“As the lotus rises on its stalk unsoiled by the mud and water, so the wise one speaks of peace and is unstained by the opinions of the world.” – Buddha
It was a brilliantly blue, late July afternoon and, armed with cameras, we took to the grassy trails that bordered a series of ponds overflowing with lush lotus flowers, their pink and white heads in all stages of blossom. Plenty of nature-loving folk wandered the paths, some still in their Sunday best, taking in the aquatic flowery expanses.
Kenilworth is unique in that it preserves not just a special place in an otherwise urban landscape, it also provides habitat for all manner of wildlife and is host to more than 250 species of birds across the seasons. If you can tear yourself away from the lotuses and lilyponds, a boardwalk takes you out into a marsh that is fed by the Anacostia River. Losing as much as 90% of its water at low tide, it is the last remaining tidal marsh in DC. In 1989, a massive multi-agency restoration effort went into effect to improve water quality functions within the watershed and to help reestablish the natural shape and productivity of the marsh to reflect historical conditions.
And, as for the beautiful, wild refuge that harbors these resplendent gardens, we have history to thank. What land we appreciate now as this wild, aquatic wonderland was originally purchased in the 1880s by Civil War veteran Walter B. Shaw. Planting the land with wild waterlilies of his Maine homeland memories, Shaw began a legacy that will be appreciated well into the future. His daughter, Helen Shaw Fowler carried on his flowering legacy, protecting the lands of her father when the gardens were in danger of being destroyed. Thanks to her hard work and passion for the cause, Congress authorized the purchase of the land in 1938 to be transformed into the gardens we treasure to this very day.
To get an idea of this verdant wonderland, enjoy the following short film of the Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens experience…