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Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool

Updated: December 18, 2023

The Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool is one of the most famous attractions in DC.

While it is technically part of the Lincoln Memorial, it deserves its own post.

And to be honest, we should refer to it as the Washington Monument Reflecting Pool since that is what the reflection is. (though there is also the argument that you can use this as a place to reflect on the legacy of Lincoln!)

I spend a lot of time at the Reflecting Pool as a tour guide with DC by Foot on our National Mall tours. Our 2 hour tour essentially walks the perimeter to visit the memorials around it.

I also bring my kids here in the winter if it freezes over - we don't walk on it but we love to watch others risk it! You used to be able to ice skate on it in the winter.


What Is the Reflecting Pool?

Reflecting pools are common at memorials - the still water represents calmness and serenity. It is a place of contemplation and reflection.

It is also in direct line with the Washington Monument so it perfectly reflects most of the monument.

Reflecting Pool DC

Lore says that the only way you could see the entire monument reflected is if you were level with Lincoln's eyes but don't climb up and check for yourself!

There are no fish in the reflecting pool, though there are fish in the nearby manmade Constitution Gardens pond.

You'll often see ducks in the reflecting pool.

There is even a volunteer group to help baby ducks who get stuck in the waterfalls at the nearby WWII Memorial and put them back in the reflecting pool.

Other reflecting pools can be found at the Korean Veterans Memorial, FDR Memorial, and the US Capitol among others.

View West from Washington Monument Toward Lincoln Memorial

How Long and Deep Is the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool?

It is 2,029 feet long which is about a third of a mile.

The reflecting pool is not as deep as it looks. It is only 18-30" deep depending on how close to the center you are.

Which means Jenny really did run through during the filming of Forrest Gump! 

Unfortunately, you are not permitted to re-enact that scene.

Washington DC Walking Tours
We see the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool on all our National Mall tours! https://freetoursbyfoot.com/washington-dc-tours/book-washingon-dc-tours/

Can You Swim in the Reflecting Pool?

No. It is both not allowed and due to the shallow water, not even possible.

You are also discouraged from wading or walking in it.

https://www.loc.gov/resource/cph.3c06973/

On some of the hottest afternoons, you may see people dipping their feet in, but it doesn't take long for them to notice how dirty the water is and pull them out.

In the past, you used to see much more activity in the reflecting pool, including summer wading, toy sailboats, and winter ice skating.

None of that is allowed now but sometimes you'll see people try out the strength of the ice on cold days.


Why Is the Reflecting Pool Empty?

The entire pool was built in 1922 after the dedication of the Lincoln Memorial.

In 2010 the entire pool was dug up and rebuilt. It has been continuously drained and cleaned since then.

In order to maintain the filters and the pool itself, it is regularly cleaned.

The water actually has a small current that was meant to keep algae from forming, but it doesn't seem to be working.

There is no publically available cleaning schedule but if the pool is ever closed, it's usually for cleaning. It is cleaned once a year, usually in late winter/early Spring. It takes about a week to drain the water, scrumb the bottom and refill it.

About The Author

Canden Arciniega

Follow On Instagram | I'm a historian & tour guide in Washington DC with 4 published books about the city. I have written for HuffPost Travel and have been featured in the Washington Post, WTOP, and numerous other DC papers. I've also been interviewed by the BBC, NPR, Travel Channel and Discovery Family Channel. I am the producer of the podcast, Tour Guide Tell All. I am an authority on D.C. history, and have led tours in the city since 2011. I currently resides in DC, but have also lived in London and South Korea, and have traveled to over 28 countries and every US State but Hawaii. I homeschool my 2 children by exploring the plethora of museums in DC. Read More...
Updated: December 18th, 2023
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