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Trust Hosts Active Volunteer Service and Educational Programs In October

By News

The C&O Canal Trust welcomed more than 70 individuals to the C&O Canal National Historical Park (NHP) in October for volunteer service and educational programs.

Kite Pharma volunteers at Weverton with the C&O Canal Trust. Photo by Trust Staff.

Groups with the Washington County Division of Stormwater Management and Kite Pharma worked with the Trust to collectively remove nearly 2,000 pounds of trash from Weverton between mile markers 57 and 59 during two volunteer events. Trust volunteers responded to an immediate need for trash cleanup in the area, providing vital support to the Park and visitors. Along with general trash, the groups removed items like a frying pan, fishing nets, metal folding chairs, and a card table. Volunteers with Shepherd University helped remove over 200 pounds of trash from Lock 38, another busy access point in Washington County. Read More

The Trust is Thankful for…

By Blog

Bat-tastic Fun Facts for Bat Appreciation Month

By Blog, Uncategorized

Did you know that October is Bat Appreciation Month? Bat week is celebrated each year on October 24th through the 31st. To honor these little creatures, we have put together 7 fun facts about bats!

Photo by HitchHike via Pexels

1. Bats can eat more than 1,000 mosquitos per night.

Each adult bat can eat up to 1,000 insects per hour. That is over $53 million of free pest control they provide and with the agricultural benefit of being pesticide free.

2. The C&O Canal NHP is home to 10 species of bats.

There are 10 confirmed species of bats within the C&O Canal NHP. Eight of which are hibernating bats.

3. Bats are pollinators just like birds and bees.

Bats aid in pollination both by transferring pollen when drinking nectar from flowers but also through seed spreading.

4. Bats are the only mammal that can fly.

There are other mammals that have the ability to glide, or fall with style. Though bats are the only mammal that have the true ability to fly.

5. Not all bats use echolocation to find prey.

While many believe bats to have poor eyesight and rely on echolocation, bats’ vision is actually pretty comparable to human sight. As well not all bats can  echolocate, only 70% have the capability.

6. The species of bats within the areas of the C&O Canal are all insectivores.

Insectivore as the name suggests eat insects. While other species of bat can be carnivores or frugivores. Carnivorous bats eat meat like frogs, fish and birds. Frugivores eat fruit and other vegetation like fig, mango and agave.

7. The C&O Canal NHP is a top favorite for hibernating bats in the state of Maryland.

Eight different species of bat now call the Indigo Tunnel “home,” including the Maryland state endangered small-footed myotis and the federally endangered Indiana bat. The Indigo Tunnel, located in Allegany County, has been identified by Maryland Department of Natural Resources as one of the largest bat hibernacula in the state. To protect the hibernating bats and their home, the National Park Service has placed metal gates at the portals of the tunnel. (pictured below)

Photo by Maximillian Ruther

Photo by Nanette Nyce

Information for this post was sourced from the NPS and BatWeek.org

Thank You to Our Canal Community who Helped Raise Over $200,000 at Park After Dark!

By News

Photo by Szemere Photography

On September 17, the C&O Canal Trust celebrated a rainy Park After Dark with more than 160 guests at the Historic Great Falls Tavern. Thanks to the generosity of our canal community, the event raised over $200,000 that will directly support Park and Trust initiatives. Of the funds raised at the event, nearly $35,000 will support the Trust’s Canal For All community outreach program. Read More

National Park Service Focuses on Invasive Plant Management

By News

Photo by Trust Staff

The C&O Canal National Historical Park (NHP) is home to over 1,500 species of plants, including over 260 non-native plant species. The C&O Canal NHP’s Natural Resources staff has made significant progress on the management and removal of invasive species found within the Park throughout 2023. Through a partnership between the Park’s Natural Resources staff and the NPS National Capital Region Invasive Plant Management (IPM) team, treatment planning and work is underway.  Read More

Canal Community Story- Emma Horne

By Bike, Canal Community Story, Canal Story, Stories

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

Tell Us Your Canal Story

Canal Community Story: Emma Horne

Don and Liz Harrison to Receive the William O. Douglas Stewardship Award at Park After Dark

By News

Photo by Francis Grant-Suttie

Each year, during the C&O Canal Trust’s Park After Dark gala, the Trust recognizes individuals for their deep commitment to the preservation of the C&O Canal National Historical Park (NHP) with the William O. Douglas Stewardship Award. The award is the Trust’s highest honor and recognizes individuals who have demonstrated Justice Douglas’ spirit of stewardship.  Read More

Canal Community Story- Mike Felder

By Canal Community Story, Canal For All, Canal Story, Stories, Volunteer

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

Tell Us Your Canal Story

Canal Community Story: Mike Felder

Welcoming Fall in the C&O Canal National Historical Park

By Uncategorized

Canal Gold by MJ Clingan

Nestled along the Potomac River, the C&O Canal National Historical Park (NHP) is the perfect place to witness the beauty of nature’s transition into fall. As summer’s warmth gradually gives way to cooler breezes and the days grow shorter, the lush greenery that defines the landscape of the Park begins its shift into a breathtaking display of autumn colors. Once adorned in verdant hues, the trees that line the canal prepare to don their seasonal attire of gold, red, and orange. According to the Farmer’s Almanac’s 2023 fall leaves and peak color forecast, inland parts of Maryland will enjoy peak fall color from October 12-28. 

