Elizabeth Hartwell
Liz Hartwell in the Mason Neck Great Marsh in 1974.

Perhaps no one has contributed more to the revival of the American Bald Eagle population throughout the Potomac River region, than Elizabeth Speer Hartwell.

After moving in 1960 to a waterfront home on the historic Mason Neck peninsula, Elizabeth and her family soon fell in love with the pristine natural beauty provided by the undisturbed marsh and woodlands. Elizabeth realized that Mason Neck had become a sanctuary for endangered bald eagles, and would often take friends and family to view them through boating excursions into the Great Marsh.

When developers sought to construct a large planned community and airport on the land that was providing a vital natural habitat for bald eagles and other wildlife, Elizabeth endeavored to halt their efforts permanently. Through her education, enthusiasm, and eloquent public speaking, Elizabeth convinced key federal, state, and local officials of the importance of preserving Mason Neck’s environmental resources.

Elizabeth’s efforts resulted in the 1969 establishment of the Mason Neck National Wildlife Refuge; our nation’s first federal wildlife refuge dedicated to the preservation of the American Bald Eagle. In August 2006, Congress acted to change the name of the refuge to the Elizabeth Hartwell Mason Neck National Wildlife Refuge.

Today, the Potomac River region, and especially the Mason Neck peninsula, are among the top bald eagle viewing locations in the continental United States.

A dedicated mother, author, environmental activist, and champion for the preservation of bald eagles and other wildlife, Elizabeth Hartwell passed on December 14, 2000. We honor and remember her anytime we enjoy the serene beauty of the Elizabeth Hartwell Mason Neck National Wildlife Refuge, and neighboring Mason Neck State Park.

Elizabeth’s family operates the Elizabeth Hartwell Environmental Education Fund, a nonprofit dedicated to the preservation and protection of the Mason Neck peninsula, and its environmental, historical, and public resources.

For more information about Elizabeth Hartwell or the Elizabeth Hartwell Environmental Education Fund, contact Rob Hartwell through their website.