Donaldson Run and Native American discovery
I went for my 3.5 mile hike today at Donaldson Run Park. I am familiar with some of the trails though not all of them. I decided to try a new fork. It went down and down into the Donaldson Run below. Then, I followed the stream until I came upon spot where the rains had filled the crossing and the bank was too steep for me to climb. I reversed course and came to another branch in the trail. It led to a Native American encampment circa 500 BC. There was an herb garden, long established as well. (I was lost.)
If the Natives had been home today, they would have likely offered me a smoke. Today, there was a volunteer gardener taking care of things. (I did not admit I was lost.)
I reversed course again and found the original trail and realized what is down must go up and up. I was sweating bullets with my backpack and folding chair. I stopped for cheese and crackers and an apple. I had a swallow of water too.
Climbing out took all of my stamina, though I made it fine. When I got home and checked my blood pressure it was 119/66. Wow, I am in good shape.
“Donaldson Run is a stream in Arlington County, Virginia. From its source near Marymount University, Donaldson Run flows on a northeastern course and empties into the Potomac River within the Federal parklands of the George Washington Memorial Parkway. Donaldson Run is surrounded predominantly by forests.
Donaldson Run was named after Robert H. Donaldson, one of the early farm owners, along the Potomac. The land was originally settled by a certain James Donaldson (pre-1755), then inherited by James' son, William, about the time of the Revolutionary War. William then passed the land to his son Robert. Robert Donaldson's family worked the farm through the Civil War. Robert's farm wagon carried the name "Donaldson & Sons," and the wagon was used to transport farm produce to Georgetown, a very arduous trip, especially in inclement weather.
Following the outbreak of the Civil War, a ring of forts was built in the area, in order to protect Washington from Confederate forces. During this period most of the trees in the area were felled. The effect on the landscape was devastating. Large amounts of the topsoil washed away, resulting in disastrous erosion. One beneficial result, however, was the construction of military roads (i.e. North Military Road), which greatly improved the transportation situation. (See documentation, and family history, available from Potomac Overlook Regional Park.)
In the late 19th century, this stream served as a popular swimming hole and boat landing. It was first named Rock Run in the early 19th century, and later renamed Swimming Landing Run. By 1900, the name of the stream had been changed to Donaldson Run.
A North Arlington neighborhood along the Potomac.
Early Inhabitants (10,000 BC to 1860 AD) Over ten thousand years ago when the first human beings passed through our neighborhood, it was cold and tundra-like. These hunters of large game were descendents of the Asian people who crossed the Bering land bridge. A spear point typical of these people was found during the excavation of the Donaldson Run swimming pool. As the climate slowly grew warmer the cultures of the inhabitants in our area evolved.
Pottery and other artifacts from both the Archaic (8000 to 1300 BC) and Woodland Cultures (1000 BC to 1608 AD) have been found near Donaldson Run. In the 1850s Robert Donaldson, the farmer from whom our neighborhood derives its name, found a soapstone bowl, which he used to hold chicken feed. This artifact of the Woodland Culture is now in the University of Pennsylvania museum and is dated to the late Archaic Period (2500-1300 BC).
Although Captain John Smith may have reached the mouth of Donaldson Run when he sailed up the Potomac in 1608, there was no permanent settlement in our neighborhood until after 1800. The first house in our neighborhood was that of Caleb Birch. He built his first log cabin early in the century and the farm was still in the family in 1850. On their 110 acres the Birches grew wheat, rye, corn and Irish potatoes and also had a market garden. They owned four horses, eight cows and 31 swine. The ruin of Caleb Birch’s house was restored as a residence and greatly remodeled in 1939. A number of the original chestnut logs were incorporated in the restored structure, which is located at 4576 North 26th Street. A historical marker has been placed at the site.”