Autumn on the Towpath at Milepost 20 by Keld Wichmann Moeller

Predicting the timing and intensity of fall foliage can be like forecasting the weather – it’s a mix of science and art. Several key factors include rainfall, temperature, daylight duration, and the mix of tree species in the Park. As the days shorten and temperatures begin to cool, the trees respond by producing vibrant pigments that create the iconic reds, oranges, and yellows that define the fall season. A gradual transition from summer to fall, with moderate temperatures and adequate rainfall, yields more vibrant and prolonged displays. A sudden frost or heavy rain, on the other hand, can result in leaves dropping prematurely, impacting the overall experience.


If you’re planning to witness the fall color extravaganza in the C&O Canal NHP, here are a few tips to make the most of your experience:

  1. Plan Ahead: Monitor local weather forecasts and current Park conditions to gauge the best time for your visit. The Maryland Department of Natural Resources provides a weekly fall foliage report you can subscribe to via e-mail.

  2. Bring the Essentials: Wear comfortable walking shoes, be sure to have warm layers, and bring your camera or phone to capture the breathtaking scenery.

  3. Weekday Advantage: Consider visiting on weekdays to avoid crowds and fully appreciate the Park’s tranquility.

  4. The Towpath and Beyond: The towpath offers a picturesque route for observing the foliage. You can opt for a leisurely stroll, a bike ride, or even a peaceful afternoon picnic. Don’t forget other hiking and walking trails in the Park, like the Billy Goat C Trail and Gold Mine Trail, as well as the beauty found in our Canal Towns during the fall.

  5. Embrace the Serenity: While vibrant colors steal the show, be sure to take in the serene atmosphere and the beauty of nature as summer turns to fall. Engage your senses in this beautiful season and be present in the moment.

Autumn Morning on the Canal by Suzanne Lugerner

As autumn unfolds in the Park, it brings with it the promise of a breathtaking symphony of colors. While we can’t predict nature’s exact timing and intensity, the conditions seem favorable for a memorable fall foliage season in 2023. So, mark your calendars, prepare your camera, and embark on a journey to witness the splendid transformation that only nature can orchestrate.

C&O Canal National Historical Park is an Economic Engine for Surrounding Communities

By News

Image Credit: Jane Schmidt

National parks have long been revered for their natural beauty and historical significance, but they are also 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 (NPS) report, 2022 National Park Visitor Spending Effects, nearly 312 million visitors spent $29.3 billion in communities within 60 miles of a national park last year. These expenditures supported a total of 378,400 jobs. The C&O Canal National Historical Park (NHP) helped lead the economic impact among NPS sites in Maryland, second only to Assateague Island National Seashore in total visitor spending. Read More

Park After Dark is One Month Away!

By News

Photo by Turner Photography Studio

We look forward to welcoming our canal community to Park After Dark at the Historic Great Falls Tavern on Sunday, September 17, 2023—just one month from today! Park After Dark is the largest annual fundraising event to benefit the C&O Canal National Historical Park. It is a wonderful opportunity to come together, highlight the work of the C&O Canal Trust, and gain insight and vision for the future from Park and Trust leadership. There are a variety of ways to be part of Park After Dark. Read More

Canal For All: Fostering Inclusivity and Diversity in C&O Canal National Historical Park

By Canal For All, News

Canal For All group Girls Inc. enjoys programming at Lock 44 in Williamsport. Photo by Francis Grant-Suttie.

The C&O Canal Trust’s Canal For All program works in partnership with the C&O Canal National Historical Park (NHP) to provide opportunities for education, stewardship, and volunteerism that are safe, welcoming, and inclusive for all. To foster diversity and to better reflect our community, Canal For All engages BIPOC, differently-abled, LGBTQIA+, and other underrepresented or disadvantaged communities. We partner with community organizations to diminish participation barriers and create exciting and relevant opportunities to Play, Learn, Serve, and Work in the Park.

In 2023, Canal For All has grown to serve nearly 300 youth and adults and will exceed that number by the end of the year. The program’s impact and diversity have expanded in notable ways. Several new community organizations have partnered with the program, expanding our demographic reach to include adults with Down syndrome, LGBTQ+, and our first groups in Virginia.  Read More

Trust Celebrates Latino Conservation Week 2023

By Canal For All, News

Latino Conservation Week nature crafts. Photo by Community Bridges.

