Thursday, June 24, 2010

Oxon Hill Farm

Are you visiting Washington for the first time and want to escape the herds of school kids, scuttling bureaucrats and the heat and dust of the National Mall? Even long time residents have probably missed this little gem of a National Park due to it's odd location in the midst of pretzel like highway interchanges, off ramps and a somewhat difficult to find single access road, but the payoff is worth the effort.

Oxon Hill Farm is part of the land that makes up Oxon Cove Park - a farm and plantation that has witnessed a great deal of history but remained unchanged and unspoiled because of it's usefulness as a farm during the middle part of the 20th Century when the patients of St. Elizabeth's Hospital used it as a way to provide food for the hospital and working therapy for the patients.

The first inhabitants, the Debutts family bought the property and began the Welby Plantation which grew tobacco and other produce for the export market. The Debutts family were witness to the British siege of Washington during the War of 1812 and the modern day visitor is afforded the same view they had during the 18th and early 19th Century. The Farm overlooks the Potomac River not far from the mouth of the Anacostia and sits directly across from Alexandria Va. The view is one of the best panoramas of Washington you can get and it's worth the visit alone.

After St. Elizabeth's discontinued using the farm the property was entrusted to the National Park Service to protect this heritage site which few people visit. This is a site that's enjoyable for all ages as the original barns and outbuildings and manor house remain intact. Children will delight in feeding time for the animals - watch the pigs scramble over each other as they gobble their lunches, see grazing sheep and an array of farm birds among other animals. While those who enjoy quiet in the midst of urban hustle will enjoy hiking and strolling the uncrowded grounds.

The visitor center has a gift shop and many "hands on" activities for kids as well as friendly rangers who have the time to engage with visitors and answer any all questions you might have. The park is very close to the new National Harbor Center (about a mile) and a combined visit would be recommended.

barnyard area scene

Oxon Cove Park, including Oxon Hill Farm, the Hiker/Biker Trail, and the Woodlot Trail are open daily from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., except January 1, Thanksgiving Day, and December 25.

Admissions and activities are free.

From Washington, D.C.:

Take I-295 south toward Maryland. Follow I-295 until it ends at I-495/I-95 and MD-210 Indian Head Highway. Take the exit for MD-210 Indian Head Highway; take the first ramp towards 210-Indian Head Highway north towards Forest Heights. At the second stop light make a right onto MD-414 Oxon Hill Road east. At the next light make a left onto Bald Eagle Road. Follow this road into our parking lot.

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