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Photo Contest Winners of 2023

By Blog, Photography

In 2023, we received many wonderful photo contest entries. From iconic nature pictures to mesmerizing sunsets to beautiful day trips along the towpath, our canal enthusiasts share gorgeous highlights of the C&O Canal National Historical Park.

These are your favorite photos—our monthly photo contest winners! Check them out below and reminisce with us about 2023.

Click the picture to view full size.

Submit your photos of the Park to be considered for our monthly photo contest here.

The Trust is Thankful for…

By Blog

Bat-tastic Fun Facts

By Blog, Nature

To celebrate Bats and their impact to our local ecosystems we have compiled some Bat-tastic fun facts to share with you!

1. Bats can eat more than 1,000 mosquitos per night.

Each adult bat can eat up to 1,000 insects per hour. That is over $53 million of free pest control they provide and with the agricultural benefit of being pesticide free.

2. The C&O Canal NHP is home to 10 species of bats.

There are 10 confirmed species of bats within the C&O Canal NHP. Eight of which are hibernating bats.

3. Bats are pollinators just like birds and bees.

Bats aid in pollination both by transferring pollen when drinking nectar from flowers but also through seed spreading.

4. Bats are the only mammal that can fly.

There are other mammals that have the ability to glide, or fall with style. Though bats are the only mammal that have the true ability to fly.

5. Not all bats use echolocation to find prey.

While many believe bats to have poor eyesight and rely on echolocation, bats’ vision is actually pretty comparable to human sight. As well not all bats can  echolocate, only 70% have the capability.

6. The species of bats within the areas of the C&O Canal are all insectivores.

Insectivore as the name suggests eat insects. While other species of bat can be carnivores or frugivores. Carnivorous bats eat meat like frogs, fish and birds. Frugivores eat fruit and other vegetation like fig, mango and agave.

7. The C&O Canal NHP is a top favorite for hibernating bats in the state of Maryland.

Eight different species of bat now call the Indigo Tunnel “home,” including the Maryland state endangered small-footed myotis and the federally endangered Indiana bat. The Indigo Tunnel, located in Allegany County, has been identified by Maryland Department of Natural Resources as one of the largest bat hibernacula in the state. To protect the hibernating bats and their home, the National Park Service has placed metal gates at the portals of the tunnel. (pictured below)

Photo by Maximillian Ruther

Photo by Nanette Nyce

Information for this post was sourced from the NPS and BatWeek.org

Top image by HitchHike via Pexels

Enjoy Delicious Ice Cream Treats on the C&O Canal Ice Cream Trail

By Blog, Eat/Drink

Photo by Mark Cruz

After a day exploring the wonders of the C&O Canal National Historical Park (NHP), there’s nothing quite as satisfying as taking a break in a Canal Town. These towns, rich with history and small-town charm, provide a welcoming respite for weary adventurers. While meandering through the streets of most canal towns or just beyond, you’re bound to stumble upon a unique ice cream shop promising sweet treats that tantalize the taste buds. These shops offer a mouthwatering array of flavors, ranging from classic favorites to inventive creations.

Photo courtesy of The Little Red Barn

Little Red Barn Ice Cream Cafe
4610 Lander Road, Jefferson, MD

Closest Canal Town: Point of Rocks

Located in a restored, hundred-year-old barn, the Little Red Barn Ice Cream Cafe is a fun spot to enjoy frozen treats. It also offers sandwiches, soups, salads, and expresso-based drinks. The options are limitless, with indoor dining, patio space, and a walk-up window with carry-out. The Little Red Barn offers a large selection of ice cream flavors, milkshakes, and sundaes made with Hershey’s ice cream. Follow their Facebook page for special flavors and more.

Photo courtesy of Rocky Point Creamery

Rocky Point Creamery
4323 Tuscarora Road, Tuscarora, MD

Closest Canal Town: Point of Rocks, MD

Rocky Point Creamery is a classic farm-to-cone style creamery located a little over a mile from the towpath in Point of Rocks. Part of Maryland’s Best Ice Cream Trail, the creamery rotates over 80 flavors of ice cream weekly and offers specialty sundaes and shakes. Be sure to visit their tractor-style playground, sunflower field in July and August, and events like food trucks and goat yoga. Weekly flavors and events are posted on their Facebook page.

A La Mode Cafe
113 Potomac Street, Harpers Ferry, WV 

Canal Town: Harpers Ferry/Bolivar

A La Mode Cafe offers tasty desserts, including ice cream treats like milkshakes and sundaes. Hand-dipped ice cream is from Kawartha Dairy, and there are soft-serve options as well.  The menu also includes a few breakfast and lunch items.

Photo courtesy of Battle Grounds Bakery & Coffee

Battle Grounds Bakery & Coffee
180 High Street, Harpers Ferry, WV

Canal Town: Harpers Ferry/Bolivar

Situated right in the middle of the historic lower town of Harpers Ferry, Battle Grounds Bakery & Coffee offers breakfast and pastries, salad and sandwiches, specialty coffees, cookies, and delicious frozen custard flavors. Follow them on Facebook.

Cannonball Deli
125-129 High Street, Harpers Ferry, WV

Canal Town: Harpers Ferry/Bolivar

Just a short walk across the Potomac River into Harpers Ferry, the Cannonball Deli is one of several walk-up ice cream spots on Potomac Street. It serves Hershey’s ice cream. The deli has indoor and outdoor seating, a tasty ice cream menu, and offers other menu items like burgers, pizza, salads, and burritos.

Creamy Creations
173 Potomac Street, Harpers Ferry, WV

Canal Town: Harpers Ferry/Bolivar

Just a short walk across the Potomac River into Harpers Ferry, Creamy Creations is another walk-up ice cream spot on Potomac Street, opposite the train station. You’ll find a variety of fun, unique hand-dipped flavors, along with traditional flavors and plenty of toppings to choose from. 

Harpers Ferry Ice Cream Shoppe
408 Alstadts Hill Road, Harpers Ferry, WV

Canal Town: Harpers Ferry/Bolivar

The Harpers Ferry Ice Cream Shoppe features 16 flavors from local creamery Garber’s Ice Cream in Winchester, Virginia. The menu includes cones, cups, milkshakes, cookie sandwiches, and sundaes.

Photo courtesy of Amy & Alex’s Homemade Ice Cream and Coffee

Amy & Alex’s Homemade Ice Cream and Coffee
207 S Princess Street, Suite 2, Shepherdstown, WV

Canal Town: Shepherdstown, WV

Amy & Alex’s Homemade Ice Cream and Coffee opened in May of 2023, focusing on clean ingredients, meaning no artificial flavors and no artificial ingredients. Most of their ice cream add-ins are organic, and they offer a variety of traditional flavors as well as more unique flavors, like Honey Raspberry Blueberry Swirl, Mango Dragonfruit, and Coffee Crunch Bar. They always have two or three dairy-free coconut milk ice creams as well. Follow them on Instagram.

Photo courtesy of Rock Hill Creamery

Rock Hill Creamery
111 West German Street, Shepherdstown, WV

Canal Town: Shepherdstown, WV

Rock Hill Creamery, located in the heart of Shepherdstown, West Va., features ice cream made right in the shop using only milk, sugar, and heavy cream as the base. The menu features a variety of traditional and not-so-traditional ice cream flavors, as well as vegan sorbet. Flavors like Keylime Pie, Lavender Honey, Vanilla Chip, Zebra Cake, and Better Brownie Batter are sure to tempt your tastebuds!

Photo courtesy of Deliteful Dairy

Deliteful Dairy
16230 Long Delite Lane, Williamsport, MD 

Canal Town: Williamsport, MD

Located close to C&O Canal access points at Cushwa Basin and McMahons Mill, Deliteful Dairy offers high-quality, grass-fed dairy products, including ice cream, butter artisanal cheeses, and farm-fresh craft milk selections. This seventh-generational farm is part of Maryland’s Best Ice Cream Trail and offers a variety of tasty ice cream treats. Visit them on Facebook for events and specials.

Photo courtesy of Scoop-A-Licious & More

Scoop-A-Licious & More
16904 Virginia Avenue, Williamsport, MD

Canal Town: Williamsport, MD

Scoop-A-Licious & More offers batch-churned ice cream from Windy Knoll Farm & soft-serve ice cream. They also have a wide variety of sundaes, milkshakes, snow cones, and other delicious ice cream treats.

Photo courtesy of BuddyLou’s Eats Drinks & Antiques

BuddyLou’s Eats Drinks & Antiques
11 East Main Street, Hancock, MD

Canal Town: Hancock, MD

Just steps from the C&O Canal, Buddy Lou’s offers exceptional dining, unique artisan gifts, vintage treasures, and just plain fun! Their ice cream menu offers soft serve and Flavor Burst selections, with a multitude of topping choices. You can also get sundaes, milkshakes, and other ice cream treats.

Photo courtesy of Queen City Creamery

Queen City Creamery
138 Baltimore Street, Cumberland, MD

Canal Town: Cumberland, MD

Queen City Creamy makes homemade frozen custard, sorbet, and frozen treats daily. There’s a Flavor of the Day Custard, a Flavor of the Week Sorbet, and a Sundae of the Week. The menu includes ice cream floats and even ice cream cakes, plus more! Stop in and enjoy flavors like Lemon Blueberry, Salted Caramel Cashew, and Caramel Old Bay. They were recently voted one of the best frozen custard places in the United States. Follow them on Facebook.

European Desserts and More
17 Howard Street, Cumberland, MD 

Canal Town: Cumberland

Located just steps off the towpath, less than 500 ft from the end of the C&O Canal and the start of the Great Allegheny Passage trail, European Desserts and More is one of the shops at Canal Place. The shop offers six flavors of ice cream, including black raspberry and cookies & crème. Its specialty is traditional handmade desserts, like baklava, bee sting cake, and filo pastries. Follow the towpath south, and you will find a green field to eat your ice cream or other treats and view “The Cumberland,” a full-scale C&O Canal boat replica. This is the perfect place to treat yourself after your journey or fuel up for the start of your trip.

The next time you find yourself visiting the C&O Canal NHP, enjoy the simple pleasures of an ice cream treat in a canal town. We hope it will be the perfect ending to a great day! Click here for more information about the Canal Towns Partnership.

Five Ways Birding at the C&O Canal Can Improve Your Health

By Blog, Nature, Photography

Nature has a profound impact on human well-being. Research shows that spending time in nature and connecting with your natural surroundings is associated with better body and brain health. Now researchers know that birds are a specific source of those health benefits.