The Trust hosted a Latino Conservation Week celebration on July 22 at Great Falls. In partnership with Community Bridges and Girls Who Hike Virginia, the Canal for All event welcomed 25 youth and adults for a fun day of crafts, hiking, and plant species identification. Latino Conservation Week is an initiative of the Hispanic Access Foundation created to support the Latino community in enjoying the outdoors and participating in activities to protect natural resources. Over 220 events were held nationwide by numerous community, nonprofit, and faith-based organizations from July 15-23.  Read More

Canal Community Story- Chris Forth

By Bike, Canal Community Story, Canal Story, Stories

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

Tell Us Your Canal Story

Chris Forth- Canal Story

Recreate Responsibly with Your Dog in the C&O Canal National Historical Park

By Planning Your Visit, Things to Do

Photo by Trust Staff

The C&O Canal National Historical Park (NHP) is filled with natural beauty, rich history, and recreational opportunities. Many visitors enjoy sharing the Park with their four-legged companions. However, ensuring a positive experience requires proper planning in order to recreate responsibly. The National Park Service asks that all visitors with pets remember to B.A.R.K.:

Bag your pet’s poop

  • Properly bag and dispose of your pet’s waste. The Chesapeake & Ohio Canal NHP is a trash-free Park, and garbage cans are not available. Pet owners should plan ahead to clean up and remove their trash, leaving the Park as they found it.
  • Leaving bagged waste on the trail is littering. This includes parking areas, trailheads, signs, and milemarkers.
  • Pet waste left on the ground makes a mess for others and harms the water quality in the park.

Tater the Doodle by Callie Fishburn

Always keep your pet on a leash

  • Pets must be restrained on a leash no longer than 6 feet.
  • GPS pet trackers are not leashes.
  • Keeping pets on a leash protects people, plants, wildlife, and your pet.

Respect all animals

  • Keep your pet at a respectful distance from any wildlife or other animals you encounter.
  • Off-leash pets may spook horses or mules on the C&O Canal towpath.
  • Off-leash pets can injure and alter the behavior of wildlife in the Park.

Know the rules

  • Pets are not allowed on the Billy Goat Trail section A, or on the boardwalk to Great Falls.
  • Stay on marked trails. Going off-trail can damage sensitive plants and cause erosion. Pets are more likely to pick up ticks when off-trail.

These regulations and laws exist to keep pets, visitors, and park resources safe. There are no exceptions to the regulations for carried pets (in arms, carriers, strollers, backpacks, etc.) in restricted areas of the park. For more information, please consult the Superintendent’s Compendium.

Dog and Charles F Mercer at Great Falls by Marc Llacuna

Please be mindful of weather conditions when bringing your pet to the park. Extreme temperatures, both hot and cold, can sometimes be dangerous to pets. Water fountains are available at some locations in the Park, but visitors should plan ahead and bring water for their pets.

Service Animals
Qualified service animals assisting visitors with disabilities are permitted throughout the Park and in all Park facilities. Service animals must be on a leash and picked up after.

Recreating responsibly with your dog in the C&O Canal NHP is not only about following Park rules but also about fostering a sense of stewardship for the natural and cultural resources. By knowing the regulations, keeping your dog on a leash, practicing good waste management, staying on designated trails, and being considerate of wildlife and other visitors, you can ensure a positive experience while preserving the Park’s integrity. Let’s cherish this remarkable resource and create lasting memories with our furry friends while following B.A.R.K. principles. By embracing these principles, we can continue to enjoy the beauty of the C&O Canal NHP  for generations to come.

Volunteer for the Dogs Day of Summer Music Fest

By Uncategorized

Thank you for volunteering with the C&O Canal Trust for the “Dog Days of Summer” music fest on Saturday, July 22nd presented by Cushwa Brewing and Interchange Tiki Bar & Brewery in conjunction with the C&O Canal Trust. The Trust will receive a portion of the proceeds to help our mission to preserve and protect the Historic C&O Canal National Historic Park.

Note: The volunteer event runs from 1:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m..
SSL hours are available. Children under 15 must be accompanied by an adult.

Enjoy Delicious Ice Cream Treats on the C&O Canal Ice Cream Trail

By Blog, Eat/Drink

Photo by Mark Cruz

After a day exploring the wonders of the C&O Canal National Historical Park (NHP), there’s nothing quite as satisfying as taking a break in a Canal Town. These towns, rich with history and small-town charm, provide a welcoming respite for weary adventurers. While meandering through the streets of most canal towns or just beyond, you’re bound to stumble upon a unique ice cream shop promising sweet treats that tantalize the taste buds. These shops offer a mouthwatering array of flavors, ranging from classic favorites to inventive creations.

Photo courtesy of The Little Red Barn

Little Red Barn Ice Cream Cafe
4610 Lander Road, Jefferson, MD

Closest Canal Town: Point of Rocks

Located in a restored, hundred-year-old barn, the Little Red Barn Ice Cream Cafe is a fun spot to enjoy frozen treats. It also offers sandwiches, soups, salads, and expresso-based drinks. The options are limitless, with indoor dining, patio space, and a walk-up window with carry-out. The Little Red Barn offers a large selection of ice cream flavors, milkshakes, and sundaes made with Hershey’s ice cream. Follow their Facebook page for special flavors and more.

Photo courtesy of Rocky Point Creamery

Rocky Point Creamery
4323 Tuscarora Road, Tuscarora, MD

Closest Canal Town: Point of Rocks, MD

Rocky Point Creamery is a classic farm-to-cone style creamery located a little over a mile from the towpath in Point of Rocks. Part of Maryland’s Best Ice Cream Trail, the creamery rotates over 80 flavors of ice cream weekly and offers specialty sundaes and shakes. Be sure to visit their tractor-style playground, sunflower field in July and August, and events like food trucks and goat yoga. Weekly flavors and events are posted on their Facebook page.

