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Tymber Compher

Canal Community Story: Sarah Brown

By Canal Community Story

Celebrate your love for the C&O Canal by sharing your personal story about the Park. Each story will take a look at a person’s relationship with the C&O Canal. Whether an NPS ranger, a volunteer, or a visitor, everyone has a story to tell about the canal! If you want to share your story, fill out the form below, email it to us at [email protected] or post it on your social media feeds with the hashtag #MyCanalStory. We could use your story here on our website!

Tell Us Your Canal Story

Sarah Brown, Biological Technician at the C&O Canal National Historical Park

C&O Canal Trust: How did you hear about the C&O Canal?
Sarah: I had first heard of the C&O Canal through two good friends I met while attending James Madison University for graduate school. They rode the full Canal one summer and came back telling me all the great things about their trip and about the Park. Since I am not from the area, I was very surprised to learn there exists this long national park that follows the Potomac River and is ideal for walking and biking. However, I was living in Virginia at the time and was not very near the Park. So, I just knew the C&O Canal existed, but it had not taken shape as a place to visit let alone to work. The C&O Canal finally took shape when I worked with the USGS last summer on a project monitoring bees and flowers among several national parks including the C&O Canal. During that summer, I would travel to sites within the Park for work and would bike the towpath as much as I could in my free time!

C&O Canal Trust: Tell us about your professional background.
Sarah: I am fairly early in my, hopefully, long career in plant monitoring, ecological restoration, and natural resource management. Prior to joining the Park, I primarily worked field technician positions, but the projects and locations of these positions have varied. One project was exploring the use of native plants in sustainable and water efficient landscaping in Texas. Another project was in south-eastern Ohio on former surface coal mine land where we were restoring the forest understory with native plantings and invasive species removal. For another project I was based in Virginia and traveled to West Virginia to monitor pollinators visiting flowers present in a steep-sloping, dry, shale substrate environment known as a shale barren. The USGS project last summer was my most recent work before joining the C&O Canal. 

C&O Canal Trust: What is your position with the C&O Canal NHP, and what does the job entail?
Sarah: My position title is biological science technician, which can be a catch-all position for managing and executing natural resource management projects with the Park. This mean I spend much of my time out in the park completing vegetation surveys, recording any rare plant occurrences, and fulfilling the field work necessary for any additional research or monitoring projects occurring in the Park. However, my most important focus is leading the Park’s Rare Plant Propagation project. The goal of the project is to harvest seed material from wild populations in the Park, grow the material, and plant grown material back into the Park. This means that most of my time is spent monitoring documented rare plant populations for their flower and fruit production, collecting seeds, and preparing collected material to be grown by our greenhouse partner. 

C&O Canal Trust: Can you talk about the Rare Plants Initiative with the Park?
Sarah: Thanks to the C&O Canal’s proximity to the Potomac River, the Park protects a large stretch of unfragmented, unique, and highly biodiverse riparian forested and open habitats. Included in this biodiversity are a recorded 200 state rare, threatened, and endangered plant species. The Park has a long history of rare plant surveying, with the earliest rare plant occurrence recorded in 1870, and the Park’s Rare Plants Initiative is a continuation of such surveying. The core of the Park’s Rare Plants Initiative is monitoring known occurrences for a population’s persistence in that location, recording any changes in the population, and document threats such as invasive species encroachment or excessive deer browse. Locating new occurrences is certainly included in the initiative, but monitoring is such a high priority because frequently these plants exist in very precarious circumstances and/or in very low numbers so that plants you saw five years ago might not be present today. Thus, our monitoring of known occurrences will go forward to inform us of some of the most threatened plants in the park and any management actions to protect such species. The Park’s newest management action to protect rare plants is the Rare Plant Propagation project. One method of protecting known populations of rare plants is to supplement those populations with more individuals. Thus, the Park’s Rare Plant Propagation project intends to supplement populations by partnering with the Mt. Cuba Center to grow seeds harvested from populations in the park. We are in the first year of the project, so only seed collection has occurred so far. Next year will be our first year of planting material back into the Park, and we’re all eager so see how populations respond to the supplementation.

C&O Canal Trust: Do you have a favorite rare plant?
Sarah: Polygala polygama also known as racemed milkwort! It is such an adorable little plant that grows about 6 to 12 inches tall. The plant produces these tiny delicate but bright pink flowers and has incredibly hairy seeds that look almost like animal fur under a microscope. Keep your eyes open for it between May and July in dry rocky or sandy woodlands and clearings! 

C&O Canal Trust: When you visit the park recreationally, what do you like to do?
Sarah: This may seem so simple, but I enjoy walking the towpath listening to music, a podcast, or audio book. It’s nice to be away from vehicle traffic and just have space to walk as far as I want. 

