Fort Slocum: Hidden DC Treasure

Fort Slocum in Washington DC - managed by the National Park Service

Fort Slocum in Washington DC - managed by the National Park Service

Here’s an oasis of green you don’t see often in the middle of a city: Fort Slocum Park, where a cool urban forest abuts the row houses of Northwest DC.

Nestled in northern Petworth, you’ll first notice Fort Slocum by the green hill you see on Kansas Avenue NW, the only remnant of the Civil War earthworks that defended Washington DC from Confederate General Jubal A. Early’s attack in June 1864.

While the National Park Service description is brief, the Historic Marker Database tells the full story:

When the Confederates demonstrated against Fort Stevens, to the west, Fort Slocum had the honor of opening the engagement by firing its long range guns. During the battle, some 1,500 employees of the Army Quartermaster office, led by General Montgomery Meigs, assisted the fort’s garrison. 

Juxtaposed to that history is a modern escape for all manner of Washingtonians, as I found on a recent exploration of its central woods..

First, be brave, and leave the open green fields of Fort Slocum for its dense wooded crown, via its many narrow trails. You’ll see ancient tree trunks and come quickly to a perfect picnic spot.

Fort Slocum tree carcass
Fort Slocum tree carcass

I got more daring than most and explored the back corners of the woods, figuring that this level of seclusion would be attractive to the neighbourhood kids. It seems that a few enjoy Milwaukee’s Best parties as well as making out on lover’s logs. Other fallen trees were more benign, like this water log.


Back in the open fields, there is a covered picnic shelter with four picnic tables. You don’t need a reservation and it’s often open for use. A perfect spot for a relaxed family BBQ. Adults and young kids can be in the open, teenagers, with hormones and defiance can wander off into the woods.

When I talked with the local kids, they said that the park was safe too. Since it abuts a school, its monitored by both the police and other dog walkers like me. Personally, I see Taxi and becoming Fort Slocum Park regulars.

Fort Slocum Park
5700 Kansas Avenue NW
Washington DC
Summer View Map

Married, mortgaged, and soon to be a father, Wayan Vota is in the fast lane to mid-life respectability – until the day his brood finds his intimate journal of global traveling and curses him with the ever-eternal reply “I’m gonna be just like you, Dad!”

3 thoughts on “Fort Slocum: Hidden DC Treasure

  1. I grew up in that neighborhood. The deepest part of the woods was demonlished to build Rabaut Jr. High School….When I was growing up, Fort Slocum Park was known as Ray’s Woods….I loved walking through the greenery….

  2. I live right across the street from the park. My wife and sit on our front porch and watch the various dogs and dog owners, kids playing, and an occasional deer. It’s not as utilized as it could be, but that may be a good thing. It’s peaceful…not a lot of noise and garbage from individuals who aren’t neighborly.

    This past winter we had a number of cross-country skiers enjoy the unusual terrain.

    I love living in this neighborhood.

  3. I too grew up in the community and loved to take shortcuts through the park on my way to Girl Scout meetings. It was so peaceful and I recall my childhood friends and I would imagine what our lives would be like when we grew up. Well we’ve grown up and most of my friends moved from the community long ago. However, it’s still home to me. On occasion, I visit Civil War battlefields in Virginia and the Carolinas, but I can say with pride that we have our very own Fort Slocum. I do have one “pet peeve”. My husband and I are dog owners, and we clean up after our pets when we walk through the park and neighborhood. I wish all our neighbors would follow that practice. Thanks!