Points of Interest on the Trail
Mile markers are at 1/2 mile intervals, beginning at the Silver Spring end of the trail, and their position along the trail is shown on our map webpage. Points of interest are listed by their position relative to these mile markers. A narrative describing the points of interest is below.
0.0 B&O Main Line/Silver Spring/Jubal Early's Attack on Washington
1.0 Rock Creek Park & trail
1.1 Railroad bridge (trestle) over Rock Creek Park
1.3 Chevy Chase areas begin at Jones Mill Road extending to mile 3.3
2.0 Connecticut Avenue; Columbia Country Club
3.1 Elm Street Park
3.2 Tunnel (mileage at middle of the tunnel)
3.3 Downtown Bethesda. Parking, Restaurants, shopping.
3.5 Rest area, map kiosks, water fountain
3.9 Bethesda Pool. Parking except when pool (outdoors) in use.
4.5 River Road Bridge. Restaurants, shops, limited parking.
5.0 Loughborough Mill
5.2 Massachusetts Avenue
5.5 Fort Sumner, Battery Bailey, etc.
6.0 Little Falls Trail connects
6.1 Dalecarlia Reservoir. Bridge "over nothing".
6.2 Dalecarlia Tunnel
6.5 Rest area, water fountain; Bridge over Washington Aqueduct property
6.6 Site of planned railway bridge over Potomac, never built.
6.7 D.C. Line
7.0 Batteries Vermont and Martin Scott were above
7.2 Chain Bridge, below
7.7 Arizona Avenue Trestle/Bridge
8.2 Fletcher's Cove (formerly Fletcher's Boat House); boats & bikes. Abner Cloud
9.2 Site of inclined plane taking Canal boats to river
9.8 Tunnel under Canal and Canal Road
10.3 Aqueduct Arch, boat clubs, Key Bridge, etc. Metered parking nearby.
10.5 Georgetown Waterfront Park
10.7 Cross bottom of Wisconsin Avenue
11.0 Washington Harbour, Thompson
Boat Center. Restaurants.
Civil War Attack on Washington
The Capital Crescent Trail begins in an area heavily utilized by Confederate forces in attacking Washington. In July 1864, after two weeks of hard marching, General Jubal Early's Confederate troops, about 11,000 tired and ragtag men, staged a convincing assault on Washington, severely shaking up the Union leadership. The main body of Confederate infantry marched toward Washington from Frederick and Rockville to Silver Spring, while the cavalry continued on Old Georgetown Road through Bethesda to Tenleytown. Faced with strong fortifications at Tenleytown, the cavalry moved eastward across Rock Creek to the vicinity of Georgia Avenue to join the main body, where they attacked Fort Stevens, the center of the Union line of defenses, which was rapidly being reinforced by Union troops. During the attack President Lincoln visited Fort Stevens, where he barely missed being hit by Confederate sharpshooter fire. After two days of skirmishing, General Early withdrew to the north, having decided that the Union forces were too strong to be overcome. There were many casualties on both sides. 41 of the Union dead rest in the Battleground National Cemetery, in DC at
6625 Georgia Avenue, and 17 of Early's men are interred in the churchyard of Grace Episcopal Church, near the Trail at Georgia Avenue at Grace Church Road. (Fort Stevens is located in DC on 13th St. NW two blocks north
of Military Road/Missouri Avenue. It's an excellent example of a Civil War fort.) Washington was the most heavily fortified city in the country at the time
of the Civil War, and the forts and batteries mentioned below were part of
Branch (Mile 0)
Branching from the B&O Main Line which runs from Washington and west to Chicago, the branch rail line carried freight to Georgetown; the Trail was built on its right-of-way. (Elevation is 325 feet where Georgetown Branch connects to the Main Line.)
Creek Park (Mile 1.0)
With land in DC acquired in 1890, and later in Maryland, Rock Creek Park extends from Georgetown into upper Montgomery County. The Rock Creek Trail goes north past Rockville to Lake Needwood, and south past the Zoo to the Kennedy Center and other downtown attractions. The route south is best on weekends when many Park roads are closed to motor vehicles.
