Valley, Rock Creek Park, DC
05, 2006 10:58 PST
forgive the lenghthy description. The first three of the
following paragraphs are an introduction to Rock Creek Park,
discussion of the specific site begins.
Rock Creek Park is the oldest and largest urban park in the
Park system. During the Civil War, President Lincoln spent much
a cottage on the grounds of what is now the Soldier's and
This demonstrated the need for a presidential retreat within
Nathaniel Michler of the Corps of Engineers was commissioned to
a report with the purpose of finding a site for a home and
parkland around surrounding it. Michler focused most of his
the parkland and ended up proposing a much larger park than had
originally been envisioned. The area he looked at was the valley
environs of Rock Creek. His report and map of the creek led to
attempted legislation for the park in 1867. This failed, but
did become a reality in 1890. The original park consisted of
acres. It is now over 2,000 acres and includes many of the
tributaries of Rock Creek.
Klingle Valley portion of the 1867 Michler map of Rock Creek,
Library of Congress
Although Washington D.C formally became a city in 1801,
which is encompassed within the District was settled in 1696.
capital city was not built on virgin land, but on farmland. Some
of the city were likely farmed by previous Native Americans as
the time Rock Creek Park became a reality, much of the uplands
agricultural use but most of the stream valleys were wooded.
settlers had been in the area for almost 200 years before the
creation it is possible that some areas were relatively
National Park Service site I came across stated that the trees
Melvin Hazen Branch are 150 to 300 years old, signifying that at
in that location some of the trees may be pre-settlement.
his 1867 report described parts of the park as "thickly
forest" and stated that there was "already large
growth of trees and
"Klingle Valley, USGS"
Rock Creek cuts through the piedmont before it empties into the
River at Georgetown, the bottom of the fall zone. In Washington
much of the creek winds through steep valleys with numerous
feeding into it. Some of these tributaries are now piped
dried up, but those that remain are usually heavily wooded
many, as well as the Rock Creek valley as well, have roads
through them. The District receives an average of about 40
precipitation a year. Soils are primarily
slightly acidic loams and
gravelly loams. Almost all streams in the park are subject to
flooding and erosion. Additionally the stream valleys contend
traffic, invasive species, and air and rainwater pollutants.
On December 24th and January 2nd I visited one of the tributary
valleys, Klingle Valley. This valley is on the west side of Rock
abuts the north end of the National Zoo and is the next
south of the Melvin Hazen Valley. The valley has a highly eroded
and an old road running through it. The road was closed in 1991,
there are current plans to rebuild it. Reconstruction will most
remove many of the trees along the stream and the road. Some of
trees measured are actually located on the Washington
School grounds which is on the hill between the two branches of
stream valley. The soil in the valley is gravelly loam with
practically no humus. There is little understory or new
the north branch of the valley (school grounds) there are a
of rhododendrons which were most likely planted as part of a
garden for the adjacent mansion (now the school). The tallest
(tuliptrees) are located at the confluence of the two branches,
closely following the northern branch. Tuliptree is by far, the
common tree. Beech is also common. Chestnut and Red are the oaks
occuring most frequently. Sycamore and ash occur intermittently
the stream. The valley has two branches to it which I will refer
the north branch and south branch.
Carya glabra 6' 7" x 97.0' only hickory I saw in the valley
Fagus grandifolia 8' 4" x 119.3' near confluence
Fagus grandifolia 7' 5" x 110.7' school grounds
Fraxinus pennsylvanica 8' 10" x 131.4' south branch
Fraxinus pennsylvanica NA x 122.9' measured from Connecticut
Liriodendron tulipifera 9' 5" x 141.3' near confluence
Liriodendron tulipifera 11' 7" x 139.9' south branch
Liriodendron tulipifera 10' 10" x 137.8' near confluence
Liriodendron tulipifera NA x 132.4' measured from Connecticut
Liriodendron tulipifera 11' 6" x 130.8' south branch
Pinus strobus 8' 2" x 107.4'
planted on school grounds
Platanus occidentalis 11' 2" x 135.2' south branch
Prunus serotina 5' 0" x 120.1' south branch
Quercus alba 8' 5" x 112.7'
Quercus prinus 10' 1" x 118.4' downstream
of Connecticut Ave.
Quercus rubra 12' 10" x 131.6'
impressive fluting, cbh
measured at about 6', downstream of Connecticut Ave. bridge
Quercus rubra 10' 3" x 112.5' south
Robinia pseudoacacia 5' 9" x 94.0' south branch
RI: 120.1 (Pinus strobus not included)
I had a difficult time finding 10 species. I found the black
just as I was leaving.
Klingle Valley, Rock Creek Park, DC
05, 2006 13:11 PST
Thank you for this description, it brings back memories. I
worked for the
National Park Service in Rock Creek Park during the summer of
are some amazing tuliptrees, black & red oaks, sweetgums,
throughout the park, that's for sure! I worked in the invasive
program when I was there. Invasives are a huge problem in Rock
Non-native vines such as porcelain berry and Asiatic bittersweet
smothering forested portions of that park, as I'm sure you saw.
trees such as Norway maple and tree-of-heaven are invading.
Here's a little more background on Rock Creek Park, if anyone is
This is taken from:
Fleming, Peggy and Raclare Kanal. 1995. Annotated checklist of
plants of Rock Creek Park, National Park Service, Washington,
"A total of 656 species representing 374 genera and 106
documented. Of these, 418 species are indigenous and 238 are
"The Civil War period marked the beginning of large-scale
direct impact on
Rock Creek Valley. Fort DeRussey and Military Road were built in
present-day Rock Creek Park....To provide site lines for the
guns of the
fort, an area north of Military Road was cleared. Neither the
the cleared portion of the park nor the thoroughness with which
the plan was
executed can be determined today. The planned clearing was a
strip one and
one-half miles wide, extending along the entire arc of forts
capital. Surveys made of the park area during the war represent
north of Military Road as a stump field (Engineer Department
This portion of the park has since succeeded to forest."
"Presently, the Rock Creek park vegetation is mature,
second growth forest.
Previous uses of the land are discernable. Within the forest are
large oaks, over 275 years old, with low open branching
open grown trees. These trees are probably survivors of small
original forest. A landscape of farmland interspersed with small
woods is consistent with descriptions for neighboring Maryland
"Multiple-trunked, old Liriodendron tulipifera are found in
habitats, which suggests resprouting following timbering or
Klingle Valley, Rock Creek Park, DC NEW RUCKER?
05, 2006 15:40 PST
Sounds like some of those trees will bring the RI up for Rock
Here was my
last trip 1/2005:
9'11" x 122.3'
9'6" x 129'
10'2" x 126.3'
4'4" x 121.3
N. red oak (var. rubra) 8'9"
6'1" x 124.9'
9'3" x 162.5'
6'7" x 119.4'.
8'7" x 125.9'
6 x 136.7'
Rucker Index of 130.37