Prothonotary Warbler by Robert A. Powell

Here are five ways that birding at the C&O Canal NHP Can Improve Your Health:

Carolina Wren Singing on its Pedestal by Eric Stuyck

1. Physical Fitness

Birding is not just about observing birds; it often involves exploration. To do that, you have to move from place to place physically. The C&O Canal stretches for 184.5 miles, offering ample hiking, biking, and leisurely walking opportunities. These activities promote cardiovascular health, improve endurance, and boost energy levels. Birders can enjoy the scenic beauty while moving their bodies, improving overall fitness and stamina.

 2. Stress Reduction and Mental Well-being

In our increasingly digitized world, finding moments of tranquility is essential for maintaining mental health. Birding at the C&O Canal offers a respite from the daily stresses and a chance to immerse oneself in the wonders of nature. Studies show that listening to birdsong has been found to help your mood, reducing feelings of anxiety, depression, and paranoia in healthy research participants. Nature and birdsong also reduce stress, lowering blood pressure and cortisol levels. Birding provides a mindful experience, allowing you to be fully present in the moment and forget about everyday life.

A Welcome Visitor by Vinod Thomas

3. Connection with Nature

Humans have an innate connection with the natural world, and birding provides an opportunity to foster and deepen that connection. The C&O Canal is a thriving ecosystem home to over 120 diverse bird species. By observing and identifying birds in their natural habitats, you’ll develop a greater appreciation for the intricacies of nature and the delicate balance of ecosystems. This connection with the environment can lead to a heightened sense of environmental stewardship and a desire to protect and conserve our natural heritage.

4. Cognitive Enhancement

Birding is both a physical and sensory experience and an intellectually stimulating one. It requires observation, concentration, and the ability to recognize patterns and identify different species. Regularly engaging in this activity can enhance cognitive skills such as attention to detail, memory recall, and pattern recognition. Additionally, birding fosters curiosity and a thirst for knowledge about the natural world, encouraging continuous learning and exploration.

Well, Hello There! by Christine Ley

5. Social Engagement

Birding can be a solitary activity, allowing for introspection and self-reflection. However, it also offers opportunities for social interaction and building connections with like-minded individuals. Joining birding groups or participating in bird walks with other birders at the C&O Canal can create a sense of community, providing a platform to share knowledge, exchange experiences, and forge new friendships. Social connections are vital for mental well-being, and birding offers a supportive network of individuals who share a common passion for nature.


Birding at the C&O Canal offers a delightful blend of nature, exercise, and mental stimulation, making it a perfect activity for individuals seeking physical and psychological well-being. From reducing stress and improving cardiovascular health to fostering a sense of wonder and environmental consciousness, the health benefits of birding at the C&O Canal are undeniable. So grab your binoculars, lace up your walking shoes, and embark on a birding adventure that will nourish your body.

Photo Contest Winners of 2022

By Blog, Photography

In 2022, we received many wonderful photo contest entries. From iconic nature pictures to mesmerizing sunsets to beautiful day trips along the towpath, our community of canal enthusiasts shares gorgeous highlights of the C&O Canal National Historical Park.

These are your favorite photos—our monthly photo contest winners! Check them out below and reminisce with us about 2022.

Submit your photos of the Park to be considered for our monthly photo contest here.

Park After Dark Attendees Show Their Appreciation for the C&O Canal

By Blog

Photo by Turner Photography

What do you love about the C&O Canal? We gave Park After Dark attendees some prompts asking what they appreciate about the canal. From their favorite landmark to their favorite memory, canal enthusiasts have so much to be grateful for. Here are some of the responses we received.

Photos by Turner Photography

The Canal is a great place for community. Who do you enjoy spending time in the park with?

“Running, walking, and explaining the C&O Canal path with family and friends from here and out-of-town.”

“Friends, Family, Dogs!”

“Every spring, a friend and I go on a wildflower walk on the Billy Goat Trail – spring beauty, trillium, twin leaf, dutchman’s breeches, phlox, trout lily…”

How do you support the Park?

“Walking and picking up trash, Naturalist walks: enjoying nature and sharing it with others, weed warrior, contributes to C&O Canal Trust.”

“C&O Canal Trust, Hiking, USE.”

Write a Park-themed Haiku or Poem

“The Marble Quarry
Source of statuary stone
and tons of paw paws.”

“Morning fog settles.
Skimming water, crane takes flight.
Shad season is here.”

What is your favorite memory, landmark, mile marker, section of the Canal?

“My frequent bike rides to Georgetown and rides way north of Great Falls.”

“184 miles and a sore rear end, participating in a Douglas hike near Williamsport.”

“Rode through all 186 miles of C&O Canal last year. Truly enjoyed it.”

“My favorite memory was my son getting married at the Great Falls overlook.”

“Billy Goat Trail looking for wildflowers and Bald Eagles.”

“Gold mine loop – best hike near DC.”

“We love White’s Ford, down to Whites Ferry. Quiet, beautiful & it saved us during the pandemic!”

“Mile 9 – Islands in the river.”

“My mum & I walked the entire C&O Canal over a 3 year period.”

“We have hiked all but 30 miles of the C&O (little by little over many years). We particularly love the places where there is little traffic. Miles 140-150, we saw about 6 people all day.”

“The bench that my family and I donated in honor of my late father.”

Photo by Turner Photography

Pollinators Along the C&O Canal

By Blog, Nature, Photography

June is National Pollinators Month, the perfect time to emphasize the important relationship between pollinators and native plants. One of the things that makes the C&O Canal National Historical Park (NHP) so special is the park’s biodiversity. It is home to more than 1,500 different species of plants, including 118 rare, threatened, and endangered plants. One of the C&O Canal Trust’s more recent initiatives includes raising funds to help protect these rare plants.

How does pollination work? Simple! Pollinators, such as birds, bees, butterflies, and even bats, carry pollen debris to plants, which is then deposited on the stigma of these plants. The plants are then fertilized, which in turn allows them to reproduce, producing fruit, seeds, and more plants. This process is essential to maintaining ecosystems around the world. Pollination allows floral growth, which provides habitat for animals, like insects and birds. Pollinators also contribute to healthy soils and clean water by fostering robust plant communities.

Below we have included several photos of some of the more common pollinators you may see in the park. We encourage you to take note of these important creatures that work hard to help maintain the biodiversity of our beloved C&O Canal! Pollinators’ ecological service is valued at $200 billion each year (USDA, 2020).


Drawn by Sweet Nectar (Monarch) by MJ Cllingan

Monarch on Jewelweed 9.19.21 (near Harper’s Ferry) by Sue Roosma


Grape Hyacinth with Honey Bee by Amy Allen

Busy Bee and Bluebells by Paul Graunke

Swallowtail Butterfly

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail by Charissa Hipp

Zebra Swallowtail on Paw Paw leaf by Jon Wolz

Swallowtail Butterfly near mm 23 by Andrea Hom

Cabbage White Butterfly and Great Spangled Fritillary

Cabbage White Butterfly on Dames Rocket by Charissa Hipp

Great Spangled Fritillary on Milkweed by Charissa Hipp


Bat in Paw Paw Tunnel by Nanette Nyce

Spring Blossoms on the C&O Canal

By Blog, Nature

Bluebells along C&O Near Lock 51 by Cathy Hoyt

Spring is a beautiful time of year to explore the C&O Canal National Historical Park. As nature begins to awaken from its winter slumber, I find my eyes are no longer drawn upward to the tops of the majestic white sycamore trees along the river’s edge, but instead down to the wildflowers at the towpath’s edge. Wildflowers that appear early and have a short bloom time, often referred to as spring ephemerals, are like Mother Nature’s announcement that spring has arrived, and their cyclical appearance reminds me of the rhythms of the earth and the promise of warmer days ahead. 

One of the first spring ephemerals I typically spot along the towpath is dutchman’s breeches (Dicentra cucullaria). The dainty white blossoms of these woodland perennials, which resemble a pair of pantaloons hanging upside down, are my signal to be on the lookout for other wildflowers. Squirrel corn (Dicentra canadensis), in the same family, seems to follow and bloom soon after. It is very similar to dutchman’s breeches, but has heart-shaped blossoms with a pink and sometimes lavender tint to them. The name comes from the resemblance of the plant’s root tubers to corn kernels and the fact that squirrels and other small animals are often responsible for digging up and spreading the roots. 

Bloodroot by Charissa Hipp

Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis) and spring beauty (Claytonia virginica) also appear in the early days of spring along the towpath. Bloodroot flowers only last for a few days; on cold days, the petals stay closed like at night. When the petals are fully open, bloodroot flowers are quite lovely with their solitary flower and the contrast of the golden-orange center against the white petals. The unique lobed leaves of the bloodroot plant often catch my attention long after the blooms have gone away. The name is derived from the red juice in the underground part of the plant’s stem that was used by Native Americans as a dye for baskets, clothing, war paint, and insect repellant. 

Spring Beauty by Charissa Hipp

Spring beauty (Claytonia virginica) is abundant in large patches along the towpath. The petals of this petite woodland perennial are white with very fine pink stripes that vary from light pink to bright pink. Sometimes they’re so faint that the flowers look almost entirely white; other times, the vibrant hot pink is impossible to miss. Spring beauty has blooms that last about a month. 

It’s impossible to talk about spring ephemerals along the C&O Canal without mentioning bluebells (Mertensia virginica). Bluebell season is one of the most anticipated times of year in the Park, waiting for the beautiful blooms that range in color from white to pink to shades of periwinkle. I’m drawn to the bell-shaped, tubular flowers and love discovering bluebell alleys along the towpath when large swaths of them blossom on both sides of the towpath. Once I was standing in such a space, enjoying the beauty of the bluebells when a hummingbird made a brief appearance, attracted to the fragrance of the bluebells.

Trout Lily by Charissa Hipp

Yellow trout lily (Erythronium americanum) reminds me of origami with its unusual and intricate-shaped, nodding blooms. I think the blooms are prettiest when they’re just starting to open and I’ve learned to notice the spotted leaves of the plant long before the blooms even appear. It grows in large patches along the towpath and sometimes I’ll spot a few white trout lilies among the yellow ones. Trout lily tends to bloom a little later in spring and can last well into May. 

These are just a few of the most common spring ephemerals that bloom throughout the C&O Canal National Historical Park. There are many more. Do you have a favorite? Is there a particular one that signals the arrival of spring to you?

Written by Charissa Hipp

An African American Engineer on the C&O Canal

By Blog

On July 4th, 1828, the President of the United States inaugurated the C&O Canal with much fanfare. The new C&O Canal Company had assumed the property of the bankrupt Potomac Company with plans to build a canal to the western frontiers. In the morning Pres. John Quincy Adams boarded a boat in Georgetown along with local politicians and foreign dignitaries for the 5-mile trip to the mouth of the Potomac Canal at Little Falls. The captain of the boat was a former slave named Captain George Pointer who had become a supervisory engineer for the Potomac Company. 