A La Mode Cafe
113 Potomac Street, Harpers Ferry, WV 

Canal Town: Harpers Ferry/Bolivar

A La Mode Cafe offers tasty desserts, including ice cream treats like milkshakes and sundaes. Hand-dipped ice cream is from Kawartha Dairy, and there are soft-serve options as well.  The menu also includes a few breakfast and lunch items.

Photo courtesy of Battle Grounds Bakery & Coffee

Battle Grounds Bakery & Coffee
180 High Street, Harpers Ferry, WV

Canal Town: Harpers Ferry/Bolivar

Situated right in the middle of the historic lower town of Harpers Ferry, Battle Grounds Bakery & Coffee offers breakfast and pastries, salad and sandwiches, specialty coffees, cookies, and delicious frozen custard flavors. Follow them on Facebook.

Cannonball Deli
125-129 High Street, Harpers Ferry, WV

Canal Town: Harpers Ferry/Bolivar

Just a short walk across the Potomac River into Harpers Ferry, the Cannonball Deli is one of several walk-up ice cream spots on Potomac Street. It serves Hershey’s ice cream. The deli has indoor and outdoor seating, a tasty ice cream menu, and offers other menu items like burgers, pizza, salads, and burritos.

Creamy Creations
173 Potomac Street, Harpers Ferry, WV

Canal Town: Harpers Ferry/Bolivar

Just a short walk across the Potomac River into Harpers Ferry, Creamy Creations is another walk-up ice cream spot on Potomac Street, opposite the train station. You’ll find a variety of fun, unique hand-dipped flavors, along with traditional flavors and plenty of toppings to choose from. 

Harpers Ferry Ice Cream Shoppe
408 Alstadts Hill Road, Harpers Ferry, WV

Canal Town: Harpers Ferry/Bolivar

The Harpers Ferry Ice Cream Shoppe features 16 flavors from local creamery Garber’s Ice Cream in Winchester, Virginia. The menu includes cones, cups, milkshakes, cookie sandwiches, and sundaes.

Photo courtesy of Amy & Alex’s Homemade Ice Cream and Coffee

Amy & Alex’s Homemade Ice Cream and Coffee
207 S Princess Street, Suite 2, Shepherdstown, WV

Canal Town: Shepherdstown, WV

Amy & Alex’s Homemade Ice Cream and Coffee opened in May of 2023, focusing on clean ingredients, meaning no artificial flavors and no artificial ingredients. Most of their ice cream add-ins are organic, and they offer a variety of traditional flavors as well as more unique flavors, like Honey Raspberry Blueberry Swirl, Mango Dragonfruit, and Coffee Crunch Bar. They always have two or three dairy-free coconut milk ice creams as well. Follow them on Instagram.

Photo courtesy of Rock Hill Creamery

Rock Hill Creamery
111 West German Street, Shepherdstown, WV

Canal Town: Shepherdstown, WV

Rock Hill Creamery, located in the heart of Shepherdstown, West Va., features ice cream made right in the shop using only milk, sugar, and heavy cream as the base. The menu features a variety of traditional and not-so-traditional ice cream flavors, as well as vegan sorbet. Flavors like Keylime Pie, Lavender Honey, Vanilla Chip, Zebra Cake, and Better Brownie Batter are sure to tempt your tastebuds!

Photo courtesy of Deliteful Dairy

Deliteful Dairy
16230 Long Delite Lane, Williamsport, MD 

Canal Town: Williamsport, MD

Located close to C&O Canal access points at Cushwa Basin and McMahons Mill, Deliteful Dairy offers high-quality, grass-fed dairy products, including ice cream, butter artisanal cheeses, and farm-fresh craft milk selections. This seventh-generational farm is part of Maryland’s Best Ice Cream Trail and offers a variety of tasty ice cream treats. Visit them on Facebook for events and specials.

Photo courtesy of Mama Lu Lu’s

Mama Lu Lu’s Diner
2 East Potomac Street, Williamsport, MD

Canal Town: Williamsport, MD

Just minutes from the C&O Canal at Cushwa Basin, Mama Lulu’s Diner is a bright 50’s retro-style diner serving country home cooking that incorporates family heirloom recipes. In addition to homestyle favorites like meatloaf, dumplings, and steamers, the menu includes an ice cream section with hand-dipped ice cream, sundaes, floats, milkshakes, and more!

Photo courtesy of Scoop-A-Licious & More

Scoop-A-Licious & More
16904 Virginia Avenue, Williamsport, MD

Canal Town: Williamsport, MD

Scoop-A-Licious & More offers batch-churned ice cream from Windy Knoll Farm & soft-serve ice cream. They also have a wide variety of sundaes, milkshakes, snow cones, and other delicious ice cream treats.