C&O Canal Trust: Do you have a favorite section of the park?
Sarah: My favorite section of the park has got to be the area around Paw Paw or Bonds Landing. In general, I deeply enjoy the western part of the park because of its scenery, the mountains, and seclusion. Plus, I can find my favorite ecosystem in that part of the park: shale barrens! 

C&O Canal Trust: What have you liked most about working with the C&O Canal?
Sarah: The work environment all around is excellent. I get to work with great people and spend most of my days outside in a beautiful place! 

C&O Canal Trust Wraps up Successful Canal For All Season

By News

Canal For All at Four Locks by Francis Grant-Suttie

Throughout the month of July, over 300 youth and adults from Community Bridges, the Boys & Girls Club of Washington County and Girls, Inc., of Washington County, and the Boys & Girls Club of the Eastern Panhandle joined us in the park for games, crafts, historical hikes and tours, birdwatching, songs, outdoor skills, and dodging more than a few raindrops. Read More

Picnic Area At Cushwa Gets A Fresh New Look

By News

Photo By Trust Staff

During Williamsport’s Canal Community Days event in May, Trust volunteers and staff put a lot of work into sprucing up the area around Cushwa Basin. Canal Trust staff member Don Street built two raised beds that were added to the picnic area adjacent to the Trolley Barn. Ellen Kinzer from the Trust staff selected native perennials from The Native Niche like Golden Alexander (Zizia aurea), False Salomon’s Seal (Smilacina racemosa), and Heartleaf Foamflower (Tiarella cordifolia) that were planted by volunteers during the event. Read More

Celebrating Olmsted’s Living Legacy

By News

‘Great Falls from Olmstead Island’ by Kara McNulty

This year the nation is celebrating the bicentennial of the birth of Frederick Law Olmsted with a yearlong Olmsted 200 celebration. Olmsted was considered the founder of American Landscape Architecture, designing some of our most celebrated landmarks in the United States, such as Central Park and the U.S. Capitol Grounds in Washington, D.C. His work preserving America’s Scenic Spaces left its mark, even laying the foundation for the national park system. When he retired in 1895, his sons continued his legacy. Read More

Join us for Latino Conservation Week!

By Canal For All

Date: Saturday, July 16, 2022
Time: 10:00am – 2:00pm
Location: C&O Canal National Historical Park – Great Falls
11710 Macarthur Blvd, Potomac, MD 20854*

Map link here. In Google Maps, search for “Great Falls Tavern Visitor Center.”
*Note: This is the Maryland side of the river, not Great Falls, Virginia!

Images by Trust Staff


  • When you arrive at the entrance fee booth at Great Falls, tell them park staff that you are with the “C&O Canal Trust event” or “Latino Conservation Week event.” You’ll be able to enter without paying the entrance fee.
  • Park anywhere, and walk to the picnic area next to the parking lot.
  • We will meet at the picnic tables next to the old white concessions building. You will see a “C&O Canal Trust” sign. You may ask the entrance fee booth staff to point out the concessions building to you, which will be visible from the entrance gate.
  • There are flush toilets up closer to the Tavern visitor center. Please visit those before we begin our program at 10:00am.

The Program:

  • Participants will be divided into small groups and will rotate through activity stations. Activities will include a craft, nature exploration, outdoor preparedness, and a hike.
  • There will be a lunch break in the middle of the program. Water and snacks will be offered at two activity stations, but participants should bring their own as well.
  • Activities will be geared toward fourth-grade youth and older. Younger siblings may join for the day, but childcare is not provided and young children may find the program very long. 
  • Participants should be able to sit, stand, take an easy one-mile hike on a flat, uneven trail with some roots and rocks, and climb a set of steep stairs up a hillside, roughly the height of two floors. The stairs will have handrails. Participants will only go up and come down these stairs one time.

What to Bring:

  • One signed Media Release form (Spanish Version Here) per family residing in the same household. Each adult in the family must sign it, and children’s names may be listed on the same form.
  • Sturdy, comfortable, close-toed shoes. Sandals and flip-flops are not suitable for this event.
  • Loose, comfortable clothing
  • One water bottle per person
  • Snacks as desired
  • Lunch per person
  • (Optional) Sun hat and sunglasses
  • (Optional) Sunscreen, insect repellant, chapstick

Weather Contingencies

  • Rain or storms predicted but not actively happening – program will go as planned, and we’ll do as much as we can. The program may be modified as needed.
  • Thunderstorms happening – program will be delayed or cancelled. You will be notified via email. We will also leave an outgoing message at (240) 202-2625 x191. 
  • Rain happening – Trust leaders will determine the best course of action. You will be notified of a cancellation or delay via email. If you don’t receive an email notifying you of these, the program will continue as planned.
  • Other unforeseen circumstances – You will be notified via email, and we will leave an outgoing message at (240) 202-2625 x191.

