Roaches Run Sanctuary
In 1934-35, the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) helped develop Roaches Run Waterfowl Sanctuary out of the marshes along the south shore of the Potomac River. Roaches Run is located at the north end of National Airport, which was developed a few years later.
The CCC enrollees built a tidal gate between the lagoon and the river, cleared out brush and landscaped the area. They built a parking lot for visitors and entry/exit roads from the George Washington Parkway, along with a trail around the lagoon. A gamekeeper’s cottage and feed storage unit were also added. The CCC crews presumably worked under the Bureau of Biological Survey, which was responsible for the development of most wildlife refuges during the New Deal.
The parking area and access roads still exist, if repaved, but the trail and two structures have disappeared. Stonework at the tidal gate also remains, though the gate itself has probably been rebuilt over time. The refuge is run by the National Park Service today.
A 2004 HABS report on CCC work around Washington DC goes into more detail:
“The considerable work completed by the CCC at this site followed the construction and opening of an adjacent segment of the George Washington Memorial Parkway. Soon after the formation of Camp NP-6-VA (Fort Hunt), the enrollees started work at this site with much of it completed between October 1934 and March 1935. In regard to the lagoon, the CCC installed a tide gate to control flow from the Potomac River, cleared unwanted plants, graded the banks, and moved or planted 1265 trees and shrubs. For visitors, the enrollees built a parking area surfaced with bituminous concrete and enclosed by a concrete cub and log guard rails. This parking area was linked to the Parkway by two short approach and exit spurs, with the ground between the parking and roadway seeded and sodded. Along the lagoon side of the parking area, they installed a bituminous concrete sidewalk that connected to two miles of foot trails that encircled the water. Original development of the site also included a gamekeeper’s residence and feed storage house, although their exact locations are not known.”
The report concludes: “Although completely refurbished with contemporary materials, the overall form of the entrance and exit spurs and the parking area accurately represent what the CCC constructed at the site for automobile access. The stone superstructure of the tide gate also survives from the CCC-era.”
Civilian Conservation Corps Activities in the National Capital Region of the National Park Service, National Capital Parks-Central, Washington, DC, HABS DC-858, c. 2004. https://lcweb2.loc.gov/pnp/habshaer/dc/dc1000/dc1020/data/dc1020data.pdf/ accessed February 2013.
Project originally submitted by Brent McKee - https://nddaily.blogspot.com on May 24, 2013.
Additional contributions by Richard A Walker.
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Why is it called Roaches Run?
We don’t know. But you can always give them a call to ask: (703) 289-2500. Let us know what they tell you!