Diorama of George Washington Inspecting Construction of the Potomac River Canal (published circa 1958) From Hagley Museum and Library in Delaware

Pointer had been born a slave in 1773 and was “rented” by his owner to the Potomac Company when he was 13. The company was fulfilling a dream of George Washington to build canals around the falls in the Potomac to open up the American frontier to commerce. Pointer later described meeting the future president on Washington’s periodic inspections of the new canals. 

Pointer participated in the first formal survey of the Potomac River in July 1789 and assumed increasing responsibilities for the supervision of work at Little Falls, Great Falls, and on the Shenandoah and Seneca Rivers. Eventually, he was able to buy his freedom and then worked the rest of his life for the Potomac Company. 

In his company cottage near Lock Six of the C&O Canal, Pointer and his wife raised their three children and a granddaughter named Mary Ann. Mary Ann was ten years old when she accompanied her grandfather up the river with the American president in1828. She surely heard President Adams get a little carried away in his remarks about the future C&O Canal: “The project contemplates a conquest over physical nature such as has never been achieve by man. The wonders of the ancient world, the Pyramids of Egypt, the Colossus of Rhodes, the Temple of Ephesus, the Mausoleum of Artemisia, the Wall of China, sink into insignificance before it.” 

One hundred years later Mary Ann’s own grandchildren told the Washington Post that she had not only met President John Quincy Adams that day but had danced with him to the music of the Marine Band. That night the President wrote in his diary that “I got through awkwardly, but without gross and palpable failure.” 

George Pointer had been one of the first people hired by the Potomac Company and almost certainly the last one employed. In 1829 he wrote an 11-page letter asking the new C&O Company board members to avoid destroying his cottage where he had lived for over 40 years.  In his letter he summarized his long and eventful career with the Potomac Company and although there is no record of the board’s response to his letter, the next year the Census recorded the Pointer family with the same Black and white neighbors as those he had had in 1820. George Pointer died sometime in the 1830s, perhaps during the 1832 cholera epidemic that took a large toll on the free Black population living on the banks of the Potomac. 

George Pointer letter, Sept 5, 1829, Page 1, From National Archives

In the 1840s his granddaughter, Mary Ann, and her husband bought a two-acre farm in the most rural part of the District of Columbia, now called Chevy Chase, D.C. During the Civil War two of their sons joined the U.S. Colored Troops and while they were fighting in Virginia, their farm on Broad Branch Road was briefly invaded by Confederate troops before their retreat. Mary Ann and Thomas raised three generations of George Pointer’s descendants on that farm before they were forced to sell it in 1928 to make way for Lafayette Elementary School. 

Today, the head of the Potomac Canal at Little Falls where Capt. George Pointer had taken President John Q. Adams is now used by world class kayakers training for competition. Eagles occasionally nest on the Virginia side of the river flying high overhead. The remnants of the Potomac Canal are still visible below them.

The information in this essay and much more can be found in the book entitled Between Freedom and Equality: The History of an African American Family in Washington, D.C. by Barbara Boyle Torrey and Clara Myrick Green. Georgetown University Press, 2021

Winter Wonderland Along the C&O Canal

By Blog, Photography

Step out onto the towpath this winter and experience the magic of the C&O Canal blanketed in snow. Be mindful of winter conditions when visiting the Park and always check the C&O Canal National Historical Park’s website and social media pages prior to your visit.

Enjoy these photos of our park from the comfort of your home!

Seeking Freedom Beyond the C&O Canal

By Blog, History, News
The Potomac River and its companion C&O Canal were the northern boundary of the Confederate states.  Many people fled to that boundary and the Union protection beyond it.  A curious passage from Civil War Captain Michael Egan’s “The Flying, Gray-Haired Yank” reads “The post [Hancock] was also a transfer point on the “underground railway” between Maryland and Virginia, where, before my arrival, large amounts of goods contraband of war were permitted to pass with a superficial examination, or without any inspection.”   Read More

Photo Contest Winners of 2021

By Blog, Photography

This past year, in 2021, we received so many great photo contest entries. From iconic nature pictures to mesmerizing sunsets to beautiful day-trips along the towpath, we have seen the best highlights of the C&O Canal National Historical Park.

These are your favorite photos, the contest winners of our monthly photo contest! Check them out below and reminisce with us about 2021.

Submit your photos of the Park to be considered for our monthly photo contest here.

What Are You Thankful For?

By Blog
The C&O Canal is a very special place, and we are so grateful to have all 184.5 miles right in our backyard to explore, recreate, and enjoy. This season, we want to express our thanks for this beautiful Park by talking about what we are most thankful for! Read more to see what some of the visitors to the Park have to say about the C&O Canal. Read More

Interview with Marea Petrelles, Volunteer Canal Steward

By Blog, Content

Photo by Stan Collyer

  1.  How long have you been a Canal Steward in the Park?

Marea: I have been a Canal Steward for two years, since December 11, 2018.

  1. Why do you volunteer as a canal steward?

Marea: I volunteer because I love being outdoors.  It feels right to me to look after and care for our natural resources.  It gives me pleasure to be of some help in taking care of an area so others can enjoy the area!  Now more than ever I think this is important!

  1. What is your favorite thing about being a Canal Steward?

Marea: One of my favorite things about being a Canal Steward is seeing people enjoy using the park.  Whether it’s a smile from a walker, hiker, jogger or someone taking their boat (kayak, canoe) on the river, it brings simple quiet joy to see my fellow human beings get close to nature!

  1. Finally, what is your favorite spot in the Park?

Marea: One of my favorite spots in the Park is Mather Gorge at Bear Island.  Many fond memories as a child with my siblings and family hiking on our day trips.  The Billy Goat Trail is another favorite and challenging trail as well as the portion of towpath along Mile 19 and 20 near Pennyfield Lock.

  1. Why do you think people should become Canal Stewards?

Marea: Becoming a Canal Steward can bring you a sense of simple purpose.  Serving your local community in this way can have a positive impact on you and the people who visit the Park.  The rewards of maintaining the area in the Park are countless.  Your involvement helps the existing wildlife remain in their habitat by keeping it natural and encourages us human visitors of nature to enjoy the environment and respecting its natural state.

Round Top Cement Mill by Paul Graunke

Hidden Gems Along the C&O Canal

By Blog

Round Top Cement Mill. Photo by Paul Graunke.

With more historic structures than any other unit in the National Park Service, the C&O Canal National Historical Park documents and preserves over 200 years of America’s history. The major sites, like Great Falls Tavern and the Paw Paw Tunnel, get most of the attention from visitors. However, many structures in the Park have a hidden history that is not apparent at first glance. Go hunting for these gems!

You can also copy this itinerary into our C&O Canal Itinerary Builder here.

Read More

5 Ways to Celebrate Maryland Day!

By Blog

Four Locks (MM 109) near Clear Springs, Maryland by Nicholas Clements

1. Plan Your Stay With Canal Quarters

Spring is here, and what better way to celebrate Maryland Day than to plan your stay with Canal Quarters! Not only do you support the C&O Canal Trust, but you are immersed in the nature and history of one of the most popular places to visit in the state of Maryland, the C&O Canal National Historical Park. Visit our page here to plan your stay today.

2. Bike, Hike, or Ride on the C&O Canal Towpath

It is a beautiful day to hit the towpath! Why not enjoy the budding of spring on Maryland Day by biking or hiking the towpath? Visit Great Falls this weekend and revel in one of the most beautiful, local places in Maryland. Need help planning your visit? Download our Explorer Mobile app here!

3. Visit and Support Local Canal Towns

If you ever have the desire to do something a little different, take a road trip and visit your local canal towns! Maryland is home to many picturesque small towns with plenty of activities to do with family and friends. Plan your visit at these Canal Towns today.

4. Participate in Maryland Day Activities

Maryland Day can be every day! This weekend, the celebrations continue. You can participate in various Maryland Day festivities by visiting Maryland Tourism here.

5. Show Off Your Maryland Pride By Wearing C&O Canal Trust Apparel

What better way to celebrate Maryland and the Park than by wearing towpath apparel? Get your Route One and C&O Canal Trust sponsored merchandise by visiting the link here.

Meet Béla Demeter, Canal Steward

By Blog, Content, Volunteer

I’ve been a Canal Steward since July 2018. I’ve hiked the Canal and the Billy Goat Trail for nearly 50 years (when I came to Washington). I often had a plastic bag with me and rarely came out without some bottles and trash. It felt good to do my small part in cleaning up our shared landscape, especially when it involved so little effort. Signing on to the Canal Steward Program seemed like the next logical step.

In my 35 years as reptile keeper and Biologist at the National Zoo, I was the liaison between the department and our keeper aides and interpretive volunteers. I came to appreciate how incredibly important these folks were to the enhanced functioning of our operation. We simply couldn’t have reached out to the public as efficiently without their help. Upon retirement, I felt it was time to pay back some of that energy (my initial volunteer gig was at the National Gallery of Art as a docent, leading tours of the collection). As essential as government agencies are to the operation of parks and museums, staff are often limited by budgets and resources. Tapping into the immense pool of retirees and other people with time on their hands is an excellent way to enhance the benefits that these institutions offer. I also feel that it’s beneficial in so many ways when the public takes a proprietary interest in these areas.  

I think recruiting more volunteers (especially young ones) is money well spent. It always makes my day when young people comment on what I’m doing and remark that they have either done that themselves or are now inspired to do so in the future. I can spend every day on the canal, but it takes everybody pitching in to keep it pristine.

It’s difficult to pick a favorite spot in the Park — sorta like choosing your favorite child. Two spots on Billy Goat B come to mind, however. From an artistic point of view, there is a fallen tree about a quarter mile from the West trailhead. I call it the “Ent” (from Lord of the Rings). It’s incredibly expressive, and I always stop to gaze at it. It changes with moisture and is even more dramatic after a rain.

My other favorite area is about a half mile from the West trailhead. I call it “Skink Rock” due the numerous Five-lined Skinks that make this spot their refuge. It’s fun to find the little guys hiding in the crevices in the summer. This area also has a fair population of Pine Swifts as well as Black Racers on the upper portion of the trail.

Join Béla in becoming a Canal Steward this year! Sign up here.

A Day in Williamsport, Maryland – An Itinerary

By Blog, Explore Your Park, Planning Your Visit, Things to Do, Towns and Communities

Park: You can get to the towpath from the town by bike or car when you head west on W. Potomac Street until you reach the Cushwa Basin parking lot. The towpath is located approximately 300 ft north west through the RailRoad Lift Bridge.    

