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Roy Sewall’s Legacy of Leadership and Stunning Photographs

By Photography

Photo by Roy Sewall

Roy Sewall, a founding leader of the C&O Canal Trust and a masterful photographer, passed away on January 17, 2023. Most people in our canal community are familiar with Roy through his beautiful photographs, shared widely by the Trust over the past 15 years.

“I became a serious photographer in 2001,” Roy wrote on his website, www.roysewallphotography.com. “I started with the Potomac River and the C&O Canal, and they were the subjects of my two books in 2005 and 2009. This area became a part of me forever.”

Not everyone knows that Roy was the first chairman of the Trust Board of Directors, serving the organization from 2007 to 2010. “He was the person I relied on the most when we were launching the Trust,” said Matt Logan, former president of the Trust. “He was the perfect partner.”

Roy shared many of his photographs with the C&O Canal Trust. They capture the beautiful scenery along the C&O Canal and our unique Canal Quarters program. “A Sewall photograph was distinct and perfectly taken,” said Francis Grant-Suttie, vice chairman of the Trust’s Board of Directors, who was fortunate to study photography with Roy.

We aspire to Roy’s high standards as an organization and as canal enthusiasts. Roy’s love for the C&O Canal will live on through the images he captured over the years. His family remains in our thoughts. You can read his obituary here.

Photo by Roy Sewall



Annual Artwork Contest Seeks Logo for 2023 Canal Community Days

By Canal Pride, News

The C&O Canal Trust is conducting its annual t-shirt artwork contest to find a logo that will represent our 2023 Canal Community Days events. Artists are invited to create and submit artwork that celebrates these annual volunteer events, bringing community members together to beautify the C&O Canal National Historical Park (NHP).  The winning design will be printed on our Canal Community Days t-shirts and worn by volunteers as they work along the C&O Canal throughout the spring and summer. Read More

Where do the Turtles Go During the Winter?

By Nature

Take a walk on the C&O Canal towpath in the spring or summer and you’re likely to spot turtles sunning themselves on logs in the canal or perhaps along the towpath. Have you ever wondered where those turtles go during the winter months?

Photo by Jan Branscome

Turtles brumate during the winter, similar to hibernation in mammals. Brumation is a semi-dormant winter cool-down that allows turtles to survive when food is scarce and temperatures are much colder. During brumation, turtles can still move but they live off of stored fat and their metabolism slows.

The canal is home to three different types and several species of turtles: the Eastern Snapping Turtle (Chelydra serpentina serpentina), Basking Turtles, and the Eastern Box Turtle (Terrapene carolina carolina). 

Photo by Paul Graunke

Eastern snapping turtles are a common find throughout the C&O Canal. As their name suggests, these omnivores have long necks, quick reactions, and are aggressive on land. These large reptiles are almost exclusively aquatic: they occupy the canal and the Potomac River except for land travel during the spring and early summer for mating and nesting. Females lay an average of 50 eggs between April and November. Snapping turtles can be identified by their flat oval brown shell, wide flat heads, bulky limbs, and long alligator-like tail. They weigh between 10 and 35 pounds and are the largest freshwater turtle in Maryland. Eastern snapping turtles dive down to the muddy bottom of the canal and the Potomac River in the winter, remaining alert to light and temperature.

Photo by Jan Branscome

Basking turtles are a frequent sight throughout the canal and in slow-moving or still portions of the river where they can be viewed swimming and sunning themselves on logs or rocks. These turtles rarely ever leave the water except for nesting in the spring and early summer. Eastern Painted Turtles (Chrysemys picta picta) can be identified by their olive-brown to black shells with red markings on the edge, yellow spots on either side of their black head, yellow stripes along the jaw and through the eyes, and yellow or orange belly. These omnivores are just 4.5 to 6 inches long.

Similar species include the non-native Red Eared Slider (Trachemys scripta elegans), and native Northern Red-Bellied Cooter (Pseudemys rubriventris) which are both slightly larger than Painted Turtles. The presence of a red oval-shaped marking behind the eye helps identify Red Eared Sliders from the narrower yellow lines on the Red-Bellied Cooter’s head. Red Eared Sliders are omnivores and are typically 8 to 13 inches long. Red-Bellied Cooter’s are omnivores as juveniles and herbivores as adults, growing 10 to 12.5 inches in length. All basking turtles stay buried in the mud beneath the water during the winter months, occasionally rising to the surface for food or air. 

