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Fort Washington State Park

George Washington’s one-time fort is now a bird watching haven

Description

A large observation deck sits at the high point of this 493-acre state park, which takes its name from the temporary fort built by George Washington’s troops in the fall of 1777 during the Revolutionary War.

While birders know the park as a major flyway for all 16 species of raptors that migrate on the East Coast, the large expanse of forested, hilly terrain is also a favorite for picnickers, hikers, backpackers, campers and bikers. The Wissahickon Creek, which runs through the park, is also a great spot for trout fishing in the spring.

Meanwhile, the aforementioned observation deck provides a scenic overlook year-round, in addition to great views of the butterfly garden.

History

Following the unsuccessful battle of Germantown, Washington chose the high ground of Fort Washington to encamp his 12,000 soldiers, where he considered attacking General Howe’s British army in Philadelphia.

Washington decided against the attack, and the British marched out from Philadelphia on December 5 to try to engage the Americans in battle. Because of Washington’s strong position, only local skirmishes took place, and Howe led his army back to Philadelphia on December 8. Several days later, Washington marched the Continental Army on to Valley Forge.

Although Fort Washington State Park is beyond the boundaries of Philadelphia, the city’s famous Fairmount Park Commission began acquiring land here in the early 1920s. The commission, with the assistance of the Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Forests and Waters, administered the park until 1953 when an act by the state legislature turned the park over to the former Department of Forests and Waters, now the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

Come Prepared

The park closes at sunset, alcoholic beverages are prohibited and pets must be leashed

Outsider’s Tip

Each Autumn, volunteers run a daily raptor “watch” to count the hawks that migrate past the observation deck

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Contact Park officials for information about the volunteer group, the Friends of Fort Washington, that puts on an annual clean up of Wissahickon creek.

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