Rock Creek and Potomac Parkway

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Rock Creek and Potomac Parkway

Map of the District of Columbia with Rock Creek Parkway highlighted in red
Route information
Maintained by NPS
Length2.9 mi[1] (4.7 km)
RestrictionsNo trucks[2]
Major junctions
South endLincoln Memorial Circle on the National Mall
Major intersections
North endShoreham / Beach Drives in Rock Creek Park
CountryUnited States
Federal districtDistrict of Columbia
Highway system

The Rock Creek and Potomac Parkway, informally called the Rock Creek Parkway, is a parkway maintained by the National Park Service as part of Rock Creek Park in Washington, D.C. It runs next to the Potomac River and Rock Creek in a generally north–south direction, carrying four lanes of traffic from the Lincoln Memorial and Arlington Memorial Bridge north to a junction with Beach Drive near Connecticut Avenue at Calvert Street, N.W., just south of the National Zoological Park.

The Parkway was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on May 4, 2005. Built from 1923 to 1936, it is "one of the best-preserved examples of the earliest stage of motor parkway development".[3]

During rush hours, a reversible lane setup is used between Ohio Drive and Connecticut Avenue to permit all lanes to be used for the predominant direction of travel. More specifically, the Parkway is one-way southbound on weekdays from 6:45 a.m. to 9:30 a.m., and one-way northbound from 3:45 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.[4] The Parkway first became one-way during rush hours on Valentine's Day 1938.[5]

Route description

View north on the parkway at the Lincoln Memorial Circle, including the sculpture group The Arts of Peace

File:Rock Creek Parkway and Beach Drive time-lapse.webm

The Parkway has two points of origination on its southern end, one at the traffic circle around the Lincoln Memorial, and the other at the intersection of Ohio Drive and Independence Avenue. The eastern portion of the Lincoln Memorial traffic circle has been closed for several years, and there is no longer any easy access to the northbound parkway from that point. The Ohio Drive branch is now the main originating branch. Before the Theodore Roosevelt Bridge (I-66) was built, Constitution Avenue ran to the parkway, with Ohio Drive ending at Constitution Avenue.[1] The parkway's entrance is framed by two monumental statues, Music and Harvest and Aspiration and Literature, which together form a group known as The Arts of Peace. They were designed by James Earle Fraser and erected in 1951.[6][7]

After passing under the Roosevelt Bridge, the parkway passes the Kennedy Center for Performing Arts, including an at-grade intersection with F Street Northwest north of the building. Prior to the building of the Kennedy Center, New Hampshire Avenue ran to the parkway. Beyond F Street, the parkway runs past the Watergate building; there it intersects Virginia Avenue, which provides easy access to and from the Potomac River Freeway (I-66). The Potomac River sweeps to the west at approximately this point; the parkway continues along its rough north–south path and instead parallels the small Potomac tributary of Rock Creek.

View south at the north end of the parkway

Past Virginia Avenue, the parkway has many characteristics of a freeway, most notably limited access by ramp. The first interchange is with K Street Northwest, lying inside the newer Whitehurst Freeway/Potomac River Freeway interchange. Due to the partial nature of the interchange, some movements are made via Virginia Avenue instead. Just to the west, K Street crosses Rock Creek over the L Street Bridge, with the Whitehurst Freeway overhead and separate side bridges for the ramps to and from the northbound Parkway. After K Street, the parkway crosses Rock Creek, paralleling it to the west for a while.

Signage indicates the times during which the Parkway is one-way.

Pennsylvania Avenue crosses over both the parkway and the creek on a combined bridge, with a single loop ramp from the southbound Parkway to Pennsylvania Avenue eastbound. Just to the north, M Street Northwest also crosses the parkway and creek together, with no access between the roads.

Further north, P Street Northwest crosses the parkway and creek, with ramps from P Street to the parkway both northbound and southbound and from the southbound Parkway to P Street. Just after crossing under P Street, the parkway crosses to the east side of the creek on the Bridge near P Street, and a northbound onramp from P Street merges. It passes under Q Street Northwest's Dumbarton Bridge over the creek with no access.

The Charles C. Glover Bridge carries Massachusetts Avenue over the parkway and creek. Access to and from the south is provided via Waterside Drive, which merges into the parkway at a Y interchange. To the north, Waterside Drive merges back into the parkway, providing for all movements but a southbound offramp. Soon after, the parkway again crosses to the west side of the creek on the Shoreham Hill Bridge.

