Klingle Road

Look over the edge of Klingle Valley Bridge on Connecticut Avenue for an eagle’s eye view of the remains of Klingle Road.  Twenty odd years of legal wrangling have done at least as much to degrade this former arterial of Rock Creek Parkway as the 1991 storm that washed it out.  There are times when bureaucratic inaction is a boon to exploration.  


One group of DC residents wishes to see the 2600 block of Klingle Road restored as a convenient east-west motorway linking Reno Road and Beach Drive.  Then there are those who would rather see it developed along the lines of its more recent de facto function, as a rustic pedestrian pathway through Klingle Valley into Rock Creek Park.  Until this dispute is resolved, Klingle Road has received little to no attention from municipal work crews and stands as a case study in urban neglect.

Fallen trees crisscross the former roadway, breaching the surface at odd intervals with all the power of the world’s slowest-motion jackhammer.  Manhole covers have literally rusted to pieces, and underground drainage pipes have opened up, burping their contents onto the roadway.  Successive rainfalls have resulted in jagged crags in the pavement that easily reach depths of a foot or more.  I visited on a dry day at the end of a dry week, and the roadway was still a veritable tributary of nearby Klingle Creek.

Near the bottom of the valley, where the roadway has indeed tumbled away completely, creek and roadway finally merge the way that nature clearly wants them to do.

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Like urban explorers, graffiti artists revel in the inattention of authorities.  Given long periods of uninterrupted time in which to work, they have turned the underside of Klingle Valley Bridge into an impressive canvas.  It is a colorful and discourteous pastiche of popular culture – Spider-Man, Ninja Turtles, and characters of artists’ own invention, crudely rendered between elaborate tags.

The decimated roadway also offers a rare vantage point on single-arch steel Klingle Valley Bridge overhead.  This Art Deco bridge dates from 1930-1932.  On the day I visited, some hapless worker left one of the usually locked doors to its internal superstructure standing wide open.

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Since this was an unexpected opportunity, I was not prepared with a flashlight, but the cool light of a single sodium-vapor lamp provided minimal guidance within the bridge’s abutment.  The heavy sounds of traffic doppler through the tall, narrow space inside, providing a bewildering sense of movement all around.  This, coupled with signs that somebody had slept here the night before and hoped to return – a shirt left to dry on a rail, an unopened can of tuna – suggest an eerie sense of life in this usually uninhabited space.




After two decades of disputation, the road will be replaced with a trail for hikers and bicyclists. A permit to begin restoration of the creek bed, retaining walls, and water permeable trail was granted in Oct. 2014.  “Klingle Trail Completion” is a $3 million line item in the FY2013-2018 District Capital Improvements budget. Programming $1.5 million in FY2014, and $1.5 million in FY2015, the recreational trail may finally be completed in 2016, 25 years after the closing of Klingle Road due to stormwater damage.


Rock Creek Park

Featured in

DCinruins Volume 2: Local Witness published by Insignificant Press.



4 thoughts on “Klingle Road

  1. This is my favorite spot in DC. I bike through it at least 3 times a week. It is a sanctuary for me. Being in DC on a trail (somewhat) and no one around. I use it to connect from the Rock Creek trail to get home at the MC Gardens. Quite often there is a police car parked at the eastern closed portion and I usually check with them if I can bike through and it is never a problem. For me ideally this should stay as it is. I am land surveyor and I did survey on this portion of Klingle about 5 years ago, back then they were considering reopening. I did set all of the boundary corners of the adjacent properties. Back when I was younger and the road was still open it always had issues with storm water flooding after even a medium rain.

    Posted by Marian Kopecky | March 12, 2014, 12:15 pm
  2. Oh and Thank you for the article and very, very interesting website!

    Posted by Marian Kopecky | March 12, 2014, 12:16 pm
  3. Marian – Thank you for your interesting story and kind words! I really enjoy hearing about other folks’ experiences in the places I love!

    Posted by Thomas Kenning | March 12, 2014, 1:30 pm
  4. I went there today, 09 May 2014. I was actually able to take several pictures that matched yours! I’ve also visited Forest Glen Seminary. As far as the door left open under the bridge. It’s still open. Who ever lived there when you were able to visit has definitely come back. The setup has become much more elaborate; to include a complex but awesome hampser cage. It felt as if I had broke into someone’s home. And, I loved most of the graffiti. There’s also a path that leads to some really great trails and staircases. Check them out. I have pictures if you’d like a copy. (Forrest Glen has gone through some wonderful updates. The redid the main building, but kept it original. Now it’s some kinda apartment comunity? Only the stuff in the back is still falling apart. I really liked the castle thingy and the hidden statues. Def worth a revisit.

    If you know of any new places for me to check out, I’d be happy to hear from you. I’m planning on checking out Forrest Haven Asylum in Larual this summer. Had to use google maps and earth to find it. Or at least I think I found it, if not, there’s another place to check out in that area!!!

    If you know of anywhere else, please email me at emmie.hancock@gmail.com Thanks!

    Posted by Emily Jane Hancock | May 10, 2014, 3:41 am

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