Photo by Garner Woodall

Eastern box turtles are the most terrestrial turtle native to the C&O Canal. They are named for their boxy, high-domed shell and they have the ability to close up their body using a hinge on the shell’s underside. These omnivores can be found throughout the Park, in both forested and open habitats. Like all other turtle species in the C&O Canal, they are most active in the spring and early summer. Box turtles are usually dark brown with gold or orange blotched patterns on the shell, orange scales on the head, neck, and front limbs, and have brown or red eyes, which differ based on the sex of the turtle (typically red for males, yellow-brown for females). They grow to be 4.5 to 6 inches in length, burrowing deep under the soil and leaves to brumate during the winter months.



C&O Canal Trust Board of Directors Names Lauren Riviello as New President and CEO

By News

Lauren Riviello by Trust Staff

Williamsport, Md. – The C&O Canal Trust’s board of directors is pleased to announce it has named Lauren Riviello as its new president and CEO. Riviello has more than a decade of nonprofit leadership experience and is deeply passionate about the Trust and its mission. She has served as the Trust’s director of development since February 2021 and will assume the role of president and CEO on April 1, 2023.

Read More

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.

Canal Community Story: Charissa Hipp

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 info@canaltrust.org 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

Canal Community Story: Charissa Hipp, C&O Canal Trust Director of Marketing & Communications

In 2016 I began spending a lot of time in the C&O Canal National Historical Park, often with my youngest of three children in a jogging stroller. At first, our excursions were a way to get outside for exercise and fresh air, but they soon evolved into something special. The more time we spent in the Park, the more we wanted to be outdoors and immersed in nature. We needed nature in our lives and spending time outdoors became our special time together.

My daughter and I started piecing together sections of the towpath in Washington County and soaking in the natural beauty of our surroundings throughout the year. As she grew into toddlerhood and became more alert, we really started enjoying wildlife—from deer to woodpeckers, great blue herons, barred owls, turkeys, butterflies, turtles, snakes, a bear, and even a fisher cat. We’ve had many memorable wildlife sightings.

When my daughter started walking and talking, our canal adventures continued, often with her hiking alongside me. She began asking many questions about plants, and we consulted the iNaturalist app after each outing, armed with photos of things we had seen. Eventually, we started to recognize specific vegetation. And now, every springtime, we look forward to the Virginia bluebells, bloodroots, Dutchman’s breeches, trillium, and the emergence of other spring ephemerals signaling that warmer weather is on the horizon. 

As I reflect on our time in the Park, I’m flooded with memories of the special moments we have shared on the towpath. Whether it’s crunching through fall leaves, standing still like a statue to quietly watch a great blue heron, soaking in the warm sunshine as it sets in a pink cotton candy sky, or trudging through the snow and breathing in the cold winter air, our time on the towpath has been intertwined with unforgettable moments. I’ll never forget witnessing a hummingbird swoop in to enjoy some nectar along bluebell alley or watching a large group of swallowtail butterflies encircle my daughter’s stroller like something from an enchanted forest in a Disney movie. 

Last year on New Year’s Eve, my daughter and I hiked from Weverton to Harpers Ferry and back. I was tired from holiday preparations and festivities, and as soon as we got on the towpath, my six-year-old daughter’s words completely shifted my outlook. “Look, mama, see how beautiful the bare sycamore trees are along the river with their white tips,” she pointed out. Without taking a breath, she continued, “Look, there’s perilla, and over here is some moss growing on a log. This is going to be a great day!” She was right because we’ve never been out in the Park and wished we had stayed home instead. Every day on the C&O Canal has been a day well-spent, enjoying and appreciating nature together. I hope she sees the importance of protecting and preserving this place so future generations can marvel at its beauty and wonder.

Canal Community Story: Joseph and Susan Adams Regalbuto

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 info@canaltrust.org 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

Canal Community Story: Joseph and Susan Adams Regalbuto

Who would have expected to see Siberian Husky dog teams racing by, or wild turkey footprints in the snow, or cascading waterfalls frozen in ice? Winter walking on the C&O reveals many surprises.

