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What Are You Thankful For?

By Blog
The C&O Canal is a very special place, and we are so grateful to have all 184.5 miles right in our backyard to explore, recreate, and enjoy. This season, we want to express our thanks for this beautiful Park by talking about what we are most thankful for! Read more to see what some of the visitors to the Park have to say about the C&O Canal. Read More

Interview with Marea Petrelles, Volunteer Canal Steward

By Blog, Content
  1.  How long have you been a Canal Steward in the Park?

Marea: I have been a Canal Steward for two years, since December 11, 2018.

  1. Why do you volunteer as a canal steward?

Marea: I volunteer because I love being outdoors.  It feels right to me to look after and care for our natural resources.  It gives me pleasure to be of some help in taking care of an area so others can enjoy the area!  Now more than ever I think this is important!

  1. What is your favorite thing about being a Canal Steward?

Marea: One of my favorite things about being a Canal Steward is seeing people enjoy using the park.  Whether it’s a smile from a walker, hiker, jogger or someone taking their boat (kayak, canoe) on the river, it brings simple quiet joy to see my fellow human beings get close to nature!

  1. Finally, what is your favorite spot in the Park?

Marea: One of my favorite spots in the Park is Mather Gorge at Bear Island.  Many fond memories as a child with my siblings and family hiking on our day trips.  The Billy Goat Trail is another favorite and challenging trail as well as the portion of towpath along Mile 19 and 20 near Pennyfield Lock.

  1. Why do you think people should become Canal Stewards?

Marea: Becoming a Canal Steward can bring you a sense of simple purpose.  Serving your local community in this way can have a positive impact on you and the people who visit the Park.  The rewards of maintaining the area in the Park are countless.  Your involvement helps the existing wildlife remain in their habitat by keeping it natural and encourages us human visitors of nature to enjoy the environment and respecting its natural state.

Round Top Cement Mill by Paul Graunke

Hidden Gems Along the C&O Canal

By Blog

Round Top Cement Mill. Photo by Paul Graunke.

With more historic structures than any other unit in the National Park Service, the C&O Canal National Historical Park documents and preserves over 200 years of America’s history. The major sites, like Great Falls Tavern and the Paw Paw Tunnel, get most of the attention from visitors. However, many structures in the Park have a hidden history that is not apparent at first glance. Go hunting for these gems!

You can also copy this itinerary into our C&O Canal Itinerary Builder here.

Read More

5 Ways to Celebrate Maryland Day!

By Blog

Four Locks (MM 109) near Clear Springs, Maryland by Nicholas Clements

1. Plan Your Stay With Canal Quarters

Spring is here, and what better way to celebrate Maryland Day than to plan your stay with Canal Quarters! Not only do you support the C&O Canal Trust, but you are immersed in the nature and history of one of the most popular places to visit in the state of Maryland, the C&O Canal National Historical Park. Visit our page here to plan your stay today.

2. Bike, Hike, or Ride on the C&O Canal Towpath

It is a beautiful day to hit the towpath! Why not enjoy the budding of spring on Maryland Day by biking or hiking the towpath? Visit Great Falls this weekend and revel in one of the most beautiful, local places in Maryland. Need help planning your visit? Download our Explorer Mobile app here!

3. Visit and Support Local Canal Towns

If you ever have the desire to do something a little different, take a road trip and visit your local canal towns! Maryland is home to many picturesque small towns with plenty of activities to do with family and friends. Plan your visit at these Canal Towns today.

4. Participate in Maryland Day Activities

Maryland Day can be every day! This weekend, the celebrations continue. You can participate in various Maryland Day festivities by visiting Maryland Tourism here.

5. Show Off Your Maryland Pride By Wearing C&O Canal Trust Apparel

What better way to celebrate Maryland and the Park than by wearing towpath apparel? Get your Route One and C&O Canal Trust sponsored merchandise by visiting the link here.

Meet Béla Demeter, Canal Steward

By Blog, Content, Volunteer

I’ve been a Canal Steward since July 2018. I’ve hiked the Canal and the Billy Goat Trail for nearly 50 years (when I came to Washington). I often had a plastic bag with me and rarely came out without some bottles and trash. It felt good to do my small part in cleaning up our shared landscape, especially when it involved so little effort. Signing on to the Canal Steward Program seemed like the next logical step.

In my 35 years as reptile keeper and Biologist at the National Zoo, I was the liaison between the department and our keeper aides and interpretive volunteers. I came to appreciate how incredibly important these folks were to the enhanced functioning of our operation. We simply couldn’t have reached out to the public as efficiently without their help. Upon retirement, I felt it was time to pay back some of that energy (my initial volunteer gig was at the National Gallery of Art as a docent, leading tours of the collection). As essential as government agencies are to the operation of parks and museums, staff are often limited by budgets and resources. Tapping into the immense pool of retirees and other people with time on their hands is an excellent way to enhance the benefits that these institutions offer. I also feel that it’s beneficial in so many ways when the public takes a proprietary interest in these areas.  

I think recruiting more volunteers (especially young ones) is money well spent. It always makes my day when young people comment on what I’m doing and remark that they have either done that themselves or are now inspired to do so in the future. I can spend every day on the canal, but it takes everybody pitching in to keep it pristine.

It’s difficult to pick a favorite spot in the Park — sorta like choosing your favorite child. Two spots on Billy Goat B come to mind, however. From an artistic point of view, there is a fallen tree about a quarter mile from the West trailhead. I call it the “Ent” (from Lord of the Rings). It’s incredibly expressive, and I always stop to gaze at it. It changes with moisture and is even more dramatic after a rain.

My other favorite area is about a half mile from the West trailhead. I call it “Skink Rock” due the numerous Five-lined Skinks that make this spot their refuge. It’s fun to find the little guys hiding