River access: There are two entry points for boats along the Potomac River at River Bottom Park. The park can be accessed by bike or on foot from the towpath 0.9-miles. west of Lockhouse 44. For car access to the boat ramp, make a right onto N. Commerce St from W. Potomac St heading east out of the Cushwa Basin parking lot. Then make a right onto W. Salisbury Street to cross the Bollman Bridge. Follow this path down 0.1-miles to reach the boat access point. The second access point is located 600 ft to the right of the bridge overpass.

Stay: Depending on your preference, Williamsport offers a variety of lodging options. If you are interested in staying close to the towpath Bay farms, Bed and Breakfast is two blocks down W. Salisbury Street, totaling 0.5- mi. It offers an ideal stop for overnight travelers, hikers, or cyclists. Red Roof Inn is located a short distance, 1.1-mi from the towpath on E. Potomac Street, and provides affordable economy lodging choices. Another overnight stay option is Elmwood Farm Bed and Breakfast, which showcases cozy rooms and historic barn settings. Two miles up the towpath heading north is Jordan Junction Campground. An excellent place for hikers and bikers on the move; portable water, toilets, picnic tables, and grills are available for use. For extensive overnight camping Safari Campground and Yogi Bears, Jellystone Park Resort reside at the cross-section of Kendle and Lappans Rd. Cabin rentals, tent sites, and water amenities are available at the camp resort. 

Cushwa Basin by Mark Crilley

Williamsport Aqueduct by John Gensor

Don’t Miss: The RailRoad Lift Bridge & Conococheague Aqueduct.

The Conococheague Aqueduct is an exciting access point for canal boat riders interested in the full canal experience. Since the permanent lifting of the RailRoad Lift Bridge in 2016, pedestrians have been given access to cross the canal through the bridge. The restoration allowed for the expansion of the canal boat tour. The launch boat ride now explores the full length, from the Cushwa Basin to Lockhouse 44, with an informative historical tour of the canal. The tour also includes the newly restored Conococheague Aqueduct, which allows for boat operations to continue. This area is the, “Only place in North America where visitors can view, an operational lift lock, railroad lift bridge, lockhouse, turning basin and warehouse. (NPS, Conococheague Aqueduct 2020)”  

Eat: Dessert Rose Cafe 

Desert Rose Cafe is located a convenient two blocks from the towpath, heading east on W. Potomac for 0.3 miles. The restaurant provides a relaxed space for those eating in and hikers, bikers, and pedestrians on the go. Bike racks, outdoor seating, and amenities for trail users are available, such as bike pumps, inner tubes, first aid, and more. 

Chill: Byron Memorial Park

Byron Memorial Park is a brisk 0.8 miles from the towpath and leads into the center of town. This is a multiuse park that is located at the interaction of E Potomac St and Park Rd. Byron Memorial Park is known for its eventful celebrations encompassing car shows, concerts, and elaborate holiday celebrations such as Christmas lights and Fourth of July displays. Besides festivals, the park offers different facility rentals for those interested in using the Williamsport Community Building, pavilions, bandstand, gazebo rentals, and other rentals advertised on the Williamsport Town website.   

If you have time: Visit Lockhouse 44 

Located at mile marker 99.1 on the towpath, Lockhouse 44 stands along the canal. It was built in 1834 out of white and gray limestone; it now serves as a historical exhibit for requested tours. It is one of few surviving Lockhouse’s that initially maintained and operated the boat-locking system along the canal. 

Come back for: Springfield Farm

Springfield Farm is perfect for history fanatics interested in following the rich history of Williamsport. The Springfield farm is one of the largest barns in Maryland built by Otho Holland Williamsport himself in 1755. The estate contains a museum, two four bays, and a participant of the Living Legacy Project, an initiative dedicated to the 150th Anniversary of the Civil War and the fallen soldiers. Although the property is commemorated for its historical contributions, it is also available for reception, community events, fundraisers, banquets, and more. Questions can be directed to their email [email protected] or phone number listed on the website.  

Events: Fourth of July Fireworks Display 

If fun and exciting celebrations are what you are looking for, join Williamsport in celebrating Independence day at Byron Memorial Park. It is a free venue that provides live local music performances, vendors, and a grand firework display.  

Along the Towpath in Williamsport by Ed Crawford

A Day in Poolesville, Maryland – An Itinerary

By Blog, Explore Your Park, Planning Your Visit, Things to Do

Parking access: Poolesville is located about five miles from the C&O Canal National Historical Park. To get to the Park from the Old Town Bank Museum located on Fisher Avenue in Poolesville, head west on Fisher Avenue and make a left onto W. Willard Rd. Make a right onto Westerly Road in approximately 1.4 miles. You will then make a left onto Edwards Ferry’s Rd and continue until the end of the road. There is a small parking lot available for day and overnight parking located here. 

River access: Edward’s Ferry boat ramp access is located at the end of Edward’s Ferry Road, past Lockhouse 25. This is a historic Civil War site used by the Union Army for crossing the Potomac River. This area is known for smallmouth bass fishing.

Where to stay: Poolesville is home to Lockhouse 25. A blast from the past, this rustic lockhouse can be reserved through the Canal Quarters program. This historic structure was built in the 1830s and sits at mile marker 30.9 on the towpath. It is available for overnight stays by up to eight guests. 3.7 miles upstream from the towpath, is Turtle Run hiker/biker campsite. It includes a water pump, a portable toilet, and a picnic table & grill.

Sunflower Field located at Sycamore Landing Road (mile marker 27), Poolesville, Maryland. by Nicholas Clements

Civil War Reenactment at Lockhouse 25 by Jan Branscome

Don’t miss: The John Poole House

Originally built in 1793 as a log store, the John Poole House is the oldest building in Poolesville. It served as Poolesville’s first Post Office in the early nineteenth century and is now the Historic Medley District office. This historic building is located behind The Old Bank/ Old City Hall of Poolesville.

Where to eat: Poolesville Athletic Club & Cafe 107

Café 107 is located in the Poolesville Athletic Club and offers a wide selection of both hot and cold drinks, such as blended coffee drinks, smoothies, and food such as grilled chicken wraps, pizza, and even tasty breakfast dishes, which are available all day. It doesn’t get much better than that!

Where to chill: Whalen Commons

Whalen Commons, located in the town center, is a place to meet and greet new and old friends alike. Enjoy outdoor concerts, farmer’s markets, and outdoor movie nights in the open grassy area, . You will also find restrooms, a bandshell and a walking trail here.

If you have time: McKee Beshers Wildlife Management Area

McKee-Beshers is known for its deliberately flooded forests during the fall and winter. Biologists create these “greentree reservoirs” to attract colorful wood ducks and other waterfowl that migrate through or spend the winters here. Along the preserve’s many miles of trails, you can also spy more than 200 species of songbirds and other wildlife such as deer, wild turkey, reptiles and amphibians.

Come back for: Sugarloaf Mountain overlook

This registered National Landmark has a breathtaking view and is accessible for bikers and hikers on the towpath. This is about a 10– mile bike ride from or 15mins by car from White’s Ferry. from Poolesville and 17 mins from Whites Ferry. The park is open 8 a.m to sunset. Gates close one hour before sunset.

Events: Violettes Lock and Stroll 5k October 21, 2023 @ 11 a.m.

Join us in Poolesville to walk, run, or stroll among the beautiful fall foliage along the towpath, while also supporting the Park. Following the 5k, we invite our canal community to celebrate the completion of this year’s TowpathGO challenge at Rocklands Farm Winery.

Bassett’s Public Art Mural by Trust Staff


A Day In Brunswick, Maryland – An Itinerary

By Blog, Explore Your Park, Planning Your Visit, Things to Do, Towns and Communities

Park: You can get to the towpath from town by a car when you head west on Potomac Street. Make a right onto S. Maple Ave. Head south past the Brunswick Train Station and over the tracks where a small dirt parking lot resides next to the towpath.    

River access: There are two points of access for boats along the Potomac River. Larger boats can access the river by making a right through the railroad parking lot. Follow this to reach the river access point. The second access point is located at Brunswick Family Campground. Make a left onto the towpath from S. Maple Ave. Follow the towpath for 0.4 miles to arrive at the campground and access point. 

Stay: Visitors can find a cozy room at the Travel Lodge or the Holiday Inn. They offer rooms for leisure, adventures, and business space. 0.6 miles on the towpath is the Brunswick Family Campground. This campsite includes tent sites, dumping stations, full hook-up sites, limited wifi, and other amenities. 

 Brunswick, C&O Canal Park Sign by Paulie Ward

Towpath in Brunswick, MD by Jerry Knight

Don’t Miss: The Visitor Center & Brunswick Heritage Museum 

The Heritage Museum doubles as two museums in one, while also sharing a building with the Brunswick Visitor Center. The second floor tells of how the town was shaped by the railroad, and the third floor depicts a 1700 square HO scale model of the B&O Metropolitan Subdivision. In 1890, the Baltimore &Ohio Railroad came to Brunswick, increasing travel to and from Brunswick. Remains of the railroad yard are still visible to this day and were known as the longest railroad yard owned by a single company, totaling 5 miles of the rail yard. 

Eat: Beans & the Belfry

Beans & the Belfry is a cozy, hiker, biker, friends, and family cafe located just .4 miles from the towpath on W. Potomac St. They offer indoor and outdoor seating with complimentary bike racks. Beans & Belfry has what you need to stay refreshed. They serve hot dishes, sweet desserts, refreshing snacks, all-day breakfast, and more. Live entertainment can be found Friday and Saturday from 7-9:30 pm, and live Jazz brunch on Sunday at 11 am-2 pm.

Chill: The City Park Building & Parks 

The City Park Building is located at 655 East Potomac Street, which is open for public access and private rentals. Amenities include a small kitchen, tables chairs, and restrooms. Other recreational spaces include the Corner Park located on Maple Ave and W. Potomac St., three minutes from the towpath, and a Brunswick dog park located .6 miles from the towpath on E. Potomac St. 

If you have time: Visit Remains of Lock 30 or the Rivers Edge Trials

Located at mile marker 55 on the towpath, the red Seneca sandstone and Patapsco granite rubble of the Lockhouse are still visible today. Next to the remains of Lock 30, a bridge carries Route 17 over the Potomac, replacing previous ferries and a wooden bridge that burned down by the Confederacy early in the Civil War. The Rivers Edge Trails are 2.9 miles from the towpath located on 13th Avenue and great for bikers looking for intermediate trails. The path consists of a single rolling track six miles in length with four route options. Natural cuts, berms, and switchbacks are an added plus to increase momentum and intensity. 

Come back for: Boxcar Burgers & Towpath Creamery 

This two-in-one unique restaurant deserves a stop, especially if you are looking for burgers and ice cream to fill you up and cool you down. They share the same building, only a brisk five-minute walk from the towpath. Boxcar Burgers serves “ simple food, done well made from the best local ingredients,” while the Towpath Creamery “offers healthy, all-natural farm-fresh ice cream from both Cold Run Creamery and South Mountain Creamery.”