Photo courtesy of BuddyLou’s Eats Drinks & Antiques

BuddyLou’s Eats Drinks & Antiques
11 East Main Street, Hancock, MD

Canal Town: Hancock, MD

Just steps from the C&O Canal, Buddy Lou’s offers exceptional dining, unique artisan gifts, vintage treasures, and just plain fun! Their ice cream menu offers soft serve and Flavor Burst selections, with a multitude of topping choices. You can also get sundaes, milkshakes, and other ice cream treats.

Photo courtesy of Queen City Creamery

Queen City Creamery
108 W Harrison Street, Cumberland, MD

Canal Town: Cumberland, MD

Queen City Creamy is also a cafe and deli, making homemade frozen custard, sorbet, and frozen treats daily. There’s a Flavor of the Day Custard, a Flavor of the Week Sorbet, and a Sundae of the Week. The menu includes ice cream floats and even ice cream cakes, plus more! Stop in and enjoy flavors like Lemon Blueberry, Salted Caramel Cashew, and Caramel Old Bay. They were recently voted one of the best frozen custard places in the United States. The cafe and deli offer Peet’s Coffee & Tea, and Boars Head meats & cheeses. Follow them on Facebook.

European Desserts and More
17 Howard Street, Cumberland, MD 

Canal Town: Cumberland

Located just steps off the towpath, less than 500 ft from the end of the C&O Canal and the start of the Great Allegheny Passage trail, European Desserts and More is one of the shops at Canal Place. The shop offers six flavors of ice cream, including black raspberry and cookies & crème. Its specialty is traditional handmade desserts, like baklava, bee sting cake, and filo pastries. Follow the towpath south, and you will find a green field to eat your ice cream or other treats and view “The Cumberland,” a full-scale C&O Canal boat replica. This is the perfect place to treat yourself after your journey or fuel up for the start of your trip.

The next time you find yourself visiting the C&O Canal NHP, enjoy the simple pleasures of an ice cream treat in a canal town. We hope it will be the perfect ending to a great day! Click here for more information about the Canal Towns Partnership.

C&O Canal National Historical Park Continues Important Work to Protect Rare, Threatened, and Endangered Plants

By Nature, News

Student Conservation Association interns planting smooth rock skullcap at a site in the Potomac Gorge area. Photo by C&O Canal NHP/NPS.

The C&O Canal National Historical Park (NHP) is focused on the long-term conservation of rare, threatened, and endangered (RTE) plant species throughout the Park. Its comprehensive strategy to conserve these plants includes identification, monitoring, habitat protection, seed collection, plant propagation, and establishing new populations of RTE species in unique habitat niches in the Park. That strategy has recently come full circle as the first several hundred plants from five species of RTE plants, processed and propagated from collected seeds, have been outplanted into appropriate habitats in the Park. Read More

C&O Canal NHP Receives Maryland Historical Trust Award for Excellence in Historic Preservation and Sustainable Design

By News

Photo by C&O Canal NHP/NPS

The C&O Canal NHP was awarded the 2023 Excellence in Historic Preservation and Sustainable Design award from the Maryland Historical Trust (MHT). The award recognizes the park’s efforts to combat the impacts of flooding with long-term, sustainable solutions along a 0.9-mile stretch between McMahons Mill (mile 88) and Lock 42 (mile 89) in Williamsport, Maryland. The rehabilitated historical retaining wall and towpath ensure future generations will continue to learn and enjoy the C&O Canal in its historical context. Read More

Five Ways Birding at the C&O Canal Can Improve Your Health

By Blog, Nature, Photography

Nature has a profound impact on human well-being. Research shows that spending time in nature and connecting with your natural surroundings is associated with better body and brain health. Now researchers know that birds are a specific source of those health benefits.

Prothonotary Warbler by Robert A. Powell

Here are five ways that birding at the C&O Canal NHP Can Improve Your Health:

Carolina Wren Singing on its Pedestal by Eric Stuyck

1. Physical Fitness

Birding is not just about observing birds; it often involves exploration. To do that, you have to move from place to place physically. The C&O Canal stretches for 184.5 miles, offering ample hiking, biking, and leisurely walking opportunities. These activities promote cardiovascular health, improve endurance, and boost energy levels. Birders can enjoy the scenic beauty while moving their bodies, improving overall fitness and stamina.

 2. Stress Reduction and Mental Well-being

In our increasingly digitized world, finding moments of tranquility is essential for maintaining mental health. Birding at the C&O Canal offers a respite from the daily stresses and a chance to immerse oneself in the wonders of nature. Studies show that listening to birdsong has been found to help your mood, reducing feelings of anxiety, depression, and paranoia in healthy research participants. Nature and birdsong also reduce stress, lowering blood pressure and cortisol levels. Birding provides a mindful experience, allowing you to be fully present in the moment and forget about everyday life.

A Welcome Visitor by Vinod Thomas

3. Connection with Nature

Humans have an innate connection with the natural world, and birding provides an opportunity to foster and deepen that connection. The C&O Canal is a thriving ecosystem home to over 120 diverse bird species. By observing and identifying birds in their natural habitats, you’ll develop a greater appreciation for the intricacies of nature and the delicate balance of ecosystems. This connection with the environment can lead to a heightened sense of environmental stewardship and a desire to protect and conserve our natural heritage.

