Quack quack! Image by Architect of the Capitol.

As of Monday, there are little ramps leading into and out of the Capitol Reflecting Pool at Union Square. But they’re not for you and me to have easier access to a quick swim. They’re for ducks!

The duck ramps are painted in bright white and easily noticeable. They also say, “Duck Ramp” on them, so humans and ducks alike know who should use the ramps. No word on whether pigeons and squirrels are offended.

Here's where you can see ducks using their ramps. Image by Google Maps.

The ramps “allow ducks of all ages to enter and exit the pool easily over the existing limestone curb,” said Nancy Skinkle, Director of the Architect of the Capitol's Planning and Project Management Division.

The Architect of the Capitol consulted City Wildlife, a non-profit that rehabilitates animals in DC, to build the ramps. It then did what any good planners would: convened a charrette to figure out the best design for DC’s feathered friends.

This is not the first time duck ramps have appeared in DC. A carpenter for the National Gallery of Art built a duck ramp for the museum’s fountain years ago, and visitors spotted a similar one last summer:

Other states and countries are have also built similar guides for animals:

  • Huntsville, Alabama, installed a “duck catwalk” for ducklings in a popular park to get to dry land when the water is too low for them to reach the fountain edge.

  • Washington state built bird ramps to help cormorant birds get out of the pontoon wells of the I-520 floating bridge. Cormorants dive into the water to catch fish, but can’t fly out of the pontoon wells unless their wings are dry. The ramps give them a place to chill out.

  • Canada built 44 animal crossings in Banff National Park in Alberta, helping animals cross over the Trans Canada Highway more than 140,000 times.

  • Holland spent about $155,000 on a squirrel bridge. It has been used by five squirrels in four years.

  • California is reviewing plans for a “wildlife freeway” to help mountain lions, bobcats, coyotes, and other animals cross the 101, about an hour outside Los Angeles, to reach better habitats.

  • Arizona almost spent $1.25 million on a series of overhead tunnels to guide a colony of squirrels over a road. The state cancelled the project after overwhelming opposition.

What do you think of infrastructure that's geared toward animals?

Joanne Pierce is a Northern Virginia native and a graduate student in public administration and policy, focusing on resiliency and emergency response. She lives in Alexandria and enjoys learning about pretty much everything, including the history of pencils.