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Lots to Love about Lake Artemesia

Green Line train passing near Lake Artemesia
Green Line train passing near Lake Artemesia

Passing Lake Artemesia on the Green Line always makes me want to go there, so early last month I visited with my camera and time to read the signage. With a little online research I’ve come to love its origin story, and how it’s being enjoyed today.
Lake Artemesia in fall

How it Came to Be

We have the Green Line to thank for the park even existing. The land had previously been owned by local resident Artemesia N. Drefs, who donated 10 lots to the county for preservation as open space in 1972. The lovely “Artemesia” name had long ago when given to the original smaller lake in honor of her mother and grandmother, who shared the same name. Her family had owned the property since 1890 and its natural ponds were being rented out in the ’70s as a goldfish farm.

I googled Artemesia Drefs but could find no photo, just a mention on a website about Prince George’s African-American history. 

During the construction of the Green Line in 1976, sand and gravel from the land were dredged and used to build the rail bed, in exchange for the development of site as a natural recreation area. Wikipedia declares that Metro saved $10 million by sourcing the material locally, and in return spent $8 million constructing the lake and natural area to repair the excavation damage. During the construction phase, signs identified the site as “Lake Metro.”

Lake Artemesia gate
Love the metalwork entrance!


It’s now a park that includes the 38-acre man-made lake that was created during the excavation of the sand and gravel. There’s also an accessible fishing pier, aquatic gardens, and more than two miles of hiker-biker trails surrounding and connecting the lake with Calvert Road Park and College Park Airport and Aviation Museum. The 1.35 mile hiker-biker trail around the lake is part of the Anacostia Tributary Trail System and East Coast Greenway.

Lake Artemesia birders

The park is quite a hub for birders. In 2006 the 2.2-mile Luther Goldman Birding Trail was designated in memory of Luther Goldman, renowned wildlife biologist, photographer, and nature tour leader, and it’s part of the Anacostia Tributary Trail SystemThe Prince George’s Audobon Society hosts bird walks every 1st and 3rd Thursday of the month; photos above and below are from one of those outings I joined in October of 2013.  And check out the birding site guide for the park.


Lake Artemesia birders

Lake Artemesia

No wonder so many birds are attracted to the site. Pollinators, too.

Lake Artemesia

This floating pier over the lake is great for fishing, or just enjoying the sun on a gorgeous fall day. To learn more and get a fishing license, see the Maryland DNR website or Maryland Fishing Regulations.

Lake Artemesia sign

Along the trail  I noticed a sign – part of the Historical Marker Project – about Dervey Augusta Lomax.  He was a long-time College Park Council member and the city’s first African-American mayor. The sign marks the site of his boyhood home.

Park Review

I give Lake Artemesia Nature Area high marks for its beauty, respect for nature, its multiple uses and accessibility, and excellent bathrooms. Kudos to the designers and managers at the Prince George’s County Department of Parks and Recreation.

Follow Susan Harris:
Susan started blogging about Greenbelt soon after moving here in 2012, and that first blog has grown into this nonprofit community website. She also created and curates the Greenbelt Maryland YouTube channel. In 2021 Susan joined the Board of Directors of Greenbelt Access TV. Retired from garden writing and teaching, she continues to blog at GardenRant.com.

4 Responses

  1. Maxine Gross
    | Reply

    This tells the story of a woman’s gift of land for the park and takes notice of a marker for the home of the Lomax family. Surely that must indicate to you that there is more to the story. Yes, a part of the land for the park was donated by a family who had no use for it. Most of the area was however part of a community of African Americans. It had families who had lived there for generations. They were forced out of their homes. The story here is only a small part of the the truth.

  2. Janet Wagner
    | Reply

    May we have permission to use a horizontal “slice” of the photo of Lake Artemesia in the banner of the new website for the Rotary Club of College Park? It would be about a horizontal slice showing about 1/3 of the photo. It won’t be recognizable.

  3. Bill Smith
    | Reply

    Most of the stuff dug up that created the lakebed was used to raise the Metro rail bed so it was about 5 feet high than the adjacent CSX tracks. This was done so that if a CSX train derailed it would not roll onto the Metro tracks.

  4. Teri Speight
    | Reply

    Great article Susan. I remember hearing about and going there back in the day. I imagine it is also a great place of peace locally in the winter. Thanks for sharing this!

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