Why It’s Special

Potomac Overlook Regional Park was created in 1971 by a planning team from the National Audubon Society in order to create an urban nature sanctuary within Arlington County. It is a rare surviving slice of the wooded environment that once dominated the area.

Potomac Overlook Park

Potomac Overlook Park

The location was first described by Capt. John Smith in 1624 in his Generall Historie of Virginia. In the late 19th century, prominent archaeologist and geologist William Holmes  surveyed the area, researching the Stone Age in the District region; where the Potomac Overlook Park is now he found a significant American Indian settlement.

In addition to these archaeological sites of Arlington’s pre-history is a marker of the old Donaldson family graveyard and working farms.

The Nature Center opened in 1974 and offers a variety of history exhibits, nature displays, and live animals as part of its educational programs. A wide variety of community events are scheduled, such as summer and winter concerts, Junior Naturalist camps, and education oriented nature hikes. Potomac Overlook Park has a full time park ranger or naturalist living on the park grounds.

Potomac Overlook’s bird of prey shelter

“Potomac Overlook Regional Park was designed to fulfill a threefold mission: (1) preserve the land in its natural state to promote the health of our environment and safeguard the diversity of species; (2) educate the public on natural and cultural history, stressing the interrelatedness of all living organisms with the environment and the need for all humans to be caretakers of the Earth; (3) provide a natural setting for recreation and exercise.” (Source: “A Field Guide to Potomac Overlook Regional Park,” May 1998).

An Arlington County report notes the park “Features a number of varying habitats including mature woodlands, maintained grasslands, riparian forest and access to the Potomac River shoreline by hiking trail. By virtue of size and geographic location, this park provides one of the best nesting locations for birds in the County.” (Source: “Wildlife of ArlingtonA Natural Heritage Resource Inventory Technical Report.”)

That 2011 report also states that “With an estimated 40% of the County covered in impervious surface, Arlington is considered ‘built out.'”

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Teaching visitors about birds of prey at Potomac Overlook

In one of the most urbanized areas of Northern Virginia, the need for people to experience nature and provide a sanctuary and natural habitat for wildlife is more critical than when Potomac Overlook was first conceived in the 1960s. It will become even more so as the county’s population and density continue to grow.

Inside the Potomac Overlook Nature Center

Inside the Potomac Overlook Nature Center

Please help preserve this wooded area for its original purpose, so others may continue to enjoy in the future: Contact friendspotomac@gmail.com

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