Events: Fun Runs, Bike rides & Wine and Chocolate Walks

If running is your thing, sign up for the Potomac Street Mile. It will be taking place from August 1st through the 15th. Be sure to sign up before the close of registration on July 31st, 2020.

If biking is more your style, support Brunswick on August, 2nd 2020, and join Throwback on the Towpath. A physical distanced ride dedicated to celebrating the history of penny farthings, welcoming all riders.  

Further down the calendar, Saturday, September 5th, Brunswick will be hosting wine and luxury chocolates. Local venues gather to offer delicious samples, food selections, while live music cascades through the streets. 

Smoketown Brewing by Esther Herbers


  1. About Boxcar. (2020). Retrieved July 29, 2020, from http://www.boxcarcatering.com/about-boxcar/
  2. City Hall. (2020, July). Parks, Recreation, and Pool. Retrieved July 29, 2020, from https://brunswickmd.gov/?SEC=CF1E2F23-FC1F-4F29-870E-35A7D96F5FB7
  3. Creamery, T. (2020). Towpath Creamery. Retrieved July 29, 2020, from http://www.towpathcreamery.com/
  4. Heritage Museum, B. (2020, July). About. Retrieved July 29, 2020, from http://brunswickmuseum.org/about/
  5. High, M. (2000). The C & O Canal companion. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press.
  6. N. (2020). Brunswick Visitor Center. Retrieved July 29, 2020, from https://www.nps.gov/choh/planyourvisit/brunswickvisitorcenter.htm

Photo Contest Winners of 2020

By Blog

Congratulations to these photo contest winners of 2020!

Want to enter your photos for a chance to win the C&O Canal Trust Facebook Photo Contest? Visit here for more information on how you can submit and maybe we will see you next year on our list of winners for 2021. Happy snapping!

The McNulty Family Cleans up Violettes Lock on MLK Day

By Blog, Volunteer
The McNulty family has a passion for the C&O Canal National Historical Park, grown over years of exploring the Park’s diverse recreational opportunities.  At the start of the pandemic, they section hiked the towpath from Dargan Bend to Georgetown, soaking in the different landscapes and wildlife.  The McNultys enjoyed their experience so much they decided to give back to the Park by volunteering on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.   Read More

Lockhouse 28 Receives New Decking

By Blog, Canal Quarters

Lock 28 at Point of Rocks by Paul Graunke

Lockhouse 28, located in Point of Rocks, MD, is one of the rustic gems in the Canal Quarters program.  Our most remote lockhouse, this piece of history is only accessible by way of the towpath. Visitors can enjoy a  tranquil overnight stay with just a short hike or bike ride from the Point of Rocks parking lot. Read More

Outdoor Recreational Opportunities Along the C&O Canal

By Blog, Fish, Hike, Paddle

Sky Fire at Dam 5 by Margaret J Clingan

The C&O Canal’s official designation as a historical park is based on the Park’s rich transportation history, but the park offers a multitude of recreational opportunities as well. Visitors can enjoy everything from hiking to cycling, climbing, paddling, fishing, and more. There’s no shortage of things to see and do at the park, and you’ll enjoy nature and beautiful scenic landscapes along the way. Always check the Park’s website before heading out – some trails and locations close periodically. (https://www.nps.gov/choh/planyourvisit/conditions.htm)

You can also copy this itinerary into our C&O Canal Itinerary Builder here.

Jump to:

‘Towpath Hikers East of Harpers Ferry Near Milepost 60’ by Jim Kirby


The C&O Canal National Historical Park has hiking opportunities for hikers of all skill levels, ranging from hiking on the flat, level terrain of the towpath to rock scrambling on the Billy Goat A trail, by far the most challenging of all the Park’s trails. In addition to 184.5 miles of flat towpath, there are 14 miles of trails in the Great Falls area, the Paw Paw Tunnel Trail, plus a number of trails that are adjacent to the park. Hikers should always bring water, wear proper footwear, and be prepared for changing weather conditions. Trail maps are available at visitor centers and on the Park’s website


East: DC to Brunswick

Mile Marker 9.9-10.9
Billy Goat Trail C
Billy Goat Trail C is the easiest of the three Billy Goat Trails. The 1.7 mile loop has both an East Trailhead at mile marker 11.2 and a West Trailhead at mile marker 12.3. The trail offers outstanding views of the Potomac River. It features beautiful wildflowers in the spring and even has a small waterfall.

Mile Marker 11.3-12.3
Billy Goat Trail B
Considered to be moderately difficult, Billy Goat Trail B includes some rock scrambles but is not as challenging as Billy Goat Trail A. It passes through a floodplain forest and along the Potomac River, offering beautiful views and oftentimes bird sightings. The trail is 1.4 miles long and can be accessed from the towpath near Anglers or Carderock. 

Mile Marker 12.8-13.8
Billy Goat Trail A
Billy Goat Trail A is the most demanding of the three Billy Goat trails at Great Falls with plenty of rock scrambling. It is not suggested for novice hikers, small children, or dogs. As you climb over angled rocks and boulders, you’ll be rewarded with magnificent views of the Potomac River as it squeezes through Mather Gorge. The trail begins below Great Falls near the Stop Gate and ends on the towpath just upstream from the Park’s Anglers’ access point. The hike is a total of 1.7 miles, but you can make it a 3.7 mile loop by returning to your starting point via the towpath. 

Mile Marker 13.6
Gold Mine Trail
The Gold Mine Loop Trail is considered a nature-lover’s delight, despite its close proximity to Washington, D.C. The most direct route to get there is the Gold Mine Spur Trail (0.8 miles), which begins near the Great Falls Tavern Visitor Center. It connects with the Gold Mine Loop that is 1.6 miles long. The loop has many intersections, all of which are clearly marked, leading to a network of other spurs and trails. 

Mile Marker 14.4
River Trail
The River Trail, just upstream from Great Falls Tavern, winds along the Potomac, affording views of small rapids, eagles’ nests, and rocky outcroppings in the river. The trail is both shorter and flatter than Billy Goat A, making it an ideal way to take in the beauty of the mighty Potomac without any climbing or rock hopping. The trail is one mile, one way. 

Mile Marker 14.7
Ford Mine Trail
The Ford Mine Trail is lollipop-shaped, meaning it is accessed via a straight out-and-back portion that connects to a loop. The trail is 2.7 miles long and easy to moderate in difficulty with one strenuous hill. While you won’t see any evidence of mining on the trail, you will be in the area of the old Ford Mine, a gold mine that operated in the Great Falls area.


Central: Brunswick to Hancock

Mile Marker 58.0-60.3
Appalachian Trail
The Appalachian Trail connects with the C&O Canal towpath at mile marker 58, following the towpath to Harpers Ferry, where it diverts across the footbridge and into the historic town. At Weverton, northbound hikers can hike approximately one mile to the spectacular view at Weverton Cliffs. Southbound hikers heading into Harpers Ferry can see Jefferson Rock and stop at the Appalachian Trail Conservancy before heading across the WV/VA state line in the direction of Keys Gap.  

Mile Marker 61.1
Maryland Heights Trail
The view of Harpers Ferry and the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers from Maryland Heights is spectacular. The vantage point is well worth the 1,200-foot-climb to get there. Hikers start from several different locations for this hike depending on parking, but the trailhead is located just off of Harpers Ferry Road near milepost 61 on the C&O Canal. The trail itself is a steeply graded 4.1 miles round trip. The Stone Fort Loop Trail adds elevation and another two miles to your hiking distance. 


West: Hancock to Cumberland

Mile Marker 144
Green Ridge State Forest
Green Ridge State Forest is directly adjacent to the C&O Canal in Allegany County. At 47,560 acres, Green Ridge is the largest contiguous block of public land in Maryland – offering 50 miles of hiking trails and 200 miles of both dirt and gravel roads through the forest. Across the Canal  at Lock 58, a side trail leads to the extensive networks of trails at Green Ridge State Forest. After 21 miles, the trails rejoin with the towpath at Lock 67.

Mile Marker 154.8
Tunnel Hill Trail
The Tunnel Hill Trail is an alternative to walking a half mile through the Paw Paw Tunnel. The two mile trail begins from the downstream side of the tunnel with a series of moderate to difficult switchbacks, before leveling out the winding back down to the Canal level. The trail offers a walk through history and outstanding views of the Potomac River and tunnel gorge.

Under the Western Maryland RR Trestle by Paul Graunke


The C&O Canal towpath is a bicyclist’s dream, perfect for day trips or bikepacking, with hiker/biker campgrounds conveniently spaced throughout the Park. There are also a number of trails for cycling that connect to the C&O Canal National Historical Park.


C&O Canal Towpath
The C&O Canal has 184.5 miles of towpath. The gravel path is mostly level and perfect for cyclists of all ages and abilities. Bicyclists are expected to ride single file, stay on the right except when passing, yield the right of way to all pedestrians and horses, and walk bikes across aqueducts. Bells and helmets are recommended for all cyclists, and helmets are required for children.


East: DC to Brunswick

Mile Marker 1.5-3.1
Capital Crescent Trail
The Capital Crescent Trail connects Georgetown with Silver Spring, MD. Combined with the Rock Creek Trail, it forms a 22 mile loop. Built on the abandoned rail bed of the 11 mile Georgetown Branch of the B&O Railroad, it closely parallels the canal for 1.7 miles before taking a right turn toward Bethesda. 


Central: Brunswick to Hancock / West: Hancock to Cumberland

Mile Marker 114.4-136.2
Western Maryland Rail Trail: East Trailhead | West Trailhead
The Western Maryland Rail Trail is approximately 28 miles long and parallels the C&O Canal for its entire length, from Big Pool to Little Orleans. The easy grade and paved trail make it easy to travel. It can be accessed from a variety of points along the canal including Big Pool, Hancock, Pearre and Little Orleans.

Mile Marker 184.5
Great Allegheny Passage
The Great Allegheny Passage connects to the C&O Canal in Cumberland, extending 150 miles to Pittsburgh. The trail takes users over valleys, around mountains and alongside the Casselman, Youghiogheny, and Monongaleha Rivers on a nearly level path. Highlights include the Cumberland Narrows, the Eastern Continental Divide, the Laurel Highlands, Ohiopyle State Park, and Point State Park. 

Rock Climbing by Trust Staff

Rock Climbing/Rock Scrambling

Rock climbing is allowed within selected areas of the park. Climbing outside of those areas is dangerous and has resulted in visitor injuries. Rock climbers should use proper equipment when climbing and stay within their abilities. Rock scrambling is also allowed in selected areas of the park. Hikers should stay on the trail at all times to avoid serious injuries, dress appropriately and stay hydrated. 


