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A Man-Made Natural Wonder

By Ranger Bill

Rainy days make me think of the Paw Paw Tunnel. When I'm in Allegany County on a rainy day, I go out of my way to enjoy the tunnel's spectacular man-made natural wonder. It holds one of the best secrets of the canal.

As I approach the upstream end I listen for the familiar roar. When I hear it my pace quickens. The fascinating features of the tunnel that usually captivate me - the rope burns in the railing from untold thousands of canal boat tow ropes, the speleothems that grace the sides and ceiling of the tunnel, the hole in the wall that exposes the many layers of brick - all are distractions.

My reward cascades over the downstream portal of the tunnel, a waterfall that flows only when it rains. When the canal builders created the tunnel, they also carved a long approach out of the mountain on the downstream end. In creating this half-mile long man-made canyon, they changed the drainage patterns of the mountain, focusing much of it down over the North portal into what is now known as Tunnel Hollow.

I rarely get to share this beautiful experience, because most people don't visit the tunnel in the rain. But the secret's out now. Maybe I'll see you at the tunnel next time it rains.
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Points of Interest
  • The autumn foliage makes a perfect backdrop to an old railroad bridge crossing the Cacapon River.

    Drive to the Paw Paw Tunnel from Hancock. Take 522 to Berkeley Springs and take WV Route 9 west. The curvy road runs through some of the greatest scenery in the area. It's particularly beautiful i... Read More

  • Don't be fooled!  The tunnel is much longer and darker than it first appears.

    We can't get you to the lower end of the tunnel without looking at the tunnel itself. There are other great things to see in the tunnel. The hole in the wall showing the layers of brick that were us... Read More

  • While you won't be able to find Lock 65, you'll come across Locks 63 1/3 and 64 2/3.

    We are missing a lock! Follow the towpath down from the lower end of the tunnel to see if you can find it! There will be more about the missing lock in another installment of Canal Discoveries.

  • Whether enjoying gorgeous views above the trees or intimate hikes under the canopy, you'll find plenty of activities for the whole family at the Green Ridge State Forest.

    Some of the wildest areas in Maryland are in this state forest.


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