Visitors to C&O Canal National Historical Park Create $161 Million Economic Benefit to Gateway Communities; Support 1,360 Jobs

By News

Image Credit: NPS

National parks are a vital part of our nation’s economy and help drive a vibrant tourism and outdoor recreation industry. According to a new National Park Service report, 2021 National Park Visitor Spending Effects, approximately 6.7 million visitors spent $247 million in local gateway regions while visiting National Park Service lands in Maryland last year. These expenditures supported a total of 2,940 jobs, $130 million in labor income, $215 million in value added, and $344 million in economic output in the Maryland economy. The C&O Canal National Historical Park (NHP) helps lead the economic impact among NPS sites in Maryland, second only to Assateague Island National Seashore in total visitor spending. Read More

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

Canal Community Story: Maryland MINIs

By Canal Community Story

Celebrate your love for the C&O Canal by sharing your personal story about the Park. Each story will take a look at a person’s relationship with the C&O Canal. Whether an NPS ranger, a volunteer, or a visitor, everyone has a story to tell about the canal! If you want to share your story, fill out the form below, email it to us at [email protected] or post it on your social media feeds with the hashtag #MyCanalStory. We could use your story here on our website!

Tell Us Your Canal Story

Maryland MINIs: Canal Community Day Volunteers

Photo Credit: Francis Grant-Suttie

C&O Canal Trust: Who are the Maryland MINIs? What do you do /  what is your mission?
Maryland MINIs: Maryland MINIs was created when a small band of MINI owners formed our group on social media in late 2021. Since then, we have grown to 236 active members, representing Mini models from over three decades. Not satisfied with just standing around in parking lots admiring our Minis or trading posts over the internet, our mission is to be a bona fide “community on wheels” dedicated to exploring all the beautiful parts of Maryland and surrounding mid-Atlantic area and making a positive impact on the community that we share.  We are a diverse group of mature, friendly, and fun-loving people of all ages and life experiences who share the passion for our unique cars. Our events usually consist of about 15 to 20 cars, depending on the weather and where our adventures take us, however an Event to the GUINNESS Brewery in Baltimore drew over 40 cars, from all regions of our great State.  

C&O Canal Trust: What inspired you to volunteer with the C&O Canal Trust?
Maryland MINIs: Part of the mission of Maryland MINIs is the pride of being part of the Maryland tradition of giving back. Maryland MINIs Administrators create spontaneous events that invite members to be active in our State and local communities. These events allow our members to enjoy a brisk and satisfying motoring experience, an opportunity for membership bonding, as well as the pride and accomplishment of helping to make Maryland a better place.

C&O Canal Trust: Describe your experience at the Canal Community Days event. How did you come to learn about the event? What project(s) were you responsible for? What did you enjoy most about the event
Maryland MINIs: Maryland MINIs subscribes to many non-profit organizations, which enables us to learn about and participate in community events that are a good fit what for what we feel we can offer. Obviously, we are “transportation nuts” by nature, so it was intriguing to visit and help preserve another form of transportation that was such a part of our state’s history.

Our group was assigned to the general gardening group, and we helped to rehab a picnic area.  We weeded, spread rock dust, planted flowers, and mulched.  The result was a great location for visitors to the canal to come, picnic, and enjoy the beauty.

The beautiful drive to Williamsport via ALT Route 40 to the winding roads of Route 68 to the Canal Area fed our enjoyment of our hobby and the wonderful park and buildings served as a great backdrop for photographs of the cars that we love. 

C&O Canal Trust: What is your favorite section / location in the Park?
Maryland MINIs: Currently Georgetown, Great Falls, and Williamsport, Maryland are three C&O Canal locations that are favored by Maryland MINIs. However, we will be planning additional drives and activities at other locations, including Cumberland, Maryland in the very near future.  MINI USA has declared August 26th  “Wave to Friends,” or “WTF day,” in a move to resuscitate the tradition of Mini drivers waving to each other on the road. The so-called “MINI wave”—which amounts to a physical expression of brand loyalty— has fallen out of style of late. So if you see a pack of MINIs on the road “give us a wave”!!

C&O Canal Trust: What does the C&O Canal mean to you?
Maryland MINIs: MINIs have their own history and legacy in car folklore, so the C&O Canal, with its rich place in the transportation history of our region was a great fit for our Car Club to resonate with.  The fact that it has been strategically associated with many historical events makes it even more important to preserve the canal and highlight the economic, industrial, and commercial history of our region and Country for future generations.