Railroad bridge over the Park (Mile 1.1)
This trestle was closed for safety reasons when the trains stopped running. A campaign spearheaded by the Coalition persuaded the County Council to fund its rehabilitation for Trail use, and the trestle was opened to trail traffic in May, 2003. Observation bump-outs provide spectacular views from 70 feet above Rock Creek.
Chase (Mile 1.3)
Chevy Chase, consisting of nine little self-governing towns in Maryland, plus an
area of DC, extends to Wisconsin Avenue. Founded in 1890, it includes many interesting houses, some of them near the Trail
between miles 1.3 and 3.3.
Avenue (Mile 2)
By 1892 the Georgetown Branch railway had reached this point, carrying coal and
building materials, but financial problems delayed further construction until
Under Wisconsin Avenue (Mile 3.2) (Maximum Trail elevation is here, 325 feet)
Trains passed under a road bridge on Wisconsin Avenue; in 1965 the Air Rights
Building was constructed over the tracks on the east side, and later the Apex
Building was built also utilizing "air rights" over the tracks on the west
side of Wisconsin Avenue, resulting in a tunnel 855 feet long with a modest bend, plus 235 feet of covered area. When the trains stopped running, this tunnel became a hangout for undesirables who built fires; as a result the ends of the tunnel were fenced. The tunnel stayed closed even after the trails to and from Bethesda were completed, forcing trail users to cross through busy Wisconsin Avenue traffic to make the connection. Following a vigorous "Open The Tunne" campaign by the Coalition, the County Council appropriated funds to build a fenced trail through the tunnel; the Coalition supplemented their appropriation with $45,000 to get a better trail routing and better lighting. The tunnel opened to Trail use in 1998.
Bethesda (Mile 3.3)
Bethesda was a biblical place near Jerusalem where Jesus performed healing miracles, appropriate here in view of the National Institutes of Health, the
National Naval Medical Center, and numerous other medicine-related activities
located further north in Bethesda on Wisconsin Avenue. The tunnel, however, leads into a busy downtown area with shops and with restaurants of many types and prices. Here the "Georgetown Branch Trail" crosses a complex street intersection to join the main part of the Capital Crescent Trail. A rest area with water, map, and historical panel is located just beyond the Honda dealership. Some of the residential communities of Bethesda extend along the Trail to the DC line.
River Road Bridge (Mile 4.5)
Until 1985, traffic stopped on busy River Road while the train crossed. When the Trail was built, it rapidly became evident that serious accidents would result here without a pedestrian crossing or a bridge. Federal funds under the highway legislation, 'ISTEA', were obtained and nearly $800 thousand was spent to develop the bridge, built long enough and wide enough at Coalition insistence to provide safe passage and easy gradients for Trail users of all abilities. It
opened in the fall of 1996.
Loughborough Mill (Mile 5.0)
Nathan Loughborough, businessman and civic leader, Secretary of the Treasury under John Adams, bought the adjacent 250-acre estate, "Milton", (to the south of the Trail), and built a stone flour mill there near his house about 1830. He was a southern sympathizer and fled south during the Civil War; soldiers reportedly destroyed the mill. The mill race was washed out in the aftermath of the 1889 Johnstown (Pa.) Flood. (There is some doubt as to how the flood in Johnstown affected Little Falls Creek; it is said that a very rainy season caused backups in many streams, and the Potomac backed up here.)
Fort Sumner (Mile 5.5)
The main part of Fort Sumner covered many acres on the high ground west of the
Trail, and had 30 artillery pieces; it commanded the Potomac River valley from
an attack from the river and defended the water supply. Located near the present Sangamore Road, it had and impressive view over the river, since all intervening trees had been chopped down. It consisted of several strong buildings and was occupied by many troops; its main site included three component batteries, Forts Alexander, Franklin, and Ripley. Guns included three 8" howitzers, one 100-lb Parrott gun, and 6 4.5" rifled cannons. (The adjacent communities and the shopping center now have "Sumner" as part of their names.)