The end of the parkway is near an intersection with Beach Drive, which continues generally northward along the creek. A left turn from southbound Rock Creek Parkway provides access to Beach Drive from local roads. Just north of Beach Drive, the parkway again splits, with Cathedral Avenue heading northeast next to Beach Drive under the William H. Taft Bridge and Duke Ellington Bridge (Connecticut Avenue and Calvert Street), and the parkway becoming 24th Street Northwest at Calvert Street, with easy access to Connecticut Avenue. Cathedral Avenue is one-way at the same times as the parkway. Beach Drive continues as a two-lane road parallel to Rock Creek, enters a tunnel under a hill, passes the National Zoo, and continues towards Maryland.

Trucks and other commercial vehicles are barred from the parkway.[2]

Major intersections

The entire route is in Washington, D.C. All exits are unnumbered.

National Mall0.000.00Independence Avenue SW / Ohio Drive SW – MemorialsAt-grade intersection
0.280.45Memorial Bridge – Virginia, Arlington Cemetery
Foggy Bottom I-66 / E Street ExpresswayNo southbound exit
0.420.68Kennedy CenterAt-grade intersections; no left turn southbound
0.921.48abbr= Virginia Avenue NW to I-66 / E Street Expressway – Kennedy Center, Thompson Boat CenterAt-grade intersection; no left turn northbound
West End1.031.66K Street NW / Whitehurst Freeway (US 29 south)
Rock Creek Park1.171.88Pennsylvania Avenue NW eastSouthbound exit only
P Street NWNo northbound exit
Massachusetts Avenue NW (via Waterside Drive NW)No southbound exit
2.904.67Beach Drive NW / Cathedral Avenue NW / Connecticut Avenue NW – National ZooAt-grade intersection; access via Shoreham Drive NW
1.000 mi = 1.609 km; 1.000 km = 0.621 mi


Aerial view of the L Street Bridge and Rock Creek Parkway Trail, at center, 1973

The Rock Creek Park Trail runs along the Parkway from the Lincoln Memorial to Connecticut Avenue, where it continues along Beach Drive to Broad Branch Road. The trail continues north along Beach from Joyce Road to Bingham Drive.

The Shoreline section along the Potomac is the oldest section of the trail, built before 1967.[9][10]

In 1971, the Park Service set aside a lane of the Parkway north of Virginia Avenue for a week to promote commuting by bicycle. The experiment was a success, but caused traffic jams, so the Park Service paved bridle paths immediately to the west that had existed since the park was founded.[11] The trail was extended in September 1971 to Calvert Street,[12] and then 2 miles (3.2 km) to Bluff Bridge in 1972.[13]

In 1981-82, the parkway bridge over Rock Creek at L Street was replaced and as part of that project, a separate trail bridge was built. It replaced a narrow section of the existing bridge that then served as part of the bike path.[14]

In 1997, the Shoreline Trail section was repaved and realigned.[9]


  1. ^ a b c Google (August 1, 2012). "overview of Rock Creek and Potomac Parkway" (Map). Google Maps. Google. Retrieved August 1, 2012.
  2. ^ a b 36 CFR 7.96 (f )(1)) Archived 2009-08-04 at the Wayback Machine
  3. ^ "Rock Creek & Potomac Parkway". Historic American Buildings Survey. Library of Congress. No. DC-697.
  4. ^ "When is the Rock Creek and Potomac Parkway one way?". Frequently Asked Questions. National Park Service.
  5. ^ Tom (2013-01-29). "When Did Rock Creek Parkway Become One-Way?". Ghosts of DC. Retrieved 2019-02-19.
  6. ^ Folliard, Edward T. "Truman Accepts Italy's Gift of Memorial Bridge Statues." Washington Post. September 27, 1951.
  7. ^ "Four Italian Bronze Horses Here for Span." Washington Post. June 8, 1951.
  8. ^ "Route of Rock Creek and Potomac Parkway". MapQuest, Inc. Archived from the original on August 6, 2014. Retrieved August 3, 2014.
  9. ^ a b "Recreation and Parks Plans Upgrade of Bike, Hiking Trails". The Washington Post. 2 October 1997.
  11. ^ Cranor, David. "A brief history of biking in Rock Creek Park". Retrieved 7 September 2018.
  12. ^ "Bike Lanes End on Friday Night". The Washington Post. 16 September 1971.
  13. ^ Hodge, Paul (11 November 1971). "Bike Path to Extend South of Alexandria: Before Christmas". The Washington Post.
  14. ^ "Rock Creek Parkway Construction". The Washington Post. 27 August 1981.

External links