Frequently Asked Questions

revised January 10, 2017

  1. How do I register?

Registrations are available on a first-come, first-serve basis and may be made up to twelve months in advance. Registration must be done with a credit card, either online or by telephone. Online registration shows “real time” lockhouse availability. Follow the guided process and be sure to have your credit card ready. Upon registering, you will receive two emails: a receipt and a confirmation with detailed instructions.

Telephone registrations are available on a limited basis between 9:00 a.m. and 12:00 p.m., Monday through Friday. A Trust representative will be available only during those times to answer questions regarding the Canal Quarters Program, discuss lockhouse availability, and take registrations. You may leave a voicemail during non-business hours, and a Trust representative will return your call.

Only one party (8 person maximum) may register per lockhouse per stay. There is a three-night maximum stay. The fee is the same regardless of the number in your party. The person registering is considered the group leader and must remain with the group at all times.

The Trust does not keep a wait list.

  1. How does the key system work?

In your confirmation email, there will be a 4-digit code for the lockbox where the key is stored. The lockbox is affixed to the doorframe of the front entrance of the lockhouse. You may use the lockbox as much as you like during your stay, but it is very import to RETURN THE KEY TO THE LOCKBOX PRIOR TO DEPARTURE. To return the key to the lockbox, simply reenter the 4-digit code and press down on the open button to reattach to lockbox. Failure to do so will result in a $50 charge to your account. Any damage to the lockbox must be reported immediately and may be subject to an additional fee.

  1. What is the maximum occupancy?

The maximum occupancy for all lockhouses is 8 persons. Camping around the lockhouses is strictly prohibited. If your party exceeds the maximum occupancy, extra individuals are encouraged to stay at a nearby approved park campground or make other arrangements.

  1. What do I do with my trash?

The C&O Canal National Historical Park (NHP) is a trash-free park. There are no trash cans in the park. The trash cans in the Canal Quarters lockhouses are for your convenience during your stay and must be emptied upon departure. Therefore, it is the visitors’ responsibility to take all trash with them. The Trust asks all visitors to be considerate of the visitor staying after them by leaving the building cleaner than they found it.

  1. What do I do for firewood?

Cutting of standing trees or limbs, dead or alive, is strictly prohibited in the park, and because of concerns about Emerald Ash Borer (http://www.emeraldashborer.info/), wood may not be brought into the park. Visitors are permitted to use the bow saw and maul to cut dead and down trees around the lockhouses. Wood is delivered on a semi-regular basis and will be found stacked near the lockhouses. All lockhouses except Lockhouse 6 have a fire ring with grill plate in the yard. None of the lockhouses have functional fireplaces.

  1. Can I use this program if I am a through-hiker or biker?

Absolutely. The C&O Canal welcomes nearly 5 million people every year who come to hike and bike the towpath. Due to the Great Allegheny Passage, many recreational enthusiasts now regularly make the trip from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to Washington D.C. The lockhouses in the Canal Quarters program offer an alternative to the park’s hiker-biker campgrounds by allowing a visitor to experience the history of the canal in a more meaningful way. While the Trust cannot make any special considerations for someone who wants to register for multiple lockhouses in a several day period, the online registration provides a calendar to show each lockhouse’s availability. With enough prior planning, a multi-day trip should be feasible.

  1. Can I drive to the lockhouse?

All lockhouses are located immediately adjacent to the C&O Canal Towpath. Lockhouses 6, 10, 22, 25, and 49 are accessible by car and include nearby parking. Lockhouse 28 is located on the towpath about 3/4 of a mile from available parking. Visitors may not drive on the towpath.

Canal Quarters parking is available near all locations and is marked by special signs. A parking permit will be included in the confirmation email and should be displayed on the dashboard of your vehicle throughout your stay. National Park Service law enforcement rangers will check this permit, as overnight parking is not permitted within the Montgomery County and Washington, D.C. sections of the park.

If you park your car in the C&O Canal NHP, always be sure to keep valuables out of sight and to lock your vehicle. Break-ins happen from time to time, even in daylight. If you see any suspicious activity, call 911 immediately.

  1. What should I bring?

Each lockhouse varies in amenities. Lockhouses 6 and 10, for instance, have a full kitchen and bathroom, while Lockhouses 22, 25, and 28 offer a completely rustic experience. Lockhouse 49 has electricity and a stove, but does not have an indoor bathroom. Linens and pillows are not provided. Please bring your own. Please review the information provided on the registration website for details so you don’t encounter any surprises.

  1. What is there to do in the area?

The C&O Canal National Historical Park offers a variety of programs and activities suited for any person, any age. Enjoy scenic hikes or bike rides along the C&O Canal Towpath. Visit remaining canal structures, such as locks, aqueducts, and the Paw Paw Tunnel. Take a mule drawn canal boat ride at Great Falls in Potomac, Maryland. There are also many national and state parks located short driving distances away. Visit our Plan Your Visit portal to discover ideas for your next trip!

You can also visit these sites to explore more things to do in the area:

Feel free to explore the area with Canal Discoveries. Canal Discoveries are stories narrated by a National Park Service ranger and also include nearby points of interest, a photo gallery of historic photos, links to videos and podcasts, and driving directions from your home. To enjoy these discoveries, please visit www.Canaldiscoveries.org

  1. Is there a store nearby?

Grocery stores accessible by vehicle can be found relatively near all locations. They may not be easily accessible by foot or bike, however. Near Lockhouse 28 and 49, there are only smaller convenient stores, while Lockhouses 6, 10, and 22 are located near shopping centers in Potomac, Maryland. Lockhouse 25 is located near  Poolesville, Maryland.