With appreciation for William O Douglas’ vision of preserving the towpath and Thomas F. Hahn’s remarkable Towpath Guide to the C&O Canal, we ventured out to section walk the 184.5 mile length of the C&O Canal in both directions. The total mileage would have been 369 but we couldn’t resist adding a few more miles to explore side trips. Since we’re both retired and in our 70s it seemed like the perfect time to explore this historical gem.

Starting on the first day of winter in 2020, we averaged around 13 miles each day, 6 – 7 miles in each direction, returning to our car and driving home to Burke, Virginia, or to a hotel in Cumberland, Maryland, for the night. Two very special nights were spent in a lockhouse, where we set off on our walks from the lockhouse front door. The adventure lasted for 29 days of walking in an out-and-back pattern, usually walking twice a week, and visiting all 74 locks.

Although we were familiar with the lush greenery of the Canal towpath in three seasons, we had never seen the canal in the winter, without leaves blocking the views of Potomac River and the distant hills of West Virginia. Stone foundations hidden behind thick growth in other seasons now basked in the sun. The outdoor historical museum known as the C&O Canal was visible in all its winter glory.

Leaving behind the bustle of Georgetown, (Mile 0) we headed upriver on our journey through history, stopping at every lock and lockhouse to read the descriptions and marvel at the engineering.

The powerful roar of Great Falls (Mile 14) made it clear why six locks were needed within one mile – so canal boats could bypass the dangerous drop in elevation. Further upriver Edwards Ferry parking lot (Mile 30) was flooded with icy water; frozen puddles glistened on the towpath.

The Monocacy Aqueduct (Mile 42) is described as one of the most beautiful structures on the canal, with seven arches of pink quartz sandstone. Amazingly, this 1833 aqueduct is still standing after nearly 200 years of hurricanes and floods. We tried to visualize the aqueducts filled with water, allowing the canal to cross over rivers. Many of the C&O’s eleven aqueducts served as scenic spots for our lunch stops.

Near Brunswick (Mile 52) an old stone bridge over a culvert had collapsed and the towpath ended in a chasm. National Park Rangers constructed a temporary low wooden bridge, and we were relieved to find a way to continue our trek. The low bridge allowed us to view a culvert from below instead of walking over it. Hahn’s guidebook lists 241 C&O culverts, built so that streams could cross under the towpath. Some of the culverts are beautiful works of art, often missed by those treading on top of them.

Lots of caves in limestone cliffs appeared on this winter walk, no longer hiding behind deciduous trees. We explored several of the lower caves near Ferry Hill (Mile 72), walking upright for 30 feet into one of them. In another cave we saw hundreds of tiny stalactites forming on the walls and ceiling. The caves had the good earth smell of a newly tilled garden after a rain. High on the cliffs, cascading streams were now beautiful frozen waterfalls. This was a cold, windy day but because the river took two huge S turns, we never faced into the wind for long.  A red fox with a bright white tail tip scampered across the trail in front of us, apparently oblivious to wind and cold.

We heard a new sound at Mile 84 – the thundering roar of water surging over a dam. As we rounded the bend, Dam 4 and the giant lake it formed came into view. The canal disappeared at this section, because canal boats could easily navigate the still water of this “slackwater” lake.

At McMahon’s Mill (Mile 88) the parking lot was so icy and that we used trekking poles and moved gingerly. The towpath itself offered safer walking, although with 5” of new snow, the progress was slow. Fresh tracks of deer, racoons, and smaller animals crossed our path. We were initially baffled by fairly large three-toed tracks that turned out to be wild turkey tracks. The towpath in this section came within yards of the Potomac River and steep cliffs came right down to the towpath. At times the river curved so sharply that we saw rope burns carved into the limestone cliffs, from the mules pulling the canal boats around the bend. At Milepost 92.25 we celebrated the snowy half-way point of our adventure.

