Woodend History

Nature Forward is the most tenured environmental organization in the DC Region

On May 18, 1897, Washington area bird lovers formed one of the first organized wildlife groups on the East Coast – the Nature Forward Society of the District of Columbia. The Washington Post took note and ran a short story on May 24, 1897 with the headline: “TO SAVE FEATHERED SONGSTERS: NEWLY ORGANIZED AUDUBON SOCIETY WILL BEGIN ACTIVE WORK.

According to our bylaws archived at the Smithsonian, the purpose of the society is “to discourage the purchase, or use of the feathers of any birds for ornamentation, except those of the ostrich and domesticated fowls, to discourage the destruction of birds, their nests and eggs, to arouse and stimulate interest in living birds among the school children of the District of Columbia, to secure the better enforcement of present laws and such further legislation as will best carry out the objects of the Society.”

Watch the documentary produced for NF’s 100th anniversary to learn more about our fascinating legacy.

The organization’s history includes the passing of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act,  the saving of the C&O Canal park, as well as naturalist luminaries Rachel Carson and Roger Tory Peterson, who helped to build NF into the institution it is today.

In many ways, the story of our Woodend Nature Sanctuary is the story of land use in our region

The buildings at Woodend Nature Sanctuary date from the late 1920s and the estate of Chester and Marion Wells.

The family hired the famous architect John Russell Pope to design their home, which at the time was considered a country house. Marion Wells bequeathed the 40 acres that remained in the estate to the Nature Forward. But, of course, the land has a longer and richer history than just the story of this one family.

Before the Wells family arrived, the rolling hills of Woodend were once part of the hunting grounds of Algonquin-speaking people, were included in an early colonial land grant, and were intensively farmed for tobacco in a plantation system that exploited the labor of enslaved people. In recent decades, the forces of urbanization have surrounded Woodend and impacted the ecology within it. In many ways, the story of Woodend is the story of land use in our region. Delve into that history with the gorgeous documentary The Land of Woodend.

“It’s exciting to see new native plant specifies appearing on the property. Educating children about the importance of biodiversity, food chains, and native flora and fauna becomes much easier when you are able to point them out.”

– Frank

“My first experience volunteering at Woodend involved surveying and nurturing the Restored Meadow. I quickly learned to identify many native plant species that were thriving in the meadow and also how much fun it was to volunteer with other nature loving folks.”

– Maura

“There is nothing like hands-on experience removing invasive plants and replacing them with native species. Through that process, I have learned more about each plant’s value and impact on improvement of the vibrancy and resilience of the plant and animal diversity at Woodend”

– Gregg

“I can not thank you all enough for providing fulfilling tangible projects – that saw the full lifecycle of restoration from invasive removal to planting – for our crews to really understand the impact of their work in the watershed.”

– Arielle

Visit Woodend Sanctuary

8940 Jones Mill Road
Chevy Chase, MD 20815

Trails are open daily from dawn to dusk
Admission is free

If you are in Northern Virginia,
you also can 
visit our Rust Sanctuary

Thank you for leaving dogs and other pets at home