Maryland MINIs C&O Canal Crew (who participated in the cleanup)

Victoria Bremseth

Tre Clark

Mark De Fries

Michael Fewster

Tammy Fewster

Debbie Huber

Jerame Puffenbarger

Dan Nielsen

Bette Phelps

Canal Community Story: Tammy Giberson

By Canal Community Story

Celebrate your love for the C&O Canal by sharing your personal story about the Park. Each story will take a look at a person’s relationship with the C&O Canal. Whether an NPS ranger, a volunteer, or a visitor, everyone has a story to tell about the canal! If you want to share your story, fill out the form below, email it to us at [email protected] or post it on your social media feeds with the hashtag #MyCanalStory. We could use your story here on our website!

Tell Us Your Canal Story

Tammy Giberson: TowpathGO Fundraiser, Canal Community Days Volunteer, and C&O Canal Lover

Tammy Giberson at Canal Community Days

There’s a place tucked into Maryland that is also tucked away in my heart: the C&O Canal NHP. From humble beginning to roaring majesty, the Potomac River creates the perfect setting of history and harmony. On July 4, 1828, groundbreaking ceremonies for the C&O and the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad were held only miles apart. The two companies would have an intertwined relationship for over 100 years. Ultimately the Iron Horse would live on while the mule drawn boats would survive only in pictures and memory. If the canal was almost doomed from the beginning, why bother to continue building? Why put in effort and resources for a lesser option? I am drawn to this place because life sometimes seems like it has the same challenges.

I rediscovered the Towpath in a time of my life that felt like failure. All my well paved good intentions and plans had blown up into gravel. The hard packed trail was the perfect metaphor. Slowly my perspective shifted from the ground under my weary feet to the trees, the river, the birds. The life. Suddenly one day it dawned on me that while the original purpose of the C&O Canal was no longer relevant, it did not mean that it was not valuable. That shift in thought about the park translated into my life. I was “this” before; I am “that” now.

Photo Credit: Tammy Giberson

The Iron Horses of job, home maintenance, and the endless list of daily chores can peacefully coincide with the quiet guidance of faith, family, and friends. The first rolls on because it must; the second travels because I choose it.

So how do I show my love to a place? How do I represent the person I’m becoming to the area that is helping create a new me? Volunteer. Take every opportunity to serve. I can be part of organized events like Canal Days. Sometimes it’s simply showing up with the sun, trash bags in hand, to scavenge debris left behind by others. I can talk to people while I’m out adventuring about the history of our location. I’m always hopeful I’ll instill a sense of respect or gratitude into the next generation. I travel with a toy fox as a mascot and an ice breaker. Zee gets a lot of attention!

TowpathGo gives myself and others the chance to adventure and advocate at the same time. It’s not about just putting in miles. It’s raising tangible funds for practical upkeep. Romanticizing the past does not take us into the future. We live in the present. We can act now. I can act now. If many people do one small task and/or donate a few dollars then that many more people can enjoy the park.

Photo Credit: Tammy Giberson

I want to preserve the C&O Canal NHP for future generations. Maybe there is another who, like me, will find their way back to wholeness in the stillness. In the beauty. I want some wayward traveler to visit and know their life has purpose. Has meaning. Has value. The C&O has taught me these things. I want to share that love and joy.

C&O Canal Trust Celebrates Kids to Parks Day at Fletchers Cove

By News

Photo Credit: Francis Grant-Suttie

Despite the record heat, which made it feel more like a mid-summer day, the C&O Canal Trust’s celebration of Kids to Parks Day at Fletchers Cove was filled with smiles and enthusiastic participants. Children and their families were greeted by staff from the Trust and from WUSA9 who volunteered to help with programming for the day. Children were invited to complete Junior Ranger booklets and participate in a variety of activities.  Read More

Nearly 50 Volunteers Participated in 15th Annual Canal Community Days Clean-Up Event in Williamsport

By News, Volunteer

Photo Credit: Francis Grant-Suttie

Williamsport, Md. – On Saturday, May 14, the C&O Canal Trust, in partnership with the C&O Canal National Historical Park (NHP), hosted its 15th annual Canal Community Days event in Williamsport. Nearly 50 volunteers from around the community spent the morning working on projects to restore and revitalize the C&O Canal at Cushwa Basin and Lockhouse 44. Read More

Canal Community Story: Zack Ayisi

By Canal Community Story

Celebrate your love for the C&O Canal by sharing your personal story about the Park. Each story will take a look at a person’s relationship with the C&O Canal. Whether an NPS ranger, a volunteer, or a visitor, everyone has a story to tell about the canal! If you want to share your story, fill out the form below, email it to us at [email protected] or post it on your social media feeds with the hashtag #MyCanalStory. We could use your story here on our website!

Tell Us Your Canal Story

Zack Ayisi, TeenWorks Crew Leader and Canal Community Days Volunteer

C&O Canal Trust: What is TeenWorks?

Zack: TeenWorks is pretty much a way for teens to get involved with the community and give back and learn leadership skills while working. Now they have a volunteer process where you volunteer for 50 hours, and then you become a leader or ‘green shirt.’ This pretty much allows you to work at high schools or elementary schools, and you become a familiar face in the community.