East: DC to Brunswick

Mile Marker 10.5
Carderock Recreational Area
Carderock Recreation Area, located adjacent to the Clara Barton Parkway is the most popular rock climbing area in the park, with cliffs up to 80 feet high. Carderock has routes for climbers of all skill levels, including beginners. It’s a popular location for rock climbing classes.

Mile Marker 11.3-12.3
Billy Goat Trail B
Considered to be moderately difficult, Billy Goat Trail B includes some rock scrambles but is not as challenging as Billy Goat Trail A. It passes through a floodplain forest and along the Potomac River, offering beautiful views and oftentimes bird sightings. The trail is 1.4 miles long and can be accessed from the towpath near Anglers or Carderock. 

Mile Marker 12.8-13.8
Billy Goat Trail A
Billy Goat Trail A is the most demanding of the three Billy Goat trails at Great Falls with plenty of rock scrambling. It is not suggested for novice hikers, small children or dogs. As you climb over angled rocks and boulders, you’ll be rewarded with magnificent views of the Potomac River as it squeezes through Mather Gorge. The trail begins below Great Falls near the Stop Gate and ends on the towpath just upstream from the park’s Anglers’ access point. The hike is a total of 1.7 miles but you can make it a 3.7 mile loop by returning to your starting point via the towpath. 

Paddling at Antietam Creek by Nora Slick


Non-motorized boats are allowed in several re-watered sections of the C&O Canal. Boats must be carried around lift locks. Personal floatation devices should be used as required by the state of Maryland. The re-watered sections are: 

Mile 0 to 22 Georgetown to Violettes Lock
Mile 99.3 to 99.8 Williamsport to Lock 44
Mile 112 to 113 Big Pool
Mile 120 to 121 Little Pool
Mile 124.1 to 124.7 Hancock
Mile 162 to 167 Oldtown to Town Creek


East: DC to Brunswick

Mile Marker 0.0
Thompson Boat Center
With easy access to the Potomac River, Thompson Boat Center offers classes and rentals for everyone from the first timer to the seasoned water adventurer. They can get you out on the water to kayak, canoe, row, or paddle. Thompson Boat Center is an authorized concessioner of the National Park Service.

Mile Marker 3.1
Fletcher’s Boathouse
Fletcher’s Boathouse is located close to the Potomac River and the C&O Canal. They offer guided SUP and canoe tours as well as boat rentals for paddling, rowboating, canoeing, and kayaking. Fletcher’s Boathouse is an authorized concessioner of the National Park Service. 

Mile Marker 5.6 
Kayak Run
There are 40 to 50 training gates at Kayak Run in Class I-II difficulty levels at normal river flow. Some of the nation’s most accomplished kayakers have spent hours perfecting their craft on Potomac River whitewater training runs. One training site is here on the feeder canal, originally built to allow the Potomac River to feed into the C&O Canal as it made its way into Georgetown.

Mile Marker 14.3
Great Falls
Paddling at Great Falls is extremely dangerous and best suited for expert level kayakers. Those in canoes should not attempt to paddle in this area. Rapids at Great Falls are classified as Class 5 and 6. 

Kids Fishing by Mike Mitchell


The canal and the Potomac River have many fishing spots for anglers. The upper Potomac is considered one of Maryland’s most popular freshwater fishing destinations. Forming Maryland’s southern boundary, the upper Potomac offers fishermen more than 160 miles of warm water fishing opportunities for smallmouth bass, walleye, muskie and channel catfish. 


East: DC to Brunswick

Mile Marker 19.6
Pennyfield Lock was a favorite fishing spot of President Grover Cleveland’s and remains a popular spot for anglers today. Northern snakehead fish can often be found here.  


Central: Brunswick to Hancock / West: Hancock to Cumberland

Mile Marker 71.7
Boteler’s Mill/Potomac Mill
Boteler’s Mill, also known as Potomac Mill, is on the shore of the Potomac River in eastern Jefferson County, West Virginia, half a mile below Shepherdstown. The mill is a popular fishing area, and the water is usually shallow enough to allow for wading to take a closer look at the mill.

Mile Marker 84.6
Dam 4
Dam 4 is a scenic spot on the canal with a beautiful view of its roaring waters. Those turbulent waters below the dam are popular with anglers. It’s a well-known spot for good walleye fishing and catfish.

Mile Marker 99.6
Cushwa Basin

The re-watered section of the Canal, from Cushwa Basin to just below Lockhouse 44, is a popular spot for anglers of all ages and abilities. From bluegills to bass to carp and even some catfish, it’s a great place to teach first timers how to cast.

Mile Marker 112.1-113.8
Big Pool
Big Pool is a 1.5 mile long natural depression that was filled with water during C&O Canal construction. Located within Fort Frederick State Park, it’s a popular fishing and boating site with a boat ramp. It is primarily a warm water fishery with species like largemouth bass, catfish, carp, bluegill and more. 


West: Hancock to Cumberland

Mile Marker 173.3
Spring Gap

Spring Gap to Hancock is one of the best fishing spots on the Potomac River and provides a wonderful place to relax in a peaceful setting. The boat ramp at Spring Gap is the westernmost boat ramp in the park.

Blue Heron Near Mile Marker 16 by Indraneel Samanta

Private Outfitters

Thompson Boat Center
Washington, DC
-Sculling, kayaking, paddleboarding, canoeing, bicycling
-Rentals, classes, group events and tours

Fletcher’s Boathouse
Washington, DC
-Kayaking, paddleboarding, canoeing, rowboating, bicycling
-Rentals, classes, group events and nature tours

River & Trail Outfitters
Knoxville, MD
-Tubing, kayaking, canoeing, bicycling, etc.
-Guided adventures, rentals and sales

River Riders
Harpers Ferry, WV
-Tubing, kayaking, canoeing, paddleboarding, etc. 
-Guided adventures, rentals and sales

Shepherdstown Pedal & Paddle
Shepherdstown, WV
-Kayaking, canoeing and bicycling 
-Rentals, sales and service, shuttle service and group rides

C&O Bicycle
Hancock, MD
-Bicycle rentals, sales and service

Get Out & Play! Outfitters
Cumberland, MD
-Bicycle shuttle service
-Canoe and kayak rentals

C&O Canal Trust Answers “What Are You Grateful for?”

By Blog, Content, News
The holiday season is almost upon us, and it is bound to look very different this year while we still maintain safe ways of gathering in the midst of a world-wide pandemic. The C&O Canal Trust staff are here to remind you that while the impending holiday season is bound to look a little different this year, we are all so grateful for everything we do have, namely the Park!

Celebrate with us and share what you are also most grateful for this November!

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Bird is the Word on the C&O Canal

By Blog, Nature
Calling all bird enthusiasts! If you love bird watching, the C&O Canal is the spot. The canal is home to over 120 species of birds, according the NPS website. We have collected some of the most iconic photos of birds around the Park thanks to you, our canal visitors! Read more below and get your birding on.

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Must-See Locales Within 5 Miles of the Canal

By Blog, Things to Do
McKee Bechers Wildlife Management Area

McKee Bechers Wildlife Management Area by Martin Radigan

The C&O Canal National Historical Park showcases a multitude of historical and natural treasures from Georgetown to Cumberland, but if you’re willing to go just five miles off the towpath, it opens another world of things to see and do. Along with the communities in the Canal Towns Partnership, here are some must-see attractions within five miles of the canal.

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They Answered the TowpathGO! Call

By Blog
Eight-year old Brody, who learned to ride a bike earlier this year, rode the whole of the towpath and the Great Allegheny Passage rail trail with his dad, Dan. His final 50 miles was his TowpathGO! challenge. He raised $6,430. “On the trail this summer, Brody and I have laughed together, cried together, physically pushed ourselves together, and celebrated together,” his dad recalled. Read more about Brody’s ride here: https://secure.givelively.org/donate/c-o-canal-trust-inc/towpathgo/brody-reppe Read More

Callie Fisburn Recalls Her Year with the C&O Canal Trust

By Blog
For the past year, I served as the Chesapeake Conservation Corps (CCC) Member at the C&O Canal Trust. This professional development program, funded by the Chesapeake Bay Trust (CBT), provided me with many valuable experiences and learning opportunities that will help me in my future career. As the CCC member at the C&O Canal Trust, I assisted with several programs, including Canal Quarters, Canal Pride, and Canal for All. I also assisted the communications and marketing team, writing several articles for the Canal Connection and Canal Quarterly. Read More

There’s Nothing Like Pawpaw Season

By Blog
Throughout much of the American South, Mid-Atlantic, and Midwest, fall arrives on the wings of red or gold foliage and the taste of the pawpaw fruit. Pawpaw (Asimina triloba) is a small understory tree with large deep green leaves that can be found from the eastern portion of Texas to South Carolina and north to Michigan. It is the only temperate member of a large, tropical family of plants (Annonaceae) and produces North America’s largest edible fruit. This distinctive but obscure-looking green fruit ripens in September and October and is relished by humans and wildlife alike. The taste is usually compared to a banana mixed with a complex assortment of mango, vanilla, pineapple, and citrus flavors. Read More

Hancock Bikers by Sam Judge

Day Trip Jumping Off Points

By Blog
Cyclists on the towpath in Hancock

Cyclists on the towpath in Hancock by Sam Judge

At first glance, it may seem overwhelming to choose where to begin your adventure on the C&O Canal. There are over 80 access points to the canal with ample parking. Begin your day trip adventures on the canal by checking out these suggested points of interest below! Continue reading or view by region: EastCentralWest

You can also copy this itinerary into our C&O Canal Itinerary Builder here.

East: DC to Brunswick

Mile Marker 0.0 – Georgetown

The C&O Canal begins in Georgetown, and there are many ways to access the canal in this area. Canal users can explore Locks 1, 2, 3, and 4, a picturesque series of four locks very close together, separated by boat basins. A bust of Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas is placed at Lock 3, in honor of’ Douglas, who helped raise awareness of a 1950s plan to turn the canal into a parkway. Tucked along M Street in Georgetown, just east of the towpath, is the Old Stone House. It is the oldest structure on its original foundation in the nation’s capital. The Abner Cloud House is one of the oldest existing structures on the canal. Here, The Colonial Dames of America, Chapter III, offer interpretive programs. Continuing upstream from Georgetown, canal users can see Fletchers Cove and Carderock Recreation Area, which is the Park’s premiere rock climbing area.