In late February of 2021 our walks were abruptly halted by two weeks of ice and snow. We optimistically drove to Williamsport (Mile 99) to continue on our route, but the trail was too icy for safe walking, even with trekking poles. The snow and ice were followed by a weekend of rain, and the Potomac flooded over its banks. On our next walk we watched entire trees hurtling downstream, and small “islands” of tangled bushes and chunks of land careening down the river. By the end of our day’s walk the river had risen to within a few feet of the towpath. We later learned that downriver, at mile 89, the towpath was impassable due to the high water.

We were impressed by the remarkably good condition of Williamsport’s Lock 44 and its lockhouse. We also examined the Conococheague Aqueduct, several weirs and a railroad lift bridge. The weirs are stone water chambers built beside locks to direct water away from the canal during high-water periods. The railroad lift bridge allows canal boats to pass beneath the movable tracks. This half-mile stretch includes more canal structures than anywhere else on the towpath. We tried to imagine towns like Williamsport at the height of the bustling canal activity as goods traveled downriver on the canal. In an interesting side note, Hahn adds that Williamsport was the capitol of the United States for 24 hours during the Revolutionary War!

In the Four Locks section (Mile 108) it was humbling to stand on the towpath looking upstream at Locks 47, 48, 49 and 50 and marvel at their construction and their endurance through all the years of floods. At the old mule barn, where mules lodged for the winter, we learned that mules were a cross between female horses (for their size and temperament) and male donkeys (for their strength and endurance – and their ears!) We also saw the tiny wait house at Lock 50 where lockkeepers could take refuge during storms.

We stepped back in time to the late 1800s as we entered our lodging at Lockhouse 49. Squeaky timbered floors were covered with colorful braided rugs. Comfortable old rocking chairs and beautiful wooden tables also welcomed us. There was no running water for faucets, showers, or toilets, but we knew this in advance and we didn’t mind the walks to the outhouse. The lockhouse logbook was filled with impressions from both the young and old, from East Coast to West Coast. It also warned us of mice activity, so we gratefully returned all our food to the car! We would have gladly extended our stay in this peaceful place, but the towpath beckoned.

We trekked beside a very long lake aptly named Big Pool (Mile 112). It was at least 1½ miles long but it seemed longer with all the tiny flies that attached themselves to our pants, shirts, packs and shoes. As soon as we reached the end of the lake the flies miraculously disappeared. We met two other walkers on this section and their only comment was – “wow, some flies!”

At Mile 118 two beaver dams and two beaver lodges were clearly visible, with much evidence of saplings gnawed by beavers. Little beaver or muskrat trails led from the canal across the towpath to food sources in the field beyond.

At Hancock (Mile 124) we were greeted with a clear, sunny sky and a warm breeze. What a change from the snowy days when the temperature dropped into the 20s! During our walks we chose the most scenic spots we could find for lunch – beside an aqueduct, on the front step of a lockhouse, at the picnic table of a campground. On this day we sat on a log on a rise overlooking the Potomac River. We lingered over lunch in the sun, with expansive views of the West Virginia shoreline. Hancock is the most northern point of the canal and is only 1.7 miles from the Pennsylvania border. On our next day’s walk, we’ll be heading southwest. We now understand why the words “upriver” and “downriver” are used instead of “north” and “south” – because the Potomac River carves deep bends in all four compass directions.

To preserve six bat species living in Indigo Tunnel (Little Orleans, Mile 140), the Western Maryland Rail Trail detours onto the towpath for two miles. We walked up to look at the tunnel that was blasted through Germany Hill. Although we didn’t see any bats, we did see the bat gate that was erected at each end of the tunnel to allow bats to enter but to keep larger critters out.

The biggest challenge of the trip was the drive to the parking area of Bond’s Landing (Mile 150). After 30 minutes of negotiating rocks and water on a steep pothole-filled dirt road, we came to a rocky stream that was too deep to cross. Well out of cellphone range, we decided the safest route was to leave the car on Kasecamp Road and walk the remaining 1½ miles through streams and rocky hills. Apparently, we needed a four-wheel drive and not our little Toyota Prius. It took us three hours from our house to reach the towpath. To eliminate long driving distances for the last sections of the walk, we decided to spend the final three nights in Cumberland. The Fairfield Inn and Suites, located literally at the end of the towpath, became our new base camp.

