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Navigating the Potomac River in Washington, D.C.

The Potomac River 

The Potomac River flows between Maryland and Virginia in the heart of the Capital of the United States. A tour of the river provides the opportunity to see some of the great memorials that adorn Washington. There are many boats that provide guided tours of the Potomac, but some boats, such as the Dandy, are floating restaurants that offer fine dining, dancing, and narrated tours.

The Dandy River Boat  The Dandy Dining Hall

 Alexandria

1 Alexandria is located along the Western bank of the Potomac River, approximately 6 miles south of downtown Washington, DC. The first settlement in what is now Alexandria was established in 1695. The town is named in honor of Captain Philip Alexander II (1704-1753) who gave land to assist in the development of the city. Alexandria became incorporated in 1779. The "Old Town" section of Alexandria, along the Potomac River, is known for its historic town houses, art galleries, antique shops, and restaurants.

 Naval Research Laboratory (NRL)

2 The Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) opened in 1923. Thomas Edison was very influential in its establishment. The NRL conducts a broad program of scientific research and advanced development for the US Navy and the US Marine Corps. The laboratory's areas of research include plasma physics, space physics, materials science, and tactical electronic warfare. Some of the notable accomplishments of the NRL include the development of gamma-ray radiography and radar, deployment of the first US intelligence satellite, and the Timation system which provided the basis for the Global Positioning System (GPS) which is widely used today in cars, boats, and many portable navigation devices.

 Bolling Air Force Base

3 Bolling Air Force Base was established in July 1918. The base provides comprehensive wartime operating support to all Air Force organizations and their personnel. The most notable feature of Bolling Air Force is the building with four radar domes located directly across the river from Reagan National Airport. Bolling Air Force Base is the base of the Honor Guard that provides full military honors to deceased Air Force members, veterans and retirees at Arlington National Cemetery. The Honor Guard also participates in wreath-laying ceremonies at the Tomb of the Unknowns.

 National War College and the Capitol

4 National War College and the Capitol are two of the landmarks that can be seen while navigating the Potomac River. The National War College is a school in the National Defense University, located in Fort Lesley J. McNair. The National War College was established on July 1, 1946. Mid-level and senior military officers take courses at the War College in preparation for higher staff and command positions. Former U.S. Secretary of State and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Colin Powell was one of the notable graduates of the National War College. Some of the core courses of the college include: Introduction To Strategy, War and Statecraft, The Non-Military Elements of Statecraft, The Domestic Context and US National Security Decision-Making, The Global Context, Field Studies, and Applications in National Security Strategy.
Tour of the U.S. Capitol

 Washington Monument and Jefferson Memorial

5 The Washington Monument and Jefferson Memorial. While the 555-foot tall white-colored obelisk of the Washington Monument is easily visible from many points along the Potomac River, only the top of the dome of the Jefferson Memorial protrudes above the tree tops along the river. Construction of the Washington monument began in 1848 but was not completed until 1884. Lack of funds and the American Civil War halted the construction when the monument had reached the 150-foot mark. When the project resumed in 1876, the quarry from which the original marble was obtained had been exhausted, and lighter colored marble was used to finish the monument. Every fourth of July, fireworks light up the sky around these American icons and provide entertainment for thousands of tourists and local residents.

 The Lincoln Memorial

6 The Lincoln Memorial, the Washington monument, and the Capitol are aligned in a straight line along the National Mall which is an open-area national park in downtown Washington, D.C. The Lincoln memorial, built to honor president Abraham Lincoln in 1914, has the form of a Greek Doric temple and features a sculpture of Abraham Lincoln sitting in a majestic chair. The Lincoln memorial and the Washington monument are separated by a shallow reflecting pool. This site has been the gathering place for many civil functions and political rallies, including the famous "I Have a Dream" speech delivered by Martin Luther King on August 28, 1963. The Arlington bridge connects the Lincoln memorial to Arlington National Cemetery across the Potomac river.

 The Kennedy Center

7 The Kennedy Center, also known as the John F. Kennedy Memorial Center for the Performing Arts, opened in 1971. The center contains the Opera House, Concert Hall, and the Eisenhower Theater. The Concert Hall has a capacity for 2,442 persons, features a 4,144-pipe organ, and provides a stage for many world-renowned musicians throughout the year. The Opera House is located in the center of the building between the Concert Hall and the Eisenhower theater. The Opera House has 2,300 seats decorated in red velvet, and the stage has a distinctive red and gold silk curtain. The Opera House is the major venue for opera, ballet, and large-scale musical productions. Placido Domingo and Pavarotti are just two of the great singers who have appeared here. The Eisenhower Theater seats 1,100 persons and hosts smaller-scale operas, plays, ballet and contemporary dance.

 The Watergate Building

8 The Watergate Building is a river-side hotel and apartment building that gained notoriety during the Nixon administration. The Watergate building is located near George Washington University and not far from Georgetown. The Watergate scandal resulted from a 1972 break-in at the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate Hotel. The break-in was directed by members of President Richard Nixon's administration. The cover-up of the break-in involved a large number of persons close to the administration, and led to the resignation of President Nixon.

 Washington Harbor

9 Washington Harbor is located near the mouth of Rock Creek. The harbor developed as a place for boats to anchor as they waited to travel through the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal (C&O Canal). The canal operated from 1836 until 1924 parallel to the Potomac River from Cumberland, Maryland to Washington, DC. Better roads and rail lines made the canal obsolete. Today, Washington harbor is mostly a recreational stop that provides access to restaurants, cafes, hotels and boardwalks. The harbor is just three blocks from M Street in Georgetown which has a very active night life. A hotel and business center at the harbor have waterfront restaurants that provide a view of the boats passing along the Potomac. The harbor is protected from flooding by a system of columns with gates that can be raised to form a retaining wall when the water of the river rises.

 Key Bridge and Georgetown

10 Key Bridge and Georgetown. Key Bridge, named in honor of Francis Scott Key, is a reinforced concrete arch bridge conveying traffic on U.S. Route 29 across the Potomac River between Rosslyn in Virginia and Georgetown in DC. Georgetown was first settled by Europeans in 1696, and was incorporated as a town in 1751. It predates the establishment of the city of Washington and the District of Columbia. From the river, the steeples of the Georgetown University buildings stand out above all other landmarks. Georgetown University, the nation's oldest Catholic and Jesuit university, was founded in 1789, the same year the U.S. Constitution took effect.

Explore the Food in Georgetown


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