Mile Marker 3.2 – Fletchers Cove
A large parking lot off of Canal Road NW, near Fletchers Boathouse and the Abner Cloud House makes for easy access to the Canal at Fletchers Cove. The area is popular for fishing and boating, biking, hiking, and picnicking. You can rent rowboats, kayaks, canoes, and bikes at the concession stand or grab a hot dog and snacks. The slow waters make it an ideal location for fishing and bird watching. The Capital Crescent Trail crosses and parallels the towpath at Fletchers Cove. Built upon the abandoned rail bed of the 11-mile Georgetown Branch of the B&O Railroad, the trail is one of the most popular of more than 700 rails-to-trails projects nationwide. Downstream, canal users will find the Abner Cloud House and Georgetown. Heading upstream, canal users will find Lockhouse 6, part of the Canal Quarters program, the Cabin John Bridge, a National Historic Civil War Landmark, Seven Locks, Lockhouse 10, also part of the Canal Quarters program, and Carderock Recreation Area, the Park’s premiere rock climbing area. 

Mile Marker 10.8 – Carderock

Carderock is accessible from the Clara Barton Parkway with lots of parking. It’s a great location for those who enjoy outdoor recreation and picnicking. The western end of Carderock is the Park’s premiere rock climbing area, with routes ranging from easy to extremely technical. Billy Goat Trail C surrounds the entire area and offers a beautiful 1.6-mile hike along the Potomac River. Canal users traveling downstream will find Lockhouse 10, part of the Canal Quarters program where guests can spend the night living as the lock keepers once did, Seven Locks, the Cabin John Bridge, a National Historic Civil War Landmark, Lockhouse 6, also part of the Canal Quarters program, Fletchers Cove, the Abner Cloud House, and Georgetown. Upstream, canal users will come to Great Falls, where the historic Great Falls Tavern serves as a visitor center, and Lockhouse 22,

Mile Marker 22.7 – Riley’s Lock and Seneca Aqueduct
Riley’s Lock offers lots of parking for easy access to this section of the C&O Canal. Riley’s Lockhouse is well restored and local Girl Scouts dressed in period clothing provide interpretation and guide visitors here on Saturdays during the spring and fall. This is also the location of an engineering marvel on the canal. Of the canal’s 11 aqueducts and 74 lift locks, this is the only one that was both a lift lock and an aqueduct. Canal users heading downstream will find Lockhouse 22, part of the Canal Quarters program, and Great Falls, where the historic Great Falls Tavern serves as a visitor center. Upstream, canal users will find the remains of Goose Creek River Lock, Edwards Ferry and Lockhouse 25, another lockhouse in the Canal Quarters program.

Mile Marker 35.5 – Whites Ferry
Whites Ferry is the last of 100 ferries that operated on the Potomac River, transporting automobiles, cyclists, and pedestrians across the river from Montgomery County, Md., to Loudoun County, Va. This canal access point offers ample parking for access to the ferry, the canal, the boat ramp, and Whites Ferry Store. Canal users heading downstream will find access to Edwards Ferry, Lock 25 and Lockhouse 25, part of the Canal Quarters program. Canal users heading upstream from Whites Ferry will find the Monocacy Aqueduct, and Nolands Ferry.

Mile Marker 48.2 – Point of Rocks
Point of Rocks has been a longtime transportation crossroads, beginning with the Native Americans, then European traders and settlers, until the arrival of the railroad led to rapid growth. During the heyday of the canal, the town was booming with businesses, hotels, restaurants, and more! The canal terminated operations in 1924, leading to the decline of Point of Rocks. The original village is a county park and a parking lot for railroad commuters, however there is a deli, convenience and gas station store, restaurant, library, church, and the picturesque Point of Rocks Train Station. Downstream, canal users can travel to Nolands Ferry, one of the earliest crossings on the Potomac during Native American times, and the Monocacy Aqueduct. Heading upstream, canal users will find Lander, with access to the Catoctin Aqueduct, and Brunswick.

Mile Marker 55.0 – Brunswick
Brunswick was a small community of several hundred people when the C&O Canal reached the area. When the B&O RR established a major railyard there, the town grew dramatically, becoming very much a “company town.” Today Brunswick is on the MARC commuter train line to Washington, D.C. Brunswick’s downtown has restaurants, specialty shops, and antiques stores as well as the C&O Canal Visitor Center and the Brunswick Heritage Museum. Downstream, canal users can visit Lander, with access to the Catoctin Aqueduct, Point of Rocks, and Nolands Ferry, one of the most ancient crossings of the Potomac. Upstream, canal users can access Weverton, Harpers Ferry and Dargan Bend Recreation Area.

Central: Brunswick to Hancock

Mile Marker 60.7 – Harpers Ferry National Historical Park
The town of Harpers Ferry is located at the confluence of the Potomac and the Shenandoah Rivers and is rich in history. It was designated a National Monument in 1944, and later a National Historical Park in 1953. Harpers Ferry is an ideal day trip with all the things to see and do at the park, which covers a multitude of interpretive themes from the Industrial Revolution to the Lewis and Clark Expedition to the Civil War and Civil Rights Movement. From Harpers Ferry, canal users can travel downstream on the Appalachian Trail where it uses the towpath for three miles to Weverton, as well as Brunswick, and Lander, with access to the Catoctin Aqueduct. Upstream from Harpers Ferry, canal users can see a dry dock at Lock 35, Dargan Bend Recreation Area, the lime kiln ruins at Antietam Ironworks, and Antietam Aqueduct.

Mile Marker 72.8 – Railroad Bridge/Canal Road
The Railroad Bridge/Canal Road lot provides ample parking and access to some well-known locations along this stretch of canal. The remains of Lock 38, also known as the Shepherdstown River Lock, are located here. It is one of only three river locks on the canal and was used most often by Boteler’s Mill, shipping and receiving cement and coal materials via canal boat. Downstream, canal users will find Antietam Aqueduct, the ruins of Antietam Ironworks, and Dargan Bend Recreation Area . Upstream, canal users can see Ferry Hill Plantation, the Killiansburg Cave and Snyders Landing.

Mile Marker 84.0 – Big Slackwater
The Big Slackwater section of the C&O Canal is a modern-day engineering marvel. The reconstruction of a 2.7-mile section of towpath here had been closed for more than a decade due to flood damage. It reopened in 2012 and features a suspended, 10-foot-wide concrete walkway, anchored in the stone of the cliff embankment. Downstream, canal users can enjoy the impressive roaring power of Dam 4. There are lots of cave features along this section of the canal including Bergen Cave at Dam 4, Snyders Landing and the Killiansburg Cave, which is where a group of Sharpsburg residents took shelter during the Battle of Antietam. Upstream, canal users can enjoy McMahon’s Mill area, which has more cave features. The towpath then becomes quiet as it leads into the 10-mile stretch with no access points.

Mile Marker 99.8 – Williamsport/Cushwa 

Williamsport is a bustling hub of activity on the C&O Canal. It is the only place in North America where visitors can see a lift lock and refurbished lockhouse, a railroad lift bridge, a canal turning basin and a re-watered aqueduct with seasonal boat rides available. Lock 44 is furnished and is open to the public seasonally and canal boat rides are offered from Cushwa Basin over the re-watered aqueduct. Downstream, canal users can enjoy a quiet 10-mile stretch of the canal with no access points. This section follows close to the river and is exceptional for wildlife viewing opportunities and wildflowers in the spring. A historical marker at Falling Waters explains the area’s significance during the Confederate Retreat from Gettysburg in 1863. Upstream, canal users can see Dam 5 and Four Locks, including Lockhouse 49, part of the Canal Quarters program, where guests can spend the night in a lockhouse.

Mile Marker 108.0 – Four Locks
Four Locks (Locks 47, 48, 49, and 50) was a thriving community when the canal was operational. Today, several of the historic buildings remain, including Lockhouse 49, also a part of the Canal Quarters program. The area is now popular for recreation, from fishing and boating to bicycling and hiking. Downstream, canal users can access Dam 5 and Williamsport/Cushwa Basin. Williamsport is the only place in North America where visitors can see a lift lock and refurbished lockhouse, a railroad lift bridge, a canal turning basin and a re-watered aqueduct with seasonal boat rides available. Upstream, canal users can enjoy McCoys Ferry, with its Civil War history and beautiful views, as well as Fort Frederick State Park, which offers both historical interpretation and opportunities to enjoy nature, Big Pool, a popular fishing and boating site, and Licking Creek Aqueduct

West: Hancock to Cumberland

Mile Marker 124.1 – Bowles House/Hancock Visitor Center Parking

The Bowles House Visitor Center, at mile marker 123, is open five days a week from Memorial Day through October. Visitors can enjoy sitting on the front porch and, on occasion, may hear a ranger or local resident playing banjo or acoustic guitar. Downstream, canal users can view Licking Creek Aqueduct, Big Pool, which is a popular fishing and boating site, and Fort Frederick State Park, which borders the canal. Upstream, canal users can enjoy Little Tonoloway Recreation Area, with beautiful picnic views of the Potomac River, and Tonoloway Creek Aqueduct

Mile Marker 136.0 – Western MD Rail Trail
The Western Maryland Rail Trail (WMRT) runs parallel to the C&O Canal from Big Pool to Little Orleans. This parking lot at Pearre allows for easy access to the WMRT, and canal users can connect to the towpath less than a mile away at Lock 56. Downstream from here, many locals bike what they call the “bow-tie,” which utilizes both the WMRT and the towpath for 40+ miles round-trip. Bikers can experience the history and terrain of both the towpath and the restored railroad bed. Upstream, canoe rentals are available at Little Orleans Grocery Store/Bill’s Place by the Fifteenmile Creek Drive-In Campground. This is the canoe and float take-out point for the 21-mile trip through the Paw Paw Bends. The Fifteenmile Creek Aqueduct is also accessible from the campground. The rail trail now continues westward to Little Orleans, which includes the Indigo Tunnel Bypass, which utilizes ramps to the canal. 

Mile Marker 184.5 – Cumberland 

This terminus of the C&O Canal offers easy access to the C&O Canal Visitors Museum, housed in the historic 1913 Western Maryland Railway Station. The museum offers interactive exhibits and educational displays. Cumberland is where the terminus meets up with the B&O Railroad and the National Road. It’s also where the canal connected to the Great Allegheny Passage (GAP) trail which continues on to Pittsburgh. Downstream from Cumberland you can access the smallest and the last of the aqueducts along the canal, Evitts Creek Aqueduct, and the last lift lock on the canal, Lock 75. There are wonderful bird watching opportunities on this section of the canal, particularly at mile marker 176.87 where a marsh that was formerly a basin attracts marsh birds and other wildlife. Similar wildlife can be viewed at mile marker 180.35 where the berm is a marsh. 

