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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
Photo: ‘Paw Paw Tunnel South Entrance’ by Garner Woodall
If you have never taken a hike to the Paw Paw Tunnel, you are missing out. It took 12 years for this canal landmark to be completed. At about 3/5 of a mile long and composed of about 5,800,000 bricks, the Paw Paw Tunnel is well loved for being one of the most photogenic locations on the canal.
Photo: ‘A Mill in Time at McMahons Mill’ by Wanda Poffenberger
Have you ever seen a mill look so pretty? After the closure of the mill due to flooding in 1922, the National Park Service revitalized this beautiful structure of canal history in Williamsport, MD. Today, you can visit and even stay at the various local campgrounds nearby; just be sure to check out the McMahon’s Mill Museum while you’re there!
Photo: ‘Monocacy Aqueduct’ by John Gensor
This breathtaking structure is located in Dickerson, MD. If you look closely at the Monocacy Aqueduct, you may find some of the exposed brick is a light pink color – a perfect background to any Instagram picture!
Photo: ‘Pennyfield Lock’ by Patrick Benko
Pennyfield Lock is anything if not extraordinary. It is well known for being a local ‘getaway’ for city goers. Even the great President Grover Cleveland visited Pennyfield Lock from time to time. If you desire to bring some historic views to your social media, this is just the place for you. Pennyfield Lock is also home to one of our lockhouses available for your next canal getaway. Find out more here.
Photo: ‘Canal in Georgetown’ by Tim Walters
A beloved canal town, Georgetown is a very scenic spot for those who enjoy the quaint atmosphere of a small town tucked away in an antique time. The canal flows through the town, and because of the Venice-like views, it is quite photograph-worthy. In the town, you can explore the streets, where you are bound to find even more photogenic nooks and crannies.
Photo: ‘Conococheague Aqueduct’ – Williamsport by Ellen Kinzer
At 196 ft long, the Conococheague Aqueduct is the second largest aqueduct in the park behind the Monocacy. If you get the opportunity to visit the Conococheague, be sure to take a ride on one of the canal boats. It’s definitely worth the picture.
Photo: ‘Violettes Lock’ by Stan Collyer
Located in Darnestown, MD, Violettes Lock is a great place to snap a picture of the Potomac River during a breathtaking sunset. The exposed brick of this lock is made of the famous red sandstone that can also be found in Seneca.
Photo: ‘Dam 4’ by MJ Clingan
If you have ever visited Dam 4, you know that even pictures of this landmark are ones you can hear. Dam 4 was built to divert water for 22 miles of the canal, and it is not surprising that as you come up to it, that you can hear it before you see it. Today, the dam works to provide energy for the whole of Washington County.
Photo: ‘Big Slackwater’ by Ellen Kinzer
After Hurricane Agnes destroyed the part of the towpath at Big Slackwater, many people were unable to enjoy the 2.7 miles of towpath that connected mileposts 84 through 89. In the fall of 2012, the Park completed their restoration project, allowing for visiting hikers and bikers to appreciate this section of the canal.
Photo: ‘Dawn’s Glow’ – Great Falls Overlook on Falls Island by Roy Sewall
Can’t make it to Niagara Falls? Great Falls in Potomac, MD is a local spot that will give Niagara a run for its money. Just follow the quarter-mile footbridge to the scenic overlook and spend your day in awe of the magnificent view.
Photo: ‘Harpers Ferry Foilage’ by Kevin Donohoe
Harpers Ferry, a canal town located in West Virginia, is the perfect place to capture that instagram-worthy shot of foggy mountain foliage. Harpers Ferry is known for this historically famous John Brown Raid that made a big difference in the Civil War. Be sure to check out the many hiking opportunities in the area. Maryland Heights is a popular hike that can give you a breathtaking view of the small town.
Photo: ‘Lock 28 at Point of Rocks’ by Paul Graunke
From 1828 to 1832, Point of Rocks was at the center of a feud between the C&O Canal and the B&O Railroad. For these two companies, Point of Rocks was an important spot for the two major modes of transportation; what resulted was a court battle that ultimately ended with the government siding in favor of the canal. Despite this, the railroad was completed way before the canal, making it obsolete. Today, Point of Rocks contains many landmarks that are especially beautiful and worthy of photographic appreciation. Find out how you can plan your stay at the lockhouse in Point of Rocks here!
Photo: ‘Little Pool Day’ by Lesley Pearl
Looking for your moment of zen? Little Pool is a great spot to go nature watching. With a scenic view of the water and the critters that live all around the area, Little Pool will easily become your happy place.
Photo: ‘Dam 5’ by Craig Kuhn
Dam 5, like Dam 4, maintains water levels by diverting water into the canal and providing hydroelectricity for neighboring areas. The brick house that sits beside the dam was once used as a paper mill for a short period in 1887 to 1891.