Zack Ayisi at Great Falls by Francis Grant-Suttie

C&O Canal Trust: What exactly is your job?

Zack: So, I’m a red shirt, which is pretty much the same thing, in a way. The only difference, I guess, is honestly the pay, but I still go around and help different programs. I work at my old high school, as an outlet for kids to come relax, enjoy, and have fun with us. We are pretty much a safe space for them, and we have other red shirts at EBB (Excel Beyond the Bell), which is an enrichment program for younger kids. They have learning activities, and they have other contractors come and provide different activities such as a soccer game or fitness program.

C&O Canal Trust: How did you get involved with TeenWorks?

Zack: My senior year, I had attended a program as a culinary student. I used that to get my hours, and then after an interview, I got hired and worked for CJC. In the summer, I cleaned up the community, like weeding around libraries and other places in Montgomery County. I would really encourage other kids to get involved with TeenWorks, because it really creates different avenues for you growing up. I didn’t think when I was in high school, I would join CJC or help out in parades. I never thought I would go kayaking. It exposes you to so many different things.

C&O Canal Trust: How many times have you volunteered with the Park?

Zack: Last week, at Canal Community Days on April 23 at Great Falls was my second time at the C&O Canal.

C&O Canal Trust: What other event did you attend?

Zack: We seeded the grass around the bathrooms by Great Falls. After that, we went for a little walk, and cleaned up while we were walking.

C&O Canal Trust: What was it like volunteering this past weekend at Great Falls?

Zack: I enjoyed it. When you take care of something personally, you feel good about it because you want to see it being taken care of forever.

C&O Canal Trust: Do you visit the Park in your own time?

Zack: I would like to, but I haven’t visited on my own. I did, the first time I went, I enjoyed the view of the rapids at Great Falls near the Billy Goat Trail. I saw the falls, and I enjoyed it. I saw a couple guys kayaking! I think the Park is very beautiful, and I’ve been on hikes and stuff, but I just think that scenery was a bit different for me to see.

TeenWorks at Great Falls by Francis Grant-Suttie

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

Trust Hosts First Successful Canal Community Days Event of 2022 at Great Falls

By News

Photo by Francis Grant-Suttie

The C&O Canal National Historical Park received a lot of love on Saturday, April 23, 2022, as the C&O Canal Trust welcomed volunteers, elected officials, Trust Board Members, and partnering organizations into the Park at Great Falls for our first Canal Community Days volunteer event of the season. Nearly 100 volunteers successfully removed over 1,000 pounds of trash and invasive plants, spread 15 yards of mulch in the picnic area, painted several park features, sanded the Mercer, and cleaned the Tavern’s first-floor windows.
Read More

Canal Community Story: Steff Smith

By Canal Community Story

Celebrate your love for the C&O Canal by sharing your personal story about the Park. Each story will take a look at a person’s relationship with the C&O Canal. Whether an NPS ranger, a volunteer, or a visitor, everyone has a story to tell about the canal! If you want to share your story, fill out the form below, email it to us at [email protected] or post it on your social media feeds with the hashtag #MyCanalStory. We could use your story here on our website!

Tell Us Your Canal Story

Steff Smith, Leader for Devils Backbone Brewing Company Volunteer Stewardship Program

Photo by Steff Smith

My name is Steff Smith and I am the Senior Sales Analyst for Devils Backbone Brewing Company. We are an alcoholic beverage company with a HUGE passion for the outdoors, people and leaving the world a better place than we found it. I don’t just live in the numbers, though. I am the stewardship coordinator and Women in Beer lead for the company as well. In so many words, I take the passion I have for volunteering with our parks, waterways and trails and use it to organize stewardship events for our whole company.

A little about the Devils Backbone’s Stewardship program for you. This is a core value of our mission and company values. We commit to a certain number of hours as a company each year and incentivize our employees to complete those hours by donating a dollar amount in their name to the nonprofit of their choice. When an employee completes 8 hours of volunteering in a year, we then donate $100 to their passion point nonprofit. This has been something we have been very proud of for years and are going to continue to push for years to come. Our goal for this year is 1,000 hours in 2022!!

When I joined Devils Backbone about 3 years ago, I saw this as an opportunity to get my family and friends involved as well. What could be better than getting my 11 year old daughter out in the wilderness to clean up our world?! (With some complaining, of course.) It has been a great bonding experience for us, and we enjoy working with the C&O Canal Trust at least once a month in the summer. These were not my first encounters with the Trust, however. I first volunteered with the Trust in my mid-20s at Weverton, Maryland, painting benches. My employer at the time had a relationship with the Trust, and every year at least once, we would make time to come help keep the parks looking beautiful.