What a fun section of strangely numbered locks – 62, 63 1/3, 64 2/3, and 66 – all within a half mile (Mile 154). The upriver end of the canal, with Locks 67-75, was built before this section; the numbers 62-66 were reserved for five locks in this area. However, to save money, Lock 65 was eliminated. The numbers saved for the five locks were then evenly divided between four locks, resulting in the fractions. Therefore, there are only 74 locks on the canal but the furthest upriver lock is named Lock 75!

We saw very few fellow walkers through the winter months, but we did meet three distance walkers pushing “Chariots,” much like Baby Joggers loaded with gear. They were walking across the country from Delaware to California on the American Discovery Trail. We later learned that they successfully reached their destination – the Pacific Ocean.

We were excited to walk through PawPaw Tunnel (Mile 155), one of the greatest engineering feats of the mid-1800s. It took fourteen years to complete the tunnel, drilling through almost ¾ miles of solid rock. The sound of water dripping, falling, and flowing; the sight of light at the end of the tunnel growing larger and larger; the smell of wet dirt and tiny little mushrooms on the walls – these were totally different sensory experiences for us. With our headlamps we searched in vain for bats hanging from the six million bricks that lined the tunnel.

Just for fun, we walked across the Oldtown toll bridge (Mile 166) to eat lunch sitting on a stone wall in Greenspring, West Virginia. This low wooden bridge, the shortest bridge crossing of the Potomac River, is one of the very few private toll bridges in the country. Charge for cars: $ 1.50.  When we asked the woman in the toll booth if there was a charge for walkers, she replied, “Free as you go.”

The next day was filled with sights and smells: eight deer, three horses, dozens of cows – some with calves too young to leave their mother’s side – countless turtles, a rabbit, and lots of farm scents! We detoured to a little gated cemetery maintained by the Cumberland Historical Cemetery Organization. The Organization’s President, who was changing flags on the flagpole, proudly gave us a tour of the Pollack family gravesites.

A cacophony of sounds suddenly exploded from the trees and we searched for tiny birds hidden among the branches. Instead, the noise heralded the 17-year return of the cicadas. Croaking frogs and screeching Pileated Woodpeckers added their own sounds to the buzzing cicadas. The earth smell gave way to a vegetation smell and green buds appeared on the trees. Soon the expansive view of the Potomac River and the far shoreline will be hidden again behind foliage.

The view coming into Cumberland (Mile 184.5) was a memorable sight, with church steeples in the near distance and blue hills in the far distance. To commemorate the completion of our walk, we raised a toast of Paw Paw lemonade bottled in Cumberland, as we reminisced about our very special winter walk through history.

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

C&O Canal Trust Raises Over $200,000 at Park After Dark

By News
On September 17, the C&O Canal Trust welcomed nearly 150 guests to the Historic Great Falls Tavern for the largest fundraising event of the year, Park After Dark. The event, which benefits the C&O Canal National Historical Park (NHP), raised a total of $223,750—surpassing the Trust’s fundraising goals and previous Park After Dark events. Of the funds raised at the event, $55,000 will directly support the Park’s work to preserve and protect rare, threatened, and endangered plants. Read More

Canal Trust Staff to Host Walks for Walk Maryland Day

By News

Walk Maryland Day by Charissa Hipp

Wednesday, October 5 is the 8th annual Walk Maryland Day. Members of the C&O Canal Trust staff will be hosting walks throughout the C&O Canal National Historical Park (NHP) during the day. The public is invited to attend these walks and participate in Walk Maryland Day, a celebration of Maryland’s official state exercise. With 347 miles of trails in the park, the C&O Canal NHP is the ideal place to enjoy the outdoors and take a walk.

  • 10:00 a.m. – Point of Rocks, 2 miles round trip
  • 11:00 a.m. – Billy Goat C Trail, 2.8 miles round trip
  • 5:00 p.m. – Brunswick Boat Ramp, 2 miles round trip
  • 5:30 p.m. – Cushwa Basin at Williamsport, 3 miles round trip
  • 5:30 p.m. – Little Tonoloway at Hancock, 2.7 miles round trip
  • 6:00 p.m. – Railroad Bridge Bridge Parking on Canal Rd. at Sharpsburg/Shepherdstown, 2-3 miles round trip
  • 6:00 p.m. – Dam 5, 2-3 miles round trip

Participants are encouraged to register as a Sole Mate on the Walk Maryland Day website.

