As we celebrate our nation’s independence, we thought it would be appropriate to offer up an AQUA salute to what is arguably the most prominent water feature in the U.S.: the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool in the National Mall in Washington, D.C.

If you visited our nation’s capital between November 2010 and August 2012, you would have noticed the iconic reflecting pool was undergoing renovation on a truly historic scale. How big was the project? The price tag ran $34 million.

The sea-to-shining-sea-sized budget was due to both the enormous size of the pool and the extensive nature of the work. The pool measures 2,029 feet long, more than a third of a mile, and 167 feet wide. It ranges between 18 inches deep on the sides and 30 inches in the middle, and holds a whopping 6.75 million gallons. Built in 1928 following the dedication of the adjacent Lincoln Memorial, the vessel had fallen into extreme disrepair with severe water quality problems and a failing structure. It was originally built with an asphalt and tile bottom; by 2010 it was leaking more than 500,000 gallons per week and riddled with severe algae blooms. 

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The renovation revamped the circulation and filtration system (which uses water circulated from the nearby Potomac Tidal Basin) and added a new reinforced concrete foundation that is supported by 2,113 new wooden pilings that sink 40 feet through the marshy soil to bedrock below.

Depending where you’re standing, the pool offers reflective views of the Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument or the surrounding trees and sky. It has served as the familiar center for some of the most historic gatherings in U.S. history including the 1963 civil rights “March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom,” at which the Reverend Martin Luther King’s delivered the famous “I Have a Dream” speech to a crowd of more than 250,000 people.  

More than 24 million visit the National Mall each year.

Eric Herman is Senior Editor of AQUA Magazine.