Photo by Steff Smith

I can not compare the feeling after having helped to clean up our parks with anything else. Sure you get dirty, you get tired, you may or may not get some bumps and bruises – but seeing the amount of waste you can get out of natures habitat is truly rewarding. This year, a professional goal of mine is to get our Team at Devils Backbone to complete 1,000 hours of volunteer service. A personal goal of mine is to get my daughter and her friends involved at least once a month in the summer time – out of the phones and into the outdoors to help our world!!

Register for a Tour of Abner Cloud House

By Things to Do

The Abner Cloud House is one of the oldest existing structures on the Canal. In 1801 Abner Cloud, Jr., built a random rubble stone house with the help of Italian stonemasons, probably using stone from local quarries. 

The C&O Canal Trust is proud to partner with the Colonial Dames of America, Chapter III, who will be offering free 20-minute tours of the house as part of National Kids to Parks Day. Groups are limited to 5 people or one household per tour.

Some considerations:

  • Please be on time for your tour. If you are five minutes late, your spot may be given to someone else. 
  • If you need to cancel, please call (240) 202-2625 x 191 or email [email protected].
  • Facemasks are not required, but masks and hand sanitizer will be available for those who need them. 
  • This tour involves climbing two fairly tall flights of stairs. 

Thank you!

Canal Stewards Application

By Volunteer
Include names, relationships, and contact numbers.
Check multiple boxes to reflect your groups' ethnic make-up.

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

April 23 at Great Falls – Varnish the Mercer

By Volunteer
SSL hours are available

May 14 in Williamsport – Painting

By Volunteer
SSL hours are available

May 7 Canal Community Days in Frederick County

By Uncategorized
SSL hours are available

April 23 at Great Falls – Painting

By Uncategorized
SSL hours are available

April 23 at Great Falls – Trash Cleanup

By Uncategorized
SSL hours are available

April 23 at Great Falls – Invasive Species Removal

By Volunteer
SSL hours are available

April 23 at Great Falls – Filling Potholes

By Volunteer
SSL hours are available

April 23 at Great Falls – Mulching

By Volunteer
SSL hours are available

Canal Community Story: Steven Steinbach

By Canal Community Story

Celebrate your love for the C&O Canal by sharing your personal story about the Park. Each story will take a look at a person’s relationship with the C&O Canal. Whether an NPS ranger, a volunteer, or a visitor, everyone has a story to tell about the canal! If you want to share your story, fill out the form below, email it to us at [email protected] or post it on your social media feeds with the hashtag #MyCanalStory. We could use your story here on our website!

Tell Us Your Canal Story

Steven Steinbach, Runner on the C&O Canal

Steven Steinbach in Cumberland

Running the Entire Towpath

Well, that’s a slightly misleading title. Yes, I ran the towpath’s 184.5-mile length, from Georgetown to Cumberland. But never more than eight miles at a time, and usually in chunks of five or six – and not exactly speedily, given my age, ability, and day job. 

Steven’s Running Log

Starting in late winter with crusty ice on the trail and finishing in mid fall on a carpet of fallen leaves, I ran through dense fog, rain, pre-sunrise darkness, and sweltering heat and humidity, but, more often than not, sparkling weather – sometimes dodging caravans of bikers, but often going for an hour or two without meeting another soul. Amidst spectacular natural beauty, I encountered herons, ducks, turtles, frogs, a snake, scores of deer, turkey vultures, woodpeckers, hawks, and an eagle, along with horseflies, mosquitoes, and cicadas – and in the distant headlights on one pitch-black morning on the road to Little Orleans, if not a bobcat, then surely Maryland’s largest fox. Tracking, mile by mile, Mike High’s C&O Canal Companion, I immersed myself in the history of the canal and its environment, learning as much as I could about locks and lockkeepers, canal boats and traffic, tunnels and slackwater, Potomac floods and Civil War crossings. 

All of us are indebted to Justice Douglas for creating this national treasure and to the C&O Canal Trust and the National Park Service for its preservation. On a personal level, I’m grateful for my supportive (yet slightly bemused) family, my trainer Maria Brown, who kept my body working, and my student Jack Leonard, whose research paper got me first interested in exploring the canal.

Steven Steinbach at Mile Marker 0

This project was not without two significant wrinkles. First, because I was alone, I’d run and then be forced to double back to where I had parked the car. The silver lining? This means I’ve walked, as well as run, the towpath’s length. Second, the farther I’d get from home along the towpath, the longer and longer the drives, first along River Road, then I-270, and then I-70. The silver lining? Listening to lots of audiobooks.

When I finally made it to Cumberland and saw the sign – only 149 miles along the Great Allegheny Passage to Pittsburgh! – I was sorely tempted. Too much driving, though. So, I thought, why not run the towpath again? And I’ve just reached mile marker 67.