Canal Community Story: Jim Shea

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 info@canaltrust.org 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

Jim Shea, Author of Get Up and Ride

Jim Shea is author of Get Up and Ride. In this Canal Community Story, he shares an excerpt from his book which is an account of his experience riding the entire length of the C&O Canal. You can purchase his book on Amazon here.

Marty and I left the Antietam Visitor’s Center and stepped out into the heat, fully exposed to the sun. We were at the highest point in the battlefield and could see for miles in every direction. We looked out over the Cornfield – with the stalks nearly as high as they would have been in September – and were amazed that so many men could die so quickly in such a small area. We sensed the gravity of what had happened on these fields over 150 years ago.

We rode our bikes around the entire battlefield. By now it was over ninety degrees and humid. We saw the sites of the other battles, including “Bloody Lane,” where 5,500 men perished in the morning in a fierce firefight. We saw many monuments built as tributes to each of the brigades decimated that day. After about an hour, we were really hot, and Marty took cover under a tree and sucked on his water bottle.

“We gotta get outta here,” he said.

I eased my bike down the hill and joined him under the tree. “Yeah, it’s really hot.”

I got out a map and saw what looked to be a shortcut which would take us back to the C&O trail. Marty wanted to simply retrace our path back to where we originally exited the trail, but I convinced him to try the shortcut.

We began pedaling out in the heat. What the map did not show was the changes in elevation on my “shortcut.” The road took us up a huge hill – I made it about halfway up and then had to walk my bike. During the ascent, the skies started to darken. Suddenly, a massive thunderstorm broke out.

We were immediately soaked. Then the lightning started, and the thunder was deafening. Things went from uncomfortable to dangerous in less than a minute. After we crested the top of the hill, we rode our bikes downhill in the driving rain, looking for cover.

The first building we passed was a dilapidated house with a covered porch on the front. I had gone on Appalachian mission trips with my sons for several summers, and we often worked on houses that looked like this one. Today, this house would save us.

We decided we needed to get on that porch, no matter who or what was in the house. Boldly, we carried our bikes up on the porch and breathed a sigh of relief at being out of the rain and lightning.

Once we’d caught our breath, we peered in through the front windows. No sign of life. We knocked on the door, and a few seconds later, a woman in her fifties came out, followed by an elderly woman who we quickly determined was her mother. We introduced ourselves and explained our situation. The younger woman, Janet, was extremely gracious and immediately went inside and reappeared with two bottles of ice-cold water – just what we needed!

We told her about our trip. The elderly woman watched us but didn’t speak. Janet told us that her mother had dementia. Janet worked at the Maryland state maximum security prison in nearby Hagerstown, Maryland, and began to tell us about some of the prisoners and several harrowing escape attempts. It was a great conversation and a wonderful chance encounter.

As we conversed, the rain eased up and the thunderstorm passed through. We asked Janet about the best way to get back to the C&O Canal trail. She pointed to the route and explained it, which sounded a bit complicated and involved several turns. Marty and I looked at each other and nodded – we were pretty sure we’d gotten it.

Just before we left, the elderly woman spoke! She said something about the directions to the trail:

“Trail… miss… back up hill… wrong way… long time…”

She was hard to understand, and we tried to make out what she was saying.

“Miss… trail… hill…road… long way back…”

Marty and I could not make sense of her words.

“Hey Mom, these guys need to get on their way,” Janet said to her mother dismissively.

We thanked them both, then got on our bikes and headed down the road.

We found the first turn Janet had indicated, and then the second. We headed downhill to what we thought would be the C&O trail. But we saw no sign or indication of the trail.  Then the road started heading uphill, and we followed it for a while – no trail. Marty stopped. I stopped behind him.

“Jimbo, remember what that old lady said?”

“Not really, I couldn’t make it out,” I replied.

“Something about missing the trail and the road heading back uphill?” said Marty.

“Yeah…”

“I think she was saying that it was easy to miss the trail, and if we missed it, the road would head back uphill and we would end up riding on the road in the wrong direction for a long while,” said Marty.