Two of Fort Sumner's outlying batteries (gun emplacements), Batteries Bailey and Benson, commanded the valley of Powder Mill Branch, now Little Falls Creek. At mile 5.5 on the Trail, Battery Bailey, the only remaining evidence of Fort Sumner, is on the hilltop to the east in Westmoreland Hills Park, where the gun emplacements are still visible; Battery Benson was on the hill to the west, now occupied by residences.
Bridge "over nothing" (Mile 6.1)
Under the bridge are the huge water supply conduits from Great Falls supplying water to the reservoirs; the bridge was built to protect them from the weight of the railway.
Dalecarlia Tunnel (Mile 6.2)
Built almost entirely of brick to the uniform tunnel standards on the B&O,
this handsome tunnel, completed in 1910, carried the railroad under MacArthur
Boulevard (formerly Conduit Road).
Washington Aqueduct (Mile 6.5)
The Washington Aqueduct provides water to the District of Columbia, Fairfax County, and Arlington County. Designed and built under the direction of the renowned Army officer-engineer, Montgomery Meigs, construction began in 1853, and by 1860, water had reached the Capitol building. Water taken from Great Falls and Little Falls passes through 9-foot diameter pipes under MacArthur Boulevard, passing through several bridges, including the remarkable Cabin John Bridge, to the receiving reservoir. From there water moves into the settling basins and the filtration plant adjacent to the Trail, which were built in the 1920's as a result of greatly increased water demand in WWI. From
there water is pumped or flows to other reservoirs in the District and the
Virginia counties for wide distribution.
Opened in 1996, at the same time as the River Road Bridge, and funded by the
Corps of Engineers, it was designed to go over a road connecting two parts of
the Washington Aqueduct reservation and ostensibly to separate Trail users from
the Washington water supply. The bridge includes a component of a former bridge which took the Georgetown Branch over the Cabin John trolley line, a popular route from Georgetown to the Glen Echo amusement park. A rest area
near the bridge provides water (from the Washington Aqueduct), a Trail map, and
a historical panel.
Site of Planned Railway Bridge over Potomac (Mile 6.6)
Originally the B&O intended to build a bridge here to enable the Main Line in Silver Spring to connect to southern markets, but this plan was scrapped when the Pennsylvania Railroad eventually gave them the right to use the railway bridge at 14th Street in DC.
District Line (mile 6.7)
A stone boundary marker, located within a small fence just east of the Trail at
the MD-DC line, is one of the original markers placed to define the DC
boundaries. These were 10 miles on each side until the piece of DC southwest of the river was ceded back to Virginia.
Bridge (Mile 7.2) (at river
Prior to 1797, when the first bridge was built here across the Potomac, a ferry
connected Virginia and Maryland. With that bridge swept away by floods, the first "Chain" bridge was built in 1808, the roadway suspended on chains anchored to stone abutments, and it too was swept away. Rebuilt in 1811, it lasted
until damaged in 1852, when it was replaced by a wooden timber bridge. The first steel bridge was built in 1874, and lasted until 1936, when the present bridge replaced it.
Batteries Vermont and Martin Scott (Miles 6.8 and 7.2)
Battery Vermont (east of mile 6.8) was located just behind the present Sibley
Hospital. Battery Martin Scott (east of mile 7.2) sat on the present-day Potomac Avenue just above the Trail. Both batteries, with small guns, were protection for the Chain Bridge and the water supply.
Arizona Avenue Railway Bridge (Mile 7.7)
This bridge is a composite, recycled from two older railway bridges and parts
from a third, bridges probably built shortly after the Civil War and no longer
in use; the current bridge was designed in 1908 and went into service in 1910. Two separate segments are clearly visible. When the trains ran, there was no deck, just ties supporting the rails, scary to walk across. In 1990
Coalition members, with funds for lumber provided by the Rails to Trails
Conservancy, put a wooden deck over the rails, creating a surface satisfactory
for bicycles. In 1992 the National Park Service contracted with the Federal Highway Administration to rebuild the bridge and install a concrete deck, but
it took four more years before the job was satisfactorily completed.