Trust Supports Preservation of Rare Plants in the C&O Canal National Historical Park

By News

A Biodiversity Treasure in Peril

The C&O Canal National Historical Park (NHP) is beloved for its natural beauty, rich recreational opportunities, and accessibility for over five million visitors. What is less well known is that it is one of the most biologically diverse national parks in the nation. Since its creation in 1971, nearly 200 rare, threatened, or endangered (RTE) plants, some of which are globally rare and unique. But that number appears to be dwindling. Between 2008 and 2020, just 106 previously identified RTE species were found along the C&O Canal. Invasive non native plants, regional urbanization, and surging visitation have all taken their toll on the fragile habitats that make such diversity possible. With the addition of unfolding climate change, the National Park Service (NPS) is facing complex challenges to conserve these resources.  Read More

Personal Canal Cleanup Interest Form

By Volunteer
SSL hours are available .

School and Youth Organization Volunteer Opportunities Interest Form

By Uncategorized

Thank you for your interest in partnering with the C&O Canal Trust. Our team will review your inquiry, and you can expect to hear from us within one week.

Corporate and Nonprofit Stewardship Interest Form

By Volunteer

Corporate and Nonprofit Stewardship Interest Form

Thank you for your interest in partnering with the C&O Canal Trust. Our team will review your inquiry, and you can expect to hear from us within one week. Please be aware that we need at least one month lead time to coordinate a stewardship event.

Canal Community Days Event at Great Falls

By Volunteer

Photo by Francis Grant-Suttie

Canal Community Days at Great Falls

April 22, 2023
9 a.m. – 12 p.m.

Thank you to all the volunteers who joined us. You helped Make This Park Shine!

Impact Report

108 Volunteers:

  • Removed 900 pounds of trash
  • Removed 900 pounds of invasive plants
  • Laid 50 yards of gravel footpath
  • Spread 15 cubic yards of mulch
  • Painted 3 park structures
  • Spread 65 yards of mulch and gravel

Photo by Francis Grant-Suttie

Photo by Francis Grant-Suttie

Photo by Francis Grant-Suttie

Celebrate FeBREWary with the C&O Canal Libations Trail

By Eat/Drink, News
We are excited to announce the widely popular C&O Canal Libations Trail will carry on in 2023! Featuring craft breweries located in or nearby the ten Canal Towns, the popular trail was developed in a joint effort involving Allegany, Montgomery, Frederick, and Washington county tourism bureaus, Visit Maryland, C&O Canal Trust, and the Canal Towns Partnership as part of the C&O Canal National Historical Park’s 50th anniversary year long celebration in 2021. Read More

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

Carderock C&O Canal Wayside Wins National NAI Award

By News
Two wayside exhibits, documenting life at Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) camps NP-1 and NP-2 on the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal during the Great Depression were the recipient of a National Association for Interpretation (NAI) award in December 2021.  The exhibit project, created by Iondesign, owned by Ruth Bielobocky of Frederick, MD, was one of three such awarded entries in the “outdoor media” category. Read More

Canal Story #50: Robin Zanotti

By Canal Story

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the C&O Canal becoming a National Historical Park, we are featuring 50 Canal Stories throughout 2021. Each story will take a look at a person’s relationship with the C&O Canal. Whether an NPS ranger, a volunteer, or a visitor, everyone has a story to tell about the canal! If you want to share your story, submit it to us at the link here, email it to us at [email protected] or post it on your social media feeds with the hashtag #MyCanalStory.

Tell Us Your Canal Story

Robin Zanotti, President of the C&O Canal Trust

It’s my honor to provide a wrap-up of this year’s 50 Canal Stories. It has been a weekly series that invited you to honor the C&O Canal National Historical Park’s 50th Anniversary by sharing your unique relationship with the Park.

Before I get to the special aspect of wrapping up this series, I want to start and then end with my personal relationship with the park. A number of years before I began working at the Trust, my husband and I decided to adopt an old dog. Muni’s owner had died and she waited for her new family at the Berkeley County Humane Society. She was as sweet as pie, which I would tell anyone who asked. As it relates to this story though, she was my walking companion. Up until the week she died, we often walked 3-4 miles on the towpath. It was our special place and it has remained so for me, despite losing Muni.

In my official capacity, I’ve been awed by the unique and compelling stories at least 49 of you have taken the time to share with us. Friendship, family and romance; exercise and personal challenges; such interesting history; and the beauty – oh, the beauty! Truly remarkable themes.

Thank you for joining all of us at the C&O Canal Trust in marking these special 50 years, well celebrated. It’s a labor of love for us because to a person, each member of my staff has a unique story of their connection to the park.

Back to my relationship with the park. As the president, I often hear the stories of others, as they explain why they donate, volunteer, or serve on our board. We immediately have something in common. For me, that’s the real story that I can uniquely share. I have such a cool job! Thank you for entrusting your stories to me as we jointly work to preserve and protect the park so that more stories may be told by future generations.

