Lotuses & Water Lilies: A Trail Guide

Ever seen a leaf four feet wide? You can at Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens just off the Anacostia River Trail! It is probably THE bike ride (or walk!) for July in DC and the Trail Ranger team is here to help you out.

Where are these lotuses?

Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens is home to a lot of lotuses though some can also be found at other sites around the region. The aquatic gardens is the only National Park Service site dedicated to aquatic plants and home to many unusual varietals.

Map address is:
1550 Anacostia Ave SE
Washington, DC 20019

Google Maps screenshot of Kenilworth Park & Aquatic Gardens (at red pin). Image Courtesy of Google Maps.

How do I get there?

Heading north on the Anacostia River Trail:

Go along the trail until 40th St and Anacostia Ave NE. It looks like this (but with leaves and the grass is greener now!):

Ride on Anacostia Ave for 0.6 miles until you arrive at the parking lot for the park. Once in the gates, walk into the park past the parking lot. The path will take you to the first pond, 50 feet from the biking parking. Take a right to find the parking!

If you want a longer ride, keep going on the trail for 1.5 miles instead of turning right onto Anacostia Ave and connect with the park via the north trail entrance described below.

Heading south on the Anacostia River Trail:

Go along the trail past Bladensburg Waterfront Park. Ride until the trail dips under the Amtrak tracks and multi-lane bridge of New York Ave. Just after the trail will arrive on land again and you’ll see:

Trail and a gravel entrance. the chalk on the trail reads Lotus Festival with a left arrow to the gravel path. The trail is very green and shaded
Entrance to Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens (photo from 2019)

Signal, stop and walk your bike (this helps protect the turtles and water chemistry of the surrounding wetlands) on the gravel path for a few hundred feet. You’ll come upon the bike parking (photograph of it above) just as you arrive at the main portion of the park.

From Marvin Gaye Trail:

You can ride to the park by going west on Nannie Helen Burroughs Ave NE from the end of Marvin Gaye Trail at Nannie Helen Burroughs Ave and Minnesota Ave NE. Ride to the traffic circle entrance to Kenilworth Park. Ride along Deane Ave into Kenilworth Park and turn right onto the trail at the pavilion in 0.2 miles. Once on the trail, you can either connect to the Anacostia Ave route in 0.1 miles or keeping going on the trail to the north park entrance. This is a stressful route – Nannie Helen Burroughs Ave NE crossing Minnesota Ave and the ramps off and on 295 has terrible sidewalks and a lot of turning vehicle traffic.

Nannie Helen Burroughs and Minnesota Ave NE. Image from 2019. Roadway conditions are different now though sidewalk conditions remain the same.

There are a few pedestrian bridge connections across 295. There is a connection via the Minnesota Ave Metro station and existing pedestrian bridge to Hayes St NE. Continue straight on Hayes St NE and you will reach the Anacostia River Trail. Go straight onto the trail and you reach Anacostia Ave and 40th St NE in 0.8 miles.

Additional bridge are at Polk St NE (take Douglas St to Anacostia Ave, and then turn right to get to the park) and Nash St NE (take Nash St to Anacostia Ave, and then turn right to get to the park).

Capital Bikeshare

The closest Capitol Bikeshare station to Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens is currently at Nannie Helen Burroughs and Minnesota Ave NE (station map here). Capital Bikeshare ebikes can be docked at stations or locked remotely as a single bike outside of National Park Service property. See Capital Bikeshare for pricing and more details.

When to go?

If you want to visit when its less crowded: weekdays! The lotuses are still kind of a hidden gem but less so every year. If you want to visit the park and not be crowded, visit during the weekday.

Information about the 2021 Lotus and Water Lily Festival hosted by the park can be found here. Most programming this year is online with a limited selection of in-person events. The park is open to visit and has extended hours for July 2021.