Photo: ‘Great Falls Tavern’ by Mike Mitchell
Great Falls Tavern is one of the most iconic structures of the canal. Night or day, this landmark is impressive; it’s no wonder that visitors love taking pictures of it! W.W. Fenlon was the first locktender, and he convinced the canal company to allow him to build an inn at Great Falls. Visitors to the inn would also visit the tavern – then called the Crommelin House.
‘Resurfaced Towpath’ by Simon Barber
Thanks to the funding support of private donors to the C&O Canal Trust, along with funds from the National Park Service and the State of Maryland, resurfacing crews continue their march up the towpath. As of this spring, 42 miles of the C&O Canal’s towpath between Edwards Ferry and Lock 38/Shepherdstown Bridge have been graded and resurfaced. The Park anticipates a further 14 miles from Swains Lock to Edwards Ferry to be completed by the end of 2020.
The work is part of the “Towpath Rehabilitation: A Safe Towpath” project, aimed at improving more than 80 miles of the 184.5 mile-long towpath by removing the rocks, roots, and ruts in the towpath surface that can be dangerous to cyclists and hikers. “Nearly 5 million visitors recreate along the C&O Canal each year and nearly all of them use the towpath for a variety of activities,” Superintendent Tina Cappetta said. “We want to ensure that our visitors have a safe, durable towpath for years to come.”
Besides removing obstacles from the towpath, the resurfacing work is also removing the grassy median strip that contributes to puddling. Crews are then grading the towpath to facilitate water runoff and resurfacing it with the same crushed stone dust that is used on the Great Allegheny Passage, the rail trail that connects to the C&O Canal towpath in Cumberland, MD, and runs to Pittsburgh, PA.
The current towpath surface is gravel over clay, which holds water and is prone to muddiness when wet. The new crushed stone dust does not retain water when applied to a properly graded surface and hardens with use, making it less likely to erode and rut. It is also easier to maintain over time.
The C&O Canal Trust has raised funds to support this work and engage an engineering consultant to provide technical expertise to the National Park Service for this project. We have also assisted with advocacy work to secure $1.14 million as of 2019 from Maryland’s Transportation Alternatives Program.
REI Group Shot by Trust Staff
REI is well known as a retailer that sells quality gear to outdoor enthusiasts. What is less well known is that the Seattle-based co-op is also an industry leader in supporting organizations that provide stewardship for parks and public lands around the nation. Since 2012, as our premier Canal Pride sponsor, REI has contributed close to $90,000 to fund the work our Canal Pride volunteers do to improve access to the C&O Canal National Historical Park’s recreational assets. This generous support is driven by REI’s philosophy that a life outdoors is a life well-lived. For folks to enjoy that experience, they need places in nature that are welcoming and accessible, be they residents of city, suburbs, or country.
The C&O Canal Trust is the recipient of an REI “Place Grant” that funds projects to improve access to the Park’s great recreational assets. With REI’s support, the Trust’s Canal Pride volunteers work each year to repair the towpath, provide paddlers with access to the Potomac River, improve popular trails like the Billy Goat Trail, and spruce up campgrounds and picnic areas.
“With the 2019 visitation to the Park at a 30-year high of 5.1 million, this work is increasingly important,” said Trust President Robin Zanotti. “REI’s support helps ensure that today’s visitors have a great experience and choose to come back again and again.”
The co-op’s engagement in the Park extends beyond grant-making. Employees from REI’s local stores volunteer for Canal Pride and run a variety of programs in the Park such as climbing classes at Carderock and sunset hikes along the towpath and other trails. As the effects of climate change become more apparent, REI believes that getting people outdoors is an important part of the solution. Since 2014, the co-op has closed its stores nationwide on Black Friday to encourage Americans to use that day to enjoy nature rather than hit the shopping mall. “On average, people spend 95 percent of their time indoors,” said Naz Ahmed, Experiences and Philanthropy Manager for REI Mid-Atlantic. “They are facing a nature deficit and that impacts our ability to combat climate change. As the naturalist David Attenborough once said, ‘No one will protect what they don’t care about, and no one will care about what they haven’t experienced.'” In partnership with REI, the Trust is working to overcome that deficit.
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.
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
Happy Earth Day! We may all be stuck at home, but that will not stop us from celebrating this holiday. Find out how you can make a difference this Earth Day by implementing the five tips below!
1. Give Extra Love to Your House Plants
Don’t have plants? You can find seeds without leaving your home! Save those cores from consumed fruits and veggies and plant them in small containers. You will be amazed at how quickly the ends of lettuce or an apple or lemon seed will grow.