C&O Canal Trust Presents the C&O Canal National Historical Park With $200,000

By News
On December 9, 2021 the C&O Canal Trust presented a gift of $200,000 to the C&O Canal National Historical Park (NHP). “The C&O Canal Trust provides the ways and means for individuals to contribute directly – through philanthropy, volunteerism, and advocacy – to the Park we love today and to the one we will leave to the future. This gift represents a couple of years of this activity, from our community of donors who give in support of the Park’s Canal Classrooms education program and Towpath Resurfacing efforts,” said John Guttmann, Board Chair of the C&O Canal Trust. “The C&O Canal Trust provides critical support for our work. Funding these programs is especially important because they provide a legacy for future visitors to enjoy the Park for years to come,” said Tina Cappetta, Superintendent of the C&O Canal National Historical Park. Read More

Canal Story #49: Dane Francis Trembath

By Canal Story

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the C&O Canal becoming a National Historical Park, we are featuring 50 Canal Stories throughout 2021. Each story will take a look at a person’s relationship with the C&O Canal. Whether an NPS ranger, a volunteer, or a visitor, everyone has a story to tell about the canal! If you want to share your story, submit it to us at the link here, email it to us at [email protected] or post it on your social media feeds with the hashtag #MyCanalStory.

Tell Us Your Canal Story

Dane Francis Trembath, Herpetologist at the Australian Museum and Friend of the C&O Canal

Dane: In December of 1988 my family moved to Cabin John, Maryland and I was very lucky to live a short walk from Lock 8 on the C&O Canal. At that time, I was nine years old, and I used to accompany my mother on walks along the footpath in the afternoon after school. It was at this young age that I really started to appreciate the amount of nature that was essentially on my doorstop. Just before dusk we would always see the Beavers, which I really liked, and it was great to watch the canal change over the seasons.

As I got older, I was able to venture on my own adventures along the C&O Canal with a few trusty friends. Every day after school we would head down to Lock 8 and either go fishing along the Canal or the Potomac River, and would often return covered in mud, just before dark. As teenagers, this was a great escape from school life and due to the size of the area, you could really explore.

Apart from the fishing, the main thing that my friends and I enjoyed finding was reptiles and amphibians. During summer, you could walk along the footpath and easily spot Eastern Painted Turtles (Chrysemys picta) and Northern Red-bellied Turtles (Pseudemys rubriventris) basking on fallen logs in the sun. Along the edge of the Canal in the vegetation was Northern Water Snakes (Nerodia sipedon) and Garter Snakes (Thamnophis sirtalis). Sometimes you would also see Eastern Box Turtles (Terrapene carolina) and Eastern Rat Snakes (Pantherophis alleghaniensis) crossing the footpath. On dusk you could also see gigantic Common Snapping Turtles (Chelydra serpentina) surface from their daytime retreats for a breath of air and then resubmerge.

By going regularly and observing these animals, we were able to learn a lot about them and the natural world. This led to us actually doing research in our school library on these animals and I remember that we would see pictures of things that could live there in books, and then spend weeks trying to actually find them in life. This was when I decided that I should become a Herpetologist, a scientist that studied reptiles and amphibians

Every couple of years, due to flood damage, the C&O Canal was drained, and all the fish, turtles, and lots of tadpoles were confined to large pools. As we absolutely adored these animals, my friends and I would enter the knee-high mud and with a bucket brigade, rescue these animals and move them to the Potomac River or an adjacent lock if it had sufficient water. During these forays we also go to see all the different kinds of fish that lived there also.

In those days, most of these animals were very common, but unfortunately some were already in decline. I remember vividly finding a very old Wood Turtle (Glyptemys insculpta) on an island in the Potomac River and wondering why I had never seen them before. This beautiful turtle species is now endangered throughout much of its former range, largely due to habitat destruction.

In 1997, I graduated from Walt Whitman High School and in 1998 I was enrolled in a Degree in Zoology at James Cook University, Townsville, Queensland, Australia. Going from Maryland to Tropical Australia was an amazing experience, and I was able to learn about Australian reptiles and amphibians. I even did a Masters degree on Australian Freshwater Turtles.

I am now currently employed as the Herpetological Technician at the Australian Museum Herpetology Department in Sydney where I help manage the largest scientific reference collection of reptiles and amphibians in Australia. As we have extensive collections, including specimens from the United States, I still smile when I see turtle specimens of species that I would have observed along the C&O Canal.


In January of 2019, I was able to return for a walk along the C&O Canal. Despite the usual January conditions, it was a warmish day and I was very excited to see a turtle had actually come out of hibernation to bask on a log. As I sat there looking at it, I wondered that it could possibly be one of the ones I saw many years ago, as turtles are now easily known to live 20+ years in the wild.