  1. Are pets allowed?

Park rules specify that all pets be on leashes in the park. Pets are not allowed inside the lockhouses at any time.

  1. What do I do for cooking?

Check the amenities chart on the registration pages to see what is provided at each lockhouse for cooking arrangements. With the exception of Lockhouse 6, each lockhouse has a fire ring with a grate for outside cooking. Lockhouses 6, 10, and 49 have electric stoves; Lockhouses 6 and 10 have refrigerators.  Pots, pans, dishes, and utensils are provided along with areas for kitchen prep at all buildings. Limited cookware is available for use on fire rings, so please plan accordingly.

  1. Is water available?

Visitors are strongly encouraged to bring their own water during their stay since only Lockhouses 6 and 10 have indoor plumbing. Pumps are available at nearby hiker-biker campgrounds, but some are located a considerable distance away from Canal Quarters lockhouses. Further, these pumps are only available mid-spring to late fall and are not operable during the winter. Also note that the water from the pumps is treated with iodine, so visitors with iodine allergies should not drink the water. Pumps are tested once every two weeks. If the pump fails the test, the pump handle will be removed. The Trust is not able to notify visitors if the pump nearest to the lockhouse is unavailable, so bringing your own is the safest option. Water may be taken from nearby streams and rivers and treated with water purification tablets, but neither the Trust nor the Park can assure the safety of the water.

  1. Are there bathroom facilities?

Only Lockhouse 6 and 10 have indoor plumbing, including a bathroom and a shower. All other lockhouses have outdoor toilet facilities. There are no showers at these other locations.

  1. Is there river access?

There are various Potomac River access points all along the C&O Canal. Visit the C&O Canal NHP’s website for detailed information (http://www.nps.gov/choh/index.htm). Visitors are asked to use existing trails and not create any social trails.

  1. Will my cell phone work?

Visitors should not rely on cell service anywhere along the C&O Canal Towpath, especially in western Maryland. However, AT&T, US Cellular, and Sprint typically work at Canal Quarters locations.

  1. Can I cancel my stay? Are there refunds?

Upon making a registration, you will receive an email confirming your registration and detailing your itinerary. It is the group leader’s responsibility to review this information upon receipt. If there is an error in the itinerary, contact the Trust immediately.

Any changes or cancellations require 30 days advance notice. Cancellations more than 30 days in advance of your arrival will receive a refund upon request, less a $15 processing fee. Cancellations made less than 30 days prior to the scheduled arrival date will result in full forfeiture of the advance payment.

In the event that the Park unexpectedly closes, such as in the event of flooding, and registrants are not able to access their reserved lockhouse during the period of their reservation, the Trust will rebook or provide a full refund upon request.

  1. What do I need to do when I leave?

The Trust asks all visitors to be good stewards of these historic buildings during their stay and be respectful of other visitors. Departure time is 10:00 a.m. Please leave the lockhouse in better condition than you found it. Leave no trash or other items. Make sure all fires are completely out if you use the fire ring. Sweep out any dirt or mud that may have made its way into the building. Move furniture back to its original position if it was moved during your stay. Clean all cooking items thoroughly. Make sure the woodpile is restocked. Turn off all lights. Close all windows and screens. Shut and bolt shutters. Ensure all doors are locked. Return lockhouse key to lockbox.

If anything is broken or damaged during your stay, please notify the Trust immediately.

  1. Are there volunteer opportunities for the program?

Each lockhouse is overseen by a group of volunteer Quartermasters who regularly check on the building assigned to them and take great care to ensure the building is in great shape for visitors. Please contact the Trust by emailing Volunteer@canaltrust.org if you would like more information about this important volunteer opportunity.

  1. Who do I contact in an emergency?

Call 911 immediately in the event of an emergency. Additionally, when arriving at the lockhouse, make sure to find the locations of first aid kits and fire extinguishers as well as emergency evacuation routes.

  1. Is there bike or boat storage available?

There is bike storage available at all lockhouses in the basement of the buildings. Smaller boats, such as kayaks and some canoes, may fit into the lower level of Lockhouses 6, 22, 25, 28, and 49. They may also be stored outside the building, but it is advised to bring a lock and a chain for security. Do not store bikes or boats in the main floors of the buildings.

Note that use of electric motorized vessels is allowed only at Big Pool, Little Pool, and canal waters from Lock 68 to Town Creek Aqueduct. Gasoline and propane motorized vessels are prohibited within the park. Personal floatation devices should be used as required by the state of Maryland. Use special care if boating on the Potomac River. Canoeing on the Potomac should be done under the direct supervision of an experienced adult canoeist. The U.S. Weather Bureau provides a taped message on river conditions in the lower Potomac Valley at (703)260-0305.

  1. What happens if I lose a key?

If you lose the key to the lockhouse, you may try to contact the Trust to request assistance. The after-hours guest hotline number will be found in the confirmation email you will receive after you complete your reservation. However, please do not call after 9:00 p.m. Keep in mind, there is no guarantee that Trust staff and/or volunteers will be available to assist, so take great care with the key. As with any damage or loss, please immediately report a lost key to the Trust. A $50 replacement fee will be assessed.