Wander Mawavi (Prince William Forest), the largest National Park in the DMV

Best time to go: 05/01 - 10/01

A 40 minute drive south of Washington, DC is Prince William Forest, the largest National Park in the DMV (DC, Maryland, Virginia).

James and I, enjoying the fall colors in Prince William Forest National Park.

In the depths of the Great Depression, the Civilian Conservation Corps had a different name for the DMV. They called it Mawavi, a backronym combining Maryland, Washington and Virginia and a nod, I suppose, to the region’s Native American heritage. The name remains on roads and camps throughout Prince William Forest National Park [1].

A bridge on the Mawavi Road in Prince William Forest National Park.

If you follow the Mawavi Road from lot 5 off the scenic park loop, you’ll come to a bridge (see above). Take a left to follow the trail along the river to what has to be the spookiest place in the DMV.

James reflects on the somber spookiness of the CCC lake in Prince William Forest National Park.
The “Happyland” camp in Prince William Forest National Park has the feel of Kurtz’ outpost in Heart of Darkness

The camp also gives another meaning to the word spooky. These woods were training ground to America’s first spooks, the OSS, during WWII. You can still occasionally find artifacts from that era on the forest floor, and in the small museum near the park entrance.

This M-69 81mm Mortar Training Round was found protruding from the root ball of a recently fallen tree in Prince William Forest National Park. The Park was formerly the training ground of the OSS, precursor to the CIA.
If you discover artillery shells or other historical artifacts from the former OSS training ground, it will likely end up in a display case in the Prince William Forest National Park museum.

The park also has some history as a place for subsistence farming and a respite for underprivileged urban youth. That piece of Mawavi’s heritage led to it being added to the National Register of Historic Places, and you can get a glimpse of what it was like to be a part of these camps at the annual Heritage Festival in mid-September.

And the history continues today, with contributions by volunteers to the wonders of this great American wilderness.

The Crescent Truss Bridge in Prince William Forest National Park is a wonder in structural engineering and sparse design.
At the base of the Mawavi lake is a bridge erected by the NPS and Sierra Club volunteers in Prince William Forest National Park.

The park is accessible from the entrance road near Route 1 in Triangle, VA. Park entry is $15 per vehicle.

Explore More:

  1. National Park Service, Placard by the Mawavi Road, 2019
  2. National Park Service, Prince William Forest Park Virtual Museum Exhibit, accessed 2019.


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