4. Cognitive Enhancement

Birding is both a physical and sensory experience and an intellectually stimulating one. It requires observation, concentration, and the ability to recognize patterns and identify different species. Regularly engaging in this activity can enhance cognitive skills such as attention to detail, memory recall, and pattern recognition. Additionally, birding fosters curiosity and a thirst for knowledge about the natural world, encouraging continuous learning and exploration.

Well, Hello There! by Christine Ley

5. Social Engagement

Birding can be a solitary activity, allowing for introspection and self-reflection. However, it also offers opportunities for social interaction and building connections with like-minded individuals. Joining birding groups or participating in bird walks with other birders at the C&O Canal can create a sense of community, providing a platform to share knowledge, exchange experiences, and forge new friendships. Social connections are vital for mental well-being, and birding offers a supportive network of individuals who share a common passion for nature.


Birding at the C&O Canal offers a delightful blend of nature, exercise, and mental stimulation, making it a perfect activity for individuals seeking physical and psychological well-being. From reducing stress and improving cardiovascular health to fostering a sense of wonder and environmental consciousness, the health benefits of birding at the C&O Canal are undeniable. So grab your binoculars, lace up your walking shoes, and embark on a birding adventure that will nourish your body.

Trust Partners with Smithsonian Associates for C&O Canal Tour

By History, Landmarks, News, Program

Smithsonian Associates group visits Great Falls in the C&O Canal NHP. Photo by Francis Grant-Suttie

The C&O Canal Trust partnered with Smithsonian Associates to provide a day-long tour of the C&O Canal National Historical Park on June 2. Thirty-six participants braved the heat to explore several parts of the Park, including Great Falls and Rileys Lock. The tour included a guided tour of Lockhouse 22 at Pennyfield. Lockhouse 22 is one of seven rehabilitated lockhouses in the Canal Quarters program, which gives visitors the opportunity to book up to three consecutive nights in a historic lockhouse. Read More

Canal Community Story- Ed Zahniser

By Canal Community Story, Uncategorized

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

Canal Community Story: Ed Zahniser

Ed Zahniser- Canal Story

Canal Community Story: Tamika Graham

By Canal Community Story

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

Tell Us Your Canal Story

Canal Community Story: Tamika Graham

Tamika Graham - Canal Community Story

Explore the C&O Canal’s TRACK Trails

By Explore Your Canal, Nature, Planning Your Visit, Things to Do, Uncategorized

What is TRACK Trails?

TRACK Trails is an award-winning program by Kids in Parks that offers family-friendly outdoor adventures. By following the self-guided brochures and signs, your visit to the park becomes a fun and educational adventure. As you track your progress, you become eligible for prizes.

How does it work?

TRACK Trail in Hancock by Trust Staff

Start by going to the Kids in Parks TRACK Trail website and search your area on the map to find an adventure near you. Once you find a location, you can browse the adventures on the map under Find An Adventure. Sometimes TRACK Trail brochures are located at the park or attached to a TRACK Trail sign, but you can always access them on the Kids in Parks website.

TRACK Trail adventures exist at three locations in the C&O Canal National Historical Park—Brunswick, Williamsport, and Hancock. For example, in Williamsport there are four different adventures: Conococheague Aqueduct Scavenger Hunt, Lock 44 Scavenger Hunt, Nature’s Hide & Seek, and Need for Trees. Many of the nature-based adventures are general enough they could be used throughout the Park.

After completing tasks, you can track them on your device to receive TRACKer gear. Different TRACK Trail adventures have different gear awarded, such as stickers and cards for hiking trails, disks for the disk golf courses, or bike bells and first aid kits for the bike trails, and more. The more adventures you complete, the cooler gear you get. You can see a full list of gear rewards here!

How did Kids in Parks and TRACK Trails come about?

Photo by Trust Staff

Kids in Parks began in 2009 on the Blue Ridge Parkway, developed by the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation in partnership with the National Park Service and the Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina Foundation. As the program demonstrated easy implementation and effectiveness in getting children outdoors, Kids in Parks rapidly expanded to other parks and public lands across the country. Achievements of the program include endorsements by the American Academy of Pediatrics, awarded as a Let’s Move! Champion of Change by the White House, and acknowledgement for Outstanding Public Engagement by the Public Lands Alliance.

Support the Park: Sign Up for TowpathGO!

By News

Photo by Paul Graunke

If you love the C&O Canal National Historical Park and enjoy recreating in the Park, we’ve got a great way for you to combine your passions and support the Park! Sign up for TowpathGO and rally support from your friends and family for this unique peer-to-peer fundraising challenge. Join us for this year’s TowpathGO!

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6 Things We Love About Spring on the Canal

By Things to Do

As spring has officially sprung, we here at the Trust can only hope for more consistent weather. And while there’s probably still a bit more cold weather to come, the next few weeks look like they could be the true beginning of warm weather for the Canal.

