Enjoy the Outdoors With a Dash of History at Jones Point Park

Written by Dinah Rokach on . Posted in Arts & Entertainment

Jones Point, a 65-acre park along the Potomac River in Alexandria, Virginia, is a perfect destination for a family outing during Chol Hamoed Sukkot. There are walking paths, basketball courts, biking trails with bike racks galore, and picnic tables facing the Potomac. The playgrounds are built on soft surfaces, with sturdy equipment to climb and swings to enjoy.

 

There are also two fishing piers, where you can catch rock bass, eel, or catfish. There is a canoe launch as well; just keep in mind it’s BYOC (bring your own canoe, or other river-worthy vessel) as there are no rental facilities.

The park boasts exceptional views: from its eastern shoreline, you can gaze at the Ferris wheel across the river at the National Harbor, spot the U.S. Capitol in DC, and see Fort Washington in Prince George’s County, Maryland. It even has a lighthouse! In fact, the Jones Point Lighthouse is the last remaining riverine lighthouse in Virginia.

Alexandria served as an international port beginning in 1779. By the end of the 18th century, Alexandria was one of the 10 busiest ports in the United States. Built in 1855 by the federal government, the Jones Point Lighthouse was one of the first to incorporate a lighthouse-keeper’s home and signal beacon. Its beam of light could be seen nine miles away.

The lighthouse isn’t a tall structure, but rather a two-story homestead with a beacon on its roof. It was manned by a keeper and an attendant appointed by the president, and the keeper and his family lived rent-free in the four-bedroom house. In 1926, use of the lighthouse was discontinued; its function was taken over by the taller, skeletal tower nearby, which remained in use for a decade. Today, the original lighthouse can only be viewed from outside, but it is still an interesting piece of history to check out.

With the advent of container shipping in the post-WWII era, Alexandria’s port was converted for recreational use in 1964. The current park is a result of a two-year renovation completed in 2012 by the National Park Service as part of its stewardship of the George Washington Memorial Parkway. You can learn about the site’s previous incarnations, its freshwater marsh habitat, and the area’s pre-colonial era Native American residents from signs along the walking path around the park. Animal tracks of fox, bear, deer, rabbit, and raccoon (obviously some fauna more current than others) are embedded in the sidewalk near the playground.

In front of the lighthouse, under glass, is the stone marker that designated the southern boundary of the District of Columbia in 1791 (the boundaries were adjusted in 1846). The inscription reads: “May this stone long commemorate the goodness of G-d in those uncommon events which have given America a name among nations. Under this stone, may jealousy and selfishness be forever buried.”

May you, too, leave whatever tension or strife you bear buried right there under the stone. Park Ranger Bryan Wheeler says it best: “Sit on a park bench and look out across the river; enjoy yourself and relax.” You can’t find a better setting than “beside tranquil waters” (Psalms 23:2).

By Dinah Rokach

 In addition to writing Free To See, one of Kol HaBirah’s longest-running columns, Dinah Rokach also writes “The Bibliophile” column in The Beacon. She is the sister of Kol HaBirah contributor Joshua Rokach.

 

Jones Point Park

100 Jones Point Drive

Alexandria, Virginia

www.nps.gov
(search “Jones Point Park”)

(703)235-1530

 

Admission and parking are free.

Open year-round 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Closest bike rental at Capital Bikeshare, South Royal and Gibbon Street.

DC fishing license required for ages 16 to 64 (takemefishing.org).

No canoe, fishing gear rentals, or food concessions at the park.

 

Getting there by public transportation :

Blue, orange, or silver lines: At Farragut West station, transfer to Metrobus route 11Y at 18th Street NW and H Street and get off at South Washington Street corner Franklin stop. Walk east across Franklin Street, right on South Lee to park. (10-minute walk.)

Yellow line: At Braddock Road station, transfer to Metrobus route 10B: Huntington Point and get off at South Washington and South Green stop. Head east on South Green Street, right on South Royal, left on Jones Point Drive (10-minute walk).

Check wmata.com for service advisories before heading out.