Description - Picturesque Fort Washington sits on a cliff overlooking the Potomac River and offers a grand view of Washington and the Virginia shoreline. Today, only one silent gun stands behind the masonry wall-the last armament of the powerful fort that once guarded the water approach to our Nation's Capital. The old fort is one of the few U.S. seacoast fortifications still in its original form.
Copyright: National Park Service
When ocean-going warships had wood sides and carried smoothbore cannons, no enemy would attempt to ascend the river before destroying the fort. But changing technology made the fort useless. Our government built concrete emplacements to meet the threat of iron-sided ships and rifled guns. When they became obsolete the post was turned over to the infantry and finally became a military training facility. Over 200 years of army presence has left the park with a diverse group of military structures and a rich history of service to our country and the Nation's Capital.
- Fort Washington is located across the Potomac from Mount Vernon. The current stronghold was built and completed in 1824. Fort Washington was remodeled during the 1840s to correct deficiencies in the original design. The site was held by Union forces during the Civil War. Shortly afterward, the structure was considered obsolete by military standards. It was used as a military post, Headquarters for the Defenses of the Potomac, housing for the Honor Guard of the Military District of Washington and home of the Officer's Candidate School of the Adjutant General's Corps through 1944. A Veteran's Administration hospital operated on the site from 1944 until 1946. In 1946 the Fort was turned over to the Department of Interior for use as a Park.
Those visitors interested in US Military history will enjoy this site tremendously. The visitor center includes a small exhibit area, telling the history of Fort Washington and an auditorium where a short film about the fort is shown. Tours of the fort are available during weekends. Picnic areas are available and on a reservation system with a few sites available first-come, first-served. A three and a half mile trail circles the park. An 1885 Lighthouse, which remains as a channel marker is located at the point below the fort, but it is not open to the public.
Recreation - The 341 acre park offers an assortment of recreational opportunities including picnicking, shoreline fishing, hiking and biking, and a playground for children. Viewing wading birds and catching a glimpse of bald eagles circling overhead delights the visitor. White-tailed deer are oftentimes spotted at dusk an dawn.
Climate - Maryland has four distinct seasons with spring and fall being particularly pleasant with low humidity and mild temperatures. The average January temperature ranges between 30 and 34 degrees F (-1 to 1 C) with July averages ranging between 74 degrees F and 80 degrees F. Typically, coastal temperatures are slightly warmer then the western Appalachian Plateau area. Travelers should be aware that winters can become miserably cold and summers can be hazy, hot and humid with afternoon thundershowers.
Fort Washington Park is located on the Potomac River south of Washington. It lies across the river from Mt. Vernon.