Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Car-free DC: Lake Artemesia

This is the seventh article in a series on hikes in DC that can be reached by public transportation.

Because there aren't any natural lakes inside the beltway, we largely have to content ourselves with the lovely rivers that run through our area. But there are a few human-made lakes, and Lake Artemesia is one of them. The 38-acre lake was created during construction of Metro, when sand and gravel was removed from the area. It's one of the nicest gravel pits you'll ever visit.

If you ride Metro between Greenbelt and College Park regularly, you're already familiar with Lake Artemesia; the tracks run right by the lake. To most of the rest of DC, this spot is unknown. It's a shame; the sunny lake edges are full of native plant species that you may not see in many other places around DC.

The combination of water, woods, and meadows also provides habitat for a rich mix of birds. The PG County Audubon Society has developed interpretive signs around the lake for the 2.2 mile Luther Goldman Birding Trail; this description of birding stops starts from the parking area on Berwyn Rd. Their bird checklist for the area includes over 200 species. You're pretty much guaranteed to see ducks and red-winged blackbirds; on a recent visit, we also saw goldfinches, swallows, gnatcatchers, and bluebirds.

The closest metro station to Lake Artemesia is College Park. You can reach a trail to the park by going in either direction along Paint Branch Parkway from the metro. I couldn't find a good map of how to do this, so I've tried to cobble together information from a few different sources in this map. If you go southeast on Paint Branch Parkway from the metro, turn left into the driveway of the 94th Aero Squadron Restaurant. The Northeast Branch/Indian Creek Trail will be on your right. Follow it around the College Park Airport, over Paint Branch (the creek), and over to the lake.

More info:

Bikes: The paved paths make this a great spot for bikes. The trails hook up to the larger Northeast Branch trail system (pdf map).

Dogs: Allowed in the park, but should stay on leash. Please scoop your poop.

Other activities: No boating or swimming in the lake, but fishing is allowed. You could probably wade in Paint Branch and Indian Creek if you really want to get wet; they don't look very deep.

Lake Artemesia