The emplacement of Theodore Roosevelt Bridge across the Potomac River in Washington gives many commuters the impression that it, and not the forested island beneath, is the twenty-sixth President's official memorial. Somewhere among those trees, however, he stands eighteen feet tall, one bronze fist upraised, eternally lecturing the doves and mockingbirds."
Morris was trying to convey two ideas with what he said. One was that people still loved Theodore Roosevelt long after he was president. He's still the 4th most popular president behind Washington, Lincoln, and FDR. The second was that TR spent his post-presidential years basically shouting in the wind - no one was interested in his ideas anymore - a major theme of Morris's third book on Roosevelt.
Theodore Roosevelt Island was once an estate owned by John Mason, the son of George Mason. Like Theodore Roosevelt National Park, the island was converted into a natural memorial to Theodore Roosevelt, who took swims in the Potomac and led his cabinet on his famous point-to-point hikes while he was president.
It's easy to get lost trying to get to Theodore Roosevelt Island, just as it's easy to get lost going to the nearby Marine Veterans Memorial. The layout of the roads prohibits most maneuvers in the interest of keeping traffic flowing in an otherwise congested area, but you really have to pay attention to the lane changes to stay on the GW Parkway to make it work. Left! Right! Recalculating! Somehow I got it on the first try. Maybe I'm lucky. Maybe I'm learning. The penalty for missing the turn is some kind of tragically huge double U-turn operation.
Once you're there, Theodore Roosevelt Island is a pleasant, wooded setting in the middle of the Potomac River. I found a fair number of people walking the trails on the island and jogging or cycling on the Mount Vernon Trail which passes by the island.
Arranged in an arc behind the Roosevelt statue are four panels with TR quotes on four themes: Youth, Manhood, State, and Nature. There is a rather large, circular plaza with benches to sit and contemplate the natural setting and Theodore Roosevelt, who looms large over the area. That is, for the sixty seconds between commercial jet treetop buzzings of the island, following the Potomac approach to Reagan.
I walked most of the trails on the island in a failed attempt to find an open bathroom. To my disappointment, it opens April 1. Along the way, I saw a number of common eastern birds like hairy woodpeckers, Carolina chickadees, robins, and tufted titmice.
The island has some enjoyable nature trails and is a good place to see a number of birds. I assume it will be a nice place for woodland flowers in the spring, too. It's a nice retreat from the urban setting of downtown D.C., and you might just find a slice of solitude amid there beneath the towers in Rosslyn.
You can find out more about Theodore Roosevelt Island at http://www.nps.gov/this/index.htm.