Monumental Thoughts has a guest contributor – Megan Johnson. (Hey, we’re all for free labor.)
A sprawling stretch of land along Popes Creek, Va., isn’t all that different today from when George Washington entered the world 284 years ago – and that’s just the way the National Park Service likes it.
At the George Washington Birthplace National Monument, visitors are treated to talks with knowledgeable park rangers about this place the first president called home until the age of 3. On a plantation originally settled by John Washington, George’s great-grandfather, one of America’s forefathers was born along the waterfront in 1732.
Though the original family home burned to the ground in a Christmas Day fire in 1779, an oyster shell outline marks where it once stood. Nearby is a memorial house representing similar styles of the era, added to the property in 1931. Park rangers offer tours throughout the day.
Today, the grounds consist of an obelisk one-tenth the size of the Washington Monument that honors him in Washington; an herb and flower garden with a gargantuan birdhouse; a burial ground with 32 members of the Washington family; and a colonial living farm with horses, cattle, poultry and more. The expansive property boasts many hiking trails with scenic views, and the visitor center has displays of 18th-century objects and paraphernalia. Watch a 14-minute video of Washington’s early life here before exploring on your own.
Bird watchers can be treated to plenty of action from wildlife soaring along the shores of Popes Creek where it meets the Potomac River. Relaxing on a wide, modern deck at the visitor center can be a pleasant way to spend an afternoon. Photographers will rejoice in opportunities to capture the trees and animals on the property, especially as the seasons change. The beach near the visitor center is also accessible for wading and picnicking.
Though the birthplace monument may not have enough to entertain young or active children, it’s very worth walking beneath the trees to imagine what Washington’s boyhood was like nearly 300 years ago. Tranquil, calm and quiet, the Birthplace Monument has many benches along the waterfront and tucked into the forest just beckoning visitors to pause and reflect.
One visit and you’ll understand why.
The George Washington National Birthplace Monument is located at 1732 Popes Creek Road, Colonial Beach, Virginia. The visitor center and grounds are open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. Restrooms and a gift shop are located in the visitor center, which has plenty of free parking. There is no fee to enter, but donations are accepted. For more information, visit their website or call 804-224-1732, ext. 227.