Written by: Charissa Hipp

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Books for the C&O Canal Lover

By Blog

Photo: Old Railroad Bridge Pier between MM 97 and 98 by MJ Clingan

You may already be deep into your summer reading list, but you may want to add some of these popular books featuring the C&O Canal. Whether you’re interested in historical fiction, nonfiction, or books for children, this list has something for everyone who loves the canal! This list is not exhaustive; books were selected based on popularity, quality, and availability on major book-selling websites.

Historical Fiction

River, Cross My Heart: A Novel by Breena Clarke
An Oprah’s Book Club selection, this novel is set in 1920’s Washington, DC, and tells the story of young girl’s tragic drowning in the Potomac River, and the subsequent fallout in her Georgetown neighborhood. 

Canawlers by James Rada, Jr.
Set on the C&O Canal during the Civil War, Canawlers is the first book in a series about the Fitzgeralds, a fictional family of canal boaters who are also part of the Underground Railroad. This book is perfect for both C&O Canal and Civil War history buffs!

Historical Non-Fiction

The Grand Idea: George Washington’s Potomac and the Race to the West by Joel Achenbach
This book follows George Washington in his attempt to connect the East Coast to the Western territories by constructing the C&O Canal. This is an excellent read for fans of George Washington, the history of early America, and of course, the C&O Canal. 

Home on the Canal by Elizabeth Kytle
This illustrated book provides a thorough and comprehensive history of the canal from its origins and construction in the early 19th century to the effort to preserve it as a national park that culminated in 1971. The book also includes first-hand accounts from several men and women who worked and lived on the canal, providing rare insight into their daily lives and experiences. 

Children’s Books

Captain Kate by Carolyn Reeder
The story of Captain Kate follows a young girl whose family hauls coal on the C&O Canal during the Civil War. With her stepfather off fighting in the war, Kate must step up and provide for the family by making the difficult 184.5-mile journey down the canal. This historical fiction book for young readers is a great way to introduce your kids to the history of the C&O Canal. 


The C&O Canal Companion (2nd ed.) by Mike High
This book offers a comprehensive mile-by-mile guide to the history and features of the C&O Canal with accompanying photographs and illustrations. The book also includes practical information about biking, boating, and other popular recreational activities in the Park. The second edition delves deeper into the history, featuring more information on the Native Americans and African Americans who lived in the region, as well as updated information on recreational facilities. 

Towpath Guide to the C&O Canal by Thomas F. Hahn
Another excellent and comprehensive guidebook, the Towpath Guide to the C&O Canal, also provides a detailed mile-by-mile guide with modern and historic photographs, and detailed maps of specific sections of the canal. The book also includes information about Canal Towns and the Canal Quarters program.


Get Up and Ride by Jim Shea
Jim Shea’s memoir recounts his true and hilarious journey along the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal towpath and the Great Allegany Passage. Described as “a lighthearted take on friendship and some hilarious fun,” Shea details his cycling trip with his brother-in-law Marty.

The C&O Canal Trust also offers a diverse selection of books about the canal at our online store, including guidebooks to the C&O Canal and GAP Trail, and local history books that feature stunning scenic photography of the most beautiful places in the Park. Browse the selection here

15 Most Instagrammable Places Along the Canal

By Blog, Photography

As many visitors of the C&O National Historical Park will tell you, the canal is a very photogenic place. From birds to flowers to landmarks, the canal serves as not only a place to escape from our busy lives, but a picturesque landscape for photographers to create art.

Below we have listed the 15 most instagrammable spots in the canal. We hope this will urge you to get out and explore the beauty of the Park. Share your photos with us by tagging the C&O Canal on Facebook or Instagram!

You can also enter your photos in our monthly Photo Contest.

Canal For All Partner Identity Responds to COVID-19

By Blog, Canal For All, Content

The C&O Canal Trust’s Canal For All program seeks to engage traditionally underrepresented audiences with the canal through education, recreation, and service. The Trust works with several partners in Montgomery County to bring groups of youth out to the C&O Canal National Historical Park for unique experiences, and one of those partners is Identity. 

Identity was founded in 1998 to serve Latino youth and their families. Today, they provide a variety of programs to the Latino communities of Montgomery County including after school and workforce development programs, a parent leadership academy, recreation activities, and more.

Identity has been a part of the Canal for All program since 2016. They have participated in a variety of activities with the Trust, including Canal Pride Days and Latino Conservation Week, which brings youth out to the C&O Canal and exposes them to nature through hiking, biking, rock climbing, and service activities.

“The environment and climate change are such important topics right now, and teaching youth the importance of nature and our parks is critical,” said Identity’s Program Director Nora Morales. “The only way to instill that is through experience. If you can create a connection to a place for a child, you’re instilling in them the value of protecting their environment. They get to pass that love of nature down to their children.” 

During the COVID-19 health crisis, Identity has been working hard to provide essential services to their community. Many Latino families cannot get to supply distribution sites so Identity has delivered food, medical supplies, toilet paper, and Chromebooks (to facilitate distance learning for children) directly to them. They have also been helping families navigate rental and utility assistance programs, and the unemployment process. In addition, they are providing critical health education about COVID-19 and ways to prevent its spread. 

Like many organizations, Identity has had to adapt and move much of its programming online. They are currently offering virtual after-school programs, one-on-one tutoring, and YouTube programs to their communities. Learn more about Identity and all the great work they are doing to support Latino families in Montgomery County here

“Our mission is to help Latino and other marginalized communities in Montgomery County thrive,” said Program Director, Nora Morales. “Families are usually economically isolated and children tend to miss out on recreational and cultural activities. We are constantly looking for new partners to provide new and unique experiences.”

Read more about the Canal for All program here

Go Back in Time with Canal Quarters

By Blog, Canal Quarters

Image: Lockhouse 6 by Kenneth Lyons

The Canal lockhouses are known for their proximity to the Potomac River, suspended in nature, providing a time capsule into the past.

The C&O Canal Trust’s Canal Quarters program enables visitors from all over a chance to experience a time in history when the canal was flourishing, transporting goods and services across hundreds of miles. The lock keepers that lived in these stone houses were the managers of the locks, ensuring travel across the canal ran smoothly between the various locks.

The lockhouses are not just a place where history is preserved but where the present comes alive. The guest books left in each lockhouse tell stories of the visitors who stayed there, breathing life into the homes that still hold the stories of the lock keepers.

From birthdays, inauguration or Martin Luther King Jr. celebrations, intimate, private weddings and Girl Scout troop adventures, the lockhouses have kept guests’ memories preserved within its walls. They continue to keep history alive just as the world marches on. If you are interested in planning a stay with Canal Quarters to make your own memories, please visit https://www.canaltrust.org/programs/canal-quarters/ to learn more!

“Once upon a time, there was a lovely girl from the wooded hills of PA and a quiet boy from a hi-tech computer town. Life was good, but something was missing. Then, one day, their youthful souls met, but they didn’t fall fast in love. Instead, they spent the next few years laughing ans sharing and they learned from each other. They slowly fell into a wonderful happiness. The boy [unintelligible] so quiet and the girl no longer [unintelligible] together they lived and laughed and shared many adventures: camping, hiking, biking, finding peace of mind in the great outdoors… fresh air, warm fire, smells and sounds of the wilderness.

The girl – a proud descendant of the unrefined, adventurous, and hard-working, Wiley Pennsylvaninans & Pittsburgh Steelers fans – was always searching for her next quest. So she rode her bike from Pittsburgh to Washington DC 318 miles!! From the Allegheny Passage across the Continental Divide to Cumberland where C&O Canal guided here through MD, WV, and VA into the nation’s great capital. She biked and biked. It rained and shined. She slept in a tent and bathed in the river. The boy bough her [unintelligible] when it was all over. Covered in mud, she met him in Georgetown on a Friday night, and as he loaded her bike and gear onto the back of his Toyota, Georgetown’s finest — dressed in high heels and suit coats — gawked to see the dirty girl covered from head to toe in mud!!! It was a great adventure!!!

Only last year did the fine couple learn of the lockhouse rentals, and wow what a wonderful surprise! And so here they are – 7 years after they met, many adventures later and preparing for their coolest adventure yet!!

There’s a bun in the oven 13 weeks 4 days

Sarah  & Chris 

Enjoying lockhouse 6 with one of their favorite people in the world Papa Joey & Navi”

“Happy Inauguration Day, Mr. President! Brookmont’s own Innaugural Ball was held right here at historic Lockhouse 6. It was a night of great rejoicing and celebration, with live music, singing… dancing, and of course lots of awesome food. We were doubly fortunate tonight to be honoring the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and his legacy of Freedom and equality for all of us – as President Obama so eloquently emphasized in his speech today. Four more years.

Jennifer, our beloved hostess, organizer and quartermaster, asked us to bring our own personal time capsules to Lockhouse 6, in the form of photos of our childhoods and young adulthoods – a record of a time before we knew each other as Brookmonters. It was amazing to hear all there stories, and to see all that hair. Lots and lots of hair! We’ve all done such cool things in our lives. Our own bit of history here in Lockhouse 6 was a great place to share them.

Here tonight were: Jennifer, Davey,and Jesse 

Jeff & Julie 


Jane  & Harry 


Paul  & Ginny 


Dan & Janet 


Mary  & Joe”

“Leaders and girl scouts of Troop 2518 had a wonderful time. We walked from Lockhouse 6 to Lockhouse 10 and had dinner with the rest of our troop. On the way we saw ducks, turtles and [unintelligible] along with lots of people enjoying the path. After we had dinner at Lockhouse 10 the girls shared skits by a fire. Each skit incorporated a fact about the lockhouses. We came back to Lockhouse 6 for the night and had a lovely breakfast. What a beautiful spot – perfect get away for our troop. Thank you for sharing it with us!

Thank you so much!

Leaders of Troop 2518″

March 23, 2014

“I am currently in my 60th year and decided that every day this year I would do something I’ve never done before. So today was staying in one of the C&O Lockhouses. It was wonderful. We are local. So last night we had a few friends over for dinner & had a fabulous night. I could stay another week if I could.


Germantown, MD”

June 24, 2017

“We had a great day here for Shawn’s birthday. Both the house and the scenery are beautiful. It was fun to step back in time playing jacks and pick up sticks, cooking in the period kitchen, and relaxing by the outdoor fire. What a great little gem in DC! Laura, Shawn, Anna, Josh”

Sep 2, 2012

“We ‘locked it in’ at the lockhouse! We got married on the porch at sundown, just the 2 of us & a celebrant under a clear, crisp, clean December night with a full-moon smiling down on us! A small gathering of friends & family joined us later in the evening to celebrate. We toasted with sparkling cider & ate yummy goodies! A midnight walk on the canal 23 degrees, under silvery light. It was a unique and extraordinary adventure & will start off our lives together with a blessing!


Keith & Debra

(Kensington, MD)”

Book your stay at one of the lockhouses and make you own memories!

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