“Yeah, but she didn’t know what she was talking about.”

“Well, this feels like what she was talking about. Let’s head back down.”

We aimed our bikes back downhill and, sure enough, we found a small sign marking the trail at the bottom of the hill.

“That old lady was right!” said Marty.

“Probably saved us a bunch of time,” I said.

By now, with the Antietam stop, my mis-directions, the rain and the stop on the porch, we were running late. It would be getting dark by the time we’d arrive at our stop for the night. We pedaled hard toward Harpers Ferry.

President & CEO of the C&O Canal Trust Robin Zanotti Announces Retirement

By News
Robin Zanotti

Robin Zanotti by Trust Staff

Williamsport, Md. — After more than seven years as president of the C&O Canal Trust, Robin Zanotti has announced she will retire in early 2023. Zanotti is participating in a year of succession planning and transition management with a succession planning team led by the Trust’s Board of Directors. This is meant to ensure the change in leadership is seamless and the organization maintains its momentum in both revenue and program growth.  Read More

Canal Community Story: Linda Dugan

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 info@canaltrust.org 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

Linda Dugan, great-granddaughter of lock attendant at Lockhouse 28

My name is Helen Linda Dugan my brother’s name is Donald William Creager and my sister is Lisa Fulton Hutzler. We are the children of Helen Mae Fulton Creager. Our mother Helen was the  granddaughter of William Henry Fulton who was the last known lock attendant at lockhouse 28. My brother and sister and I have been renting the lockhouse in Point of Rocks, Maryland for many years now. We also  bring some of our other family members to join us. We go there every year around May the 17th because that was our late mother’s birthday. We go there to be close to our ancestors and celebrate our mother’s birthday.  We usually plant a flower and we always sing Happy Birthday and we even have cake. Our mother was raised by her Aunt Doris  and Uncle Walter who lived on the hill across from the Lockhouse 28.  Our Great great grandfather William Henry Fulton was the last known Lock attendant.  Our mother told stories of how she grew up along the river.

She told us about the Flood of  ’36, It was a real bad flood. She said she saw animals and chickens washed down the river, clinging to rooftops. As a little girl she had a 6′ hand carved wooden Indian that was given to her by the local store owner. It was a cigar display of some sort. She loved her wooden Indian but the flood took it away, which made her very sad. She also told stories of travelers and hobos, how they would stop at the house when they were hungry, and they would feed them. They used wood and coal to heat by and kerosene lanterns to see by at night. And let me tell you when it’s dark it is dark along the towpath and lock house. The only light you will see is a firefly  and an occasional train. There are still pieces and parts of houses across the tracks along the mountain part of the towpath that most people don’t even know  existed. Great Uncle’s Walter and Willie Fulton Jr lived in those houses with their families. We enjoy the towpath and It makes us happy to visit and remember our  Family history.
Before we go to sleep we sing Happy Birthday to our late mother.
I know it might sound a little strange but we feel the presence of our mom and relatives that once lived there a long towpath at lock 28.

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 info@canaltrust.org 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

Directions:

  • 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).

Monarchs

Drawn by Sweet Nectar (Monarch) by MJ Cllingan

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

Bees

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

Bats

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 info@canaltrust.org 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 info@canaltrust.org 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 info@canaltrust.org 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 Ephemerals 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 downward to the wildflowers at the towpath’s edge. 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 are 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 and on cold days, the petals stay closed, like they also do 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, and war paint, as well as for insect repellant. 

Spring Beauty by Charissa Hipp

Spring beauty 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 and 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 I love discovering bluebell alleys along the towpath, when there are large swaths of bluebells in bloom on both sides of the towpath. Once I was standing in such a space, enjoying the beauty of the bluebells when a hummingbird make 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 lily among the yellow ones. Trout lily tends to bloom a little later in the spring season 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 info@canaltrust.org 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 barnes@canaltrust.org.
  • 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.

Potomac River Watershed Cleanup

By Volunteer

Help us clean up our Park with the Alice Ferguson Foundation on April 9! We need your help at Dargan Bend and Lock 38 (Shepherdstown) with beautification projects. We hope to see you there.

SSL hours are available

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