In honor of spring (slowly) coming to the area, we at the Trust have compiled a list of things we love about spring on the Canal. Read More


The Importance of Native Plants

By Nature

Bloodroot photo by Trust Staff

Native plants are an essential part of the ecosystem in the C&O Canal National Historcal Park (NHP), which is one of the most biologically diverse parks in the National Park system, especially in regard to plant species.  The Park has recorded over 1,500 species of vascular plants, including over 260 non-native plant species, and more than 200 rare, threatened, and endangered (RTE) plants. The number of rare plants is one of the highest concentrations of state-listed rare plants in the eastern United States.

The Potomac River creates a mosaic of different natural habitats throughout the C&O Canal NHP. Native plants are the backbone of natural habitats and play a critical role in maintaining the balance of the ecosystem. They have evolved over thousands of years, adapting  to the local climate, soil, and other environmental factors. 

Here are some reasons why native plants are crucial for our environment:

  1. Native plants provide habitat and food for wildlife. They are the primary source of food and shelter for a wide range of wildlife species, including birds, insects, mammals, and reptiles. These plants provide essential nutrients and shelter for animals, including food for larvae and insects that pollinate flowers, fruits, and vegetables.

  2. Native plants support biodiversity. They play a vital role in supporting biodiversity. They provide food and shelter for insects, which, in turn, support other animals and plant species. Native plants also help to prevent soil erosion and maintain the balance of the ecosystem.

  3. Native plants are adapted to local conditions. They are acclimated to the local climate and soil, which makes them more resilient and better able to withstand drought, floods, and other environmental stresses. This means they require less maintenance and water, making them an excellent choice for homeowners and gardeners.

  4. Native plants improve soil health. They have deep root systems that help to improve soil health by increasing soil organic matter and reducing erosion. This means that they can help to prevent nutrient runoff and protect water quality.

  5. Native plants have cultural significance. They have been used for centuries by indigenous communities for medicinal, food, and spiritual purposes. By preserving native plant species, we can help to protect and celebrate cultural heritage.

Rockcress Photo by Trust Staff

Native plants are an essential component of our natural environment. They play a vital role in maintaining the balance of the ecosystem in the C&O Canal NHP, at our homes, in our communities, and beyond. By promoting the use of native plants in landscaping and gardening, we can help to protect and preserve our natural environment for future generations.


Canal Community Story: Don Ramsey

By Canal Community Story, Volunteer

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

Tell Us Your Canal Story

Canal Community Story: Don Ramsey

Photo by Anupah Shah

Don Ramsey is a dedicated C&O Canal Trust volunteer. Whether leading volunteer groups doing projects in the Park for Canal Community Days events or helping with our largest annual fundraiser Park After Dark, Don is always willing to roll up his sleeves and lend a helping hand. 

During his childhood, Don’s family would go for picnics at various C&O Canal National Historical Park locations. In his teen and young adult years, he would adventure with friends to camp, bike, ice skate, hike, and canoe in the Park. Don remembers his longest bike ride with friends on the canal from Washington, D.C., to Harpers Ferry. “We had a breakdown of one of the bikes,” he recalls, “and after miles of taking turns riding and walking, we stopped at Brunswick and camped—so close, yet so far! Luckily, we were able to get dinner from Mackie machines at the YMCA at midnight.”

Photo by Turner Photography Studio

Don also had a memorable adventure by boat. “Can’t forget the rowboat overnighter from Fletchers,” he says. “Three of us left at dusk and rowed for a couple of hours upstream until we were too tired to row anymore, so we found a small area on the Virginia side to camp. When we woke up the next morning, we could still see Fletchers,” Don says, laughing.

Later in life, when Don had his own family, he took his young children on occasional picnics, small hikes, and canoe rides while visiting the Park. When his oldest son was in scouts, he became a scoutmaster and took scouts on hikes and a 50-miler bike campout along the canal. They also did canal cleanups after significant flood events. Don remembers one Whites Ferry cleanup organized by the Boy Scouts of America. “What a mess that was—but we had a great time doing it!”

Photo by Turner Photography Studio

When his kids grew up and moved out, Don organized a few bike rides in the Paw Paw Tunnel area for family, friends, and coworkers. Then he discovered a volunteer opportunity in the Park. “I first got involved with a Clark Construction event at Harpers Ferry doing a cleanup and removing invasive plants,” Don says. “I’m not sure what year that was, but I was hooked and have been there whenever possible to join in on the fun!”

Don’s dedication to volunteering in his community extends far beyond the C&O Canal Trust. He volunteers for the Prince George’s County County Christmas in April program throughout the year and with the District of Columbia Building Industry Association’s yearly massive volunteer project sprucing up Washington, D.C., recreational areas. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Don logged as many as 300+ hours of volunteer service a year. 

Don is a regular Volunteer Project Leader (VPL) when the Trust has Canal Community Days events throughout the Park. He leads groups of volunteers tasked with various Park beautification projects with a smile and a passion for making the Park a better place for everyone. Don is welcoming to all, especially young people who want to try their hands at volunteer service. “Working with others and teaching the younger generation about the importance of doing good things for our national parks and others will help the environment, which helps the people and animals in the long run,” he says. 