The C&O Canal (parallel to the Trail from Mile 7.7)
President John Quincy Adams in 1828 turned the first shovel of dirt for the
Canal, designed to carry minerals and farm products from western areas to the
East Coast and to Chesapeake shipping. When completed in 1850, the Canal went 184 miles from Georgetown to Cumberland MD, with 74 lift locks carrying barges 605 feet up into the mountains. Unfortunately for the Canal, a railroad was built parallel to the Canal and that proved much more economic; the Canal stopped commercial operation in 1924, and now only a few stretches contain water. The entire length of the Tow Path is very scenic for bicycle trips or hikes. Much of the year, mule-drawn canal boat rides are available in Georgetown and at Great Falls.
Boathouse (Mile 8.2)
Fletcher's Boathouse was a venerable Washington institution providing rowboats, canoes, bait and tackle, soft drinks, and more recently bicycles; it was founded in the 1850's by the great-great-grandfather of the last owner-manager Ray Fletcher and his siblings. The Fletchers retired in 2004 and a National Park Service concessionaire assumed responsibility for the operation of the concessions. The Park Service renamed the area around the boathouse "Fletcher's Cove" although most people still call it "Fletcher's Boathouse." A tunnel for motor vehicles runs under the Canal here. In 1999 archaeological excavations were done in the area around the bottom of the wooden steps from the Tow Path; there were many discoveries of artifacts from an earlier settlement here; reports are not yet available.
Abner Cloud House (Mile 8.2)
Located between Fletcher's and Canal Road, it is the oldest existing structure
along the Canal. Built in 1801 by Abner Cloud, a miller, it was used both as a family residence and for storage of grain and flour. His widow lived here until 1852.
Inclined Plane for Canal Boats (Mile 9.2)
A major engineering feat of its day, the inclined plane, removed when the
railway was built, took canal boats down to the river in order to avoid the congestion of boats in Georgetown.
Foundry Branch Tunnel (Mile 9.8)
This tunnel, once used for motor vehicles, is now used only by bicyclists and
pedestrians; it goes under the Canal connecting the Capital Crescent Trail and
Tow Path to the north side of Canal Road at Foxhall Road.
Aqueduct Bridge (Mile 10.3)
Only abutments remain of this remarkable bridge, opened in 1843, which carried
canal boats across the Potomac to connect with the Alexandria Canal, the only
remains of which are in Old Town Alexandria. The Aqueduct Bridge had an 1100' wooden trunk filled with water to a depth of 7', together with a tow path for the mules. During the Civil War, this bridge was drained and the trunk converted to a double-track wagon road. Rebuilt after the war with a wagon road over the water-filled trunk, it carried both barges and wagons, but in 1886 it was replaced by a steel bridge on the same abutments carrying vehicles and pedestrians. The Aqueduct Bridge was replaced by the Key Bridge in 1924, but it was not torn down until 1934.
Francis Scott Key Bridge (Mile 10.5)
Its seven arches connect Georgetown and Rosslyn, as well as the hiker/biker
trails on both sides of the river. Francis Scott Key lived in a house at 3516 M Street from 1805 to the late 1830's, and wrote the Star Spangled Banner here. The house was moved and preserved in 1949.
Wisconsin Avenue (Mile 10.7, elevation 15 feet)
It here intersects with K Street; its elevation when previously crossed by the
Trail in the tunnel in Bethesda was 325 feet.
Georgetown Waterfront Park/Washington Harbour/Thompson Boat Center (10.5 to 11.0)
Formerly industrial, this asphalted area between Water Street/K Street was transferred in 2000 to the National Park Service and is projected to become an attractive recreation asset. A trail along the river connects with the restaurant area on the riverfront of Washington Harbour, a fanciful building designed by Washington architect Arthur Cotton Moore. Note the tops of the
steel walls in the pavement on the river side of the fountain area, which can be
raised to keep out the water when the river floods. Beyond the restaurant area, the Thompson Boat Center is the focus of crews and other boating. Access to the Rock Creek Trail is beyond the metered parking lot at Thompson's.