Farmington Landing & Marshall Hall ◾ Rocky Gorge Reservoir – Supplee Lane Recreation Area & Duckett Dam ◾ Rosaryville State Park ◾ Schoolhouse Pond
Bottomland DeciduousHedgerowsUpland Deciduous Garden or ArboretumLawn, Ballfields, Golf Course Freshwater Marsh or FloodplainJetties & SeawallsMud Flats (Tidal or Non-Tidal)Open Ocean, Bay, or EstuaryRivers & Streams
Features:BeginnersBicycle Trails (Bikes may be prohibited on some trails)FishingFree - No Entry Fee at Any TimeHiking/Walking TrailsHistorical FeaturesParkingPets AllowedPicnic AreaRestroomsWater ViewWheelchair Accessible FeaturesYoung People / Families
Type:Chesapeake Bay Gateways NetworkHistorical SitesNational Parks & MonumentsThe Rivers of the Western ShoreWater Trails