Rock Creek Park is truly a gem in our nation's capital. It offers visitors an opportunity to reflect and soothe their spirits through the beauty of nature along a tributary of the Potomac River, and ultimately the Chesapeake Bay. Fresh air, majestic trees, wild animals, and the ebb and flow of Rock Creek emanate the delicate aura of the forest.
Our country's history abounds within the park. Visitors walk in the footsteps of Piscataway Indians, the Old Stone House attests to a time when Washington, D.C. was a new capital, Peirce Mill reminds us how a new technology aided the economic growth of the nation, and Civil War remnants divulge stories of unrest. Ultimately, the establishment of Rock Creek Park in 1890, "...for the benefit and enjoyment of the people of the United States" served as an inspiration for the creation of future National Parks.
Although people come to the park for different reasons, they all have a common love for Rock Creek Park. The park fosters memories of the past while creating new memories for the future. You are encouraged to visit your national park, Rock Creek Park often, and to discover ways that you can help protect this special "common ground" for all who visit. Come see how it serves as a true gateway to the Potomac River and the Chesapeake Bay.
The Park is open during daylight hours, 7 days a week.
Nature Center: Wednesday through Sunday, 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM. Closed on New Year's, 4th of July, Thanksgiving, and Christmas Day. Call 202-895-6070 for more information.
Planetarium: Ranger-led astronomy programs occur on Wednesdays at 4:00 p.m. (Young Planetarium), Saturdays and Sundays at 1:00 p.m. (Seasonal Night Sky), and Saturdays and Sundays at 4:00 p.m. (Exploring the Universe). The planetarium is otherwise closed, except by special arrangement
Old Stone House: Wednesday through Sunday, 11:00 to 6:00 PM (closed on New Year's, 4th of July, Thanksgiving, and Christmas Day).
Peirce Mill and Barn:
(Note: Many places fill to capacity on busy, nice weather days, especially holiday weekends. Please call ahead or visit the official website to get the most up-to-date information before visiting.)
Admission to Rock Creek Park is free. All planetarium programs, environmental education programs, and ranger-led programs (except Horseback Tours) are free.
The Rock Creek Valley has a long and varied history. For millennia, American Indians quarried rock outcroppings to make tools, fished the creek, and hunted wild game in the woodlands. In the 1600s and early 1700s, European Americans claimed title to the land. As tobacco farming and African American slavery became more widespread, Georgetown was chartered at the mouth of Rock Creek. In the late 1700s and into the 1800s, tobacco farming exhausted the soil, resulting in many farmers switching to wheat and corn production. Gristmills, the most successful being Peirce Mill, were constructed along Rock Creek to convert grain into flour.
The Rock Creek area was deforested during the U.S. Civil War. Logs and branches were felled and then laid out systematically throughout the soon-to-be park by Union soldiers to make a Confederate march through the valley impossible. Civil War fortifications in and around the valley bombarded General Jubal Early's Confederate troops during the July, 1864 Battle of Fort Stevens.
In 1890, Rock Creek Park became one of the first federally managed parks. Since then, citizens seeking recreation and re-creation in nature have sought out this 1700 acre park.
Rock Creek Park is a place to play soccer, picnic, hike, bike and rollerblade, play tennis, fish, golf, horseback ride, listen to a concert, or attend programs with a park ranger.
Free, ranger-led astronomy programs take place in the planetarium on Saturdays and Sundays at 1:00 p.m. for the Seasonal Night Sky program (appropriate for ages 5 to adult), Saturdays and Sundays at 4:00 p.m. for the Exploring the Universe program (appropriate for ages 7 to adult), and Wednesdays at 4:00 p.m. for Young Planetarium (appropriate for ages 4 to 10 and their families).
Nature Center and Planetarium, Old Stone House, Peirce Barn, Peirce Mill
All sites are handicapped accessible.