Photo by Trust Staff

Don’s favorite places in the C&O Canal NHP include Great Falls, the Paw Paw Tunnel, and the Harpers Ferry area. “Those are the places I suggest to people at work or elsewhere to get them interested in visiting the Park,” he says. Though he spends less time recreating in the Park these days than volunteering, it’s still very near and dear to Don’s heart, and he enjoys giving back to it. “Helping others makes me feel good,” Don says, “and doing this work along the C&O Canal is especially nice as not only do I get to visit such a wonderful place, but I can leave it in better condition than when I arrive!”

Sign up for TowpathGo 2023!

By Uncategorized

President and CEO Robin Zanotti Reflects on Career and Retirement

By Uncategorized


Robin Zanotti Leading the Mules by Trust Staff

After nearly eight years leading the C&O Canal Trust and a 40-year career in fundraising and nonprofit executive leadership, President and CEO Robin Zanotti is retiring on March 31, 2023.  We asked Robin to reflect on her time at the Trust, and share her plans for the next chapter of her life.

What brought you to the C&O Canal Trust?
My career has been spent exclusively in service to nonprofits. I have received the most joy from my work when I engaged with volunteers and donors with whom I shared a passion for the mission of the organization. When I was asked to consider this position, it didn’t take me long to realize how gratifying it could be. I already loved the park and could easily commit to using my experience to maximize support for it.

Additionally, it is a rare opportunity for the lead fundraiser, my usual role, to become the president and CEO. The Trust’s board of directors was looking to stabilize the organization’s finances, and it was clear that my fundraising skills could be of benefit to the Trust. It sounded like a great opportunity for me.

What has been your greatest challenge at the Trust?
When I became president at the Trust, it was during a period of transition. The organization needed a steady hand, but at the same time, fundraising had to be a top priority. We had a small but strong, dedicated staff who were eager to move forward as a team and willingly embraced me as their leader. Our board was just as dedicated and ready to put its energy into moving the Trust forward. It took some time to get everything aligned for forward momentum, and those early months were a bit unnerving.

What has been your greatest achievement at the Trust?
I can point to a number of programs and projects that I’m extremely proud of. I was grateful to work with very talented staff and generous donors to help make them possible. In a more macro sense, the steady growth of the organization, and what that has meant to the support of the C&O Canal, would have to be my greatest achievement, especially in light of the Covid-19 pandemic. We still managed to double in size during the last eight years, which means more eager and motivated staff are working diligently each day to achieve our mission to preserve and protect the park. Having doubled our budget means that charitable support has doubled, in effect putting to work the generous gifts of a growing number of donors, many of whom have deepened their commitment. For a woman with a fundraising career and commitment to mission, it doesn’t get any better than that!

Is there anything you’d do differently?
Gosh, for what was essentially a fledgling organization at the time I arrived, there were plenty of things I could have done differently. There weren’t enough of us to go around to do all that was needed. I prioritized mission, investing in and supporting staff, and engaging donors and volunteers in as many ways as I could. I wouldn’t change any of that. 

What will you miss the most?
People. Always the people. Being with like-minded park lovers is a reward unto itself. 

While I’ll miss the daily commitment to supporting the park, I certainly won’t miss the park. I intend to take with me the deeper appreciation I developed as a result of these eight years and enjoy the park with the satisfaction of knowing I had a role in its preservation.

Swains Lockhouse by Josh Bowers

Do you have a favorite spot or favorite memory in the Park?
My lockhouse visits were special experiences. I especially liked the early morning walks in what felt to me like my very own piece of the park. Staying at Swains Lockhouse might be one of my favorite memories. My husband and I were the first to stay overnight after we helped rehabilitate it and added it to the Canal Quarters program. We were ‘kicking the tires’ and learning what our guests would experience to be sure it was really ready. I felt so much pride for the Swain family, the National Park Service, and generations of visitors – past, present, and future. Together, we preserved a very special part of the history of the C&O Canal. I definitely had a moment.

What do you hope for the future of the Trust?
I haven’t yet mentioned the Trust’s relationship with the National Park Service. I wish for a long, healthy partnership based on mutual trust and earnest goodwill. It has been with this approach that the Trust has flourished and been able to enhance its support of the Park. There is so much more to do, and it will all be within the construct of this mutually supportive relationship.

What’s next for you in retirement?
I’ve purposefully decided to craft my retirement years as they present themselves, at least initially. I have some vague notions about travel and more time spent with family. There are many books to be read and parks to be explored. I plan to take some time to enjoy the freedom while sketching out a fulfilling plan.

Park After Dark 2022 by Turner Photography Studio

Anything else you’d like to share?
I cannot imagine a better way to cap off my career than with the work I’ve done here at the C&O Canal Trust. The board of directors graced me with their support, provided me with the latitude to run the organization, and were my soulmates in crafting a strategy for developing the organization into a high-performing partner for the National Park Service. I’ve worked with two amazing park superintendents who were also willing partners. It’s with a fair amount of satisfaction that I leave this work and these important relationships to my successor. All best wishes to Lauren Riviello and everyone at the Trust and the National Park Service. See you on the towpath!


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.