Basic island data


Country: United States


Location: Potomac River, Washington DC


Coordinates: 38.871ºN, 77.026ºW


Area: circa 381 acres / 1.5 sq km


Population: uninhabited




-- Coordinates –

-- Area – measurement from US Geological Survey map

-- Cherries – “Beyond the Basin,” Washington Post, March 30, 2007, B5.

-- Redesign – Petula Dvorak, “Reimagining a Mall That Has Outgrown Itself,” Washington Post, December 9, 2005, B1.

-- History: construction, Jefferson Memorial – On the Spot DC, 1999; Michael E. Ruane, “Jefferson Memorial’s Signs of Sinking Raise Fresh Alarms,” Washington Post, June 16, 2007, A9; “Controversy, Quips and Washington’s Famous Flowers,” Washington Post, March 28, 2008, B2

-- History: 1898 and 1940s bridges – Philip Woodworth Ogilvie, Along the Potomac (Charleston, SC: Tempus Publishing, 2000), 75.

-- History: murder: Washington Post

-- Picture – (usable with credit)


East Potomac Park


East Potomac Park is an artificial island in the Potomac River in southwest Washington DC, and site of the Jefferson Memorial.  It is the largest island of the District of Columbia.


Cherry blossom tourists at the Jefferson MemorialThe island is flat, rising to only about 10 feet, and the southern two-thirds is dominated by the East Potomac Park Golf Course.


The Jefferson Memorial, at the north end of the island fronting the tidal basin, commemorates Founding Father Thomas Jefferson, and features a classical domed building with a large statue of Jefferson in its rotunda.  The George Mason Memorial is at the northwest tip of the island.


The island’s shore is lined with many of Washington’s famous cherry trees, and is heavily visited during the spring blossom viewing.  Yoshino cherries are the dominant variety, with many Kwanzan on the western shoreline, and scattered Takesimensis and Weeping Japanese.


The headquarters of the national Park Police occupies a complex on the northern end of the island.


Bridges connect the island to the DC shore and to Virginia.  The Metro system’s Yellow Line tracks cross the island.


Some potential redesigns for Washington’s National Mall call for the island to be remade, even split into three separate parts.



The island was built up from Potomac dredging material from 1880 to 1892.


A new railroad bridge over the island was built in 1898.


Construction began on the Jefferson Memorial in 1937, with the clearance of 1,000 cherry trees.  The Memorial was dedicated in 1943.  Another highway bridge from Virginia was built across the island in the late 1940s.


In 1980, a large metal sculpture of a giant rising from the earth, “The Awakening,” was installed at Hains Point at the southern end of the island.  The statue was removed to the mainland in 2008.


One murder occurred on the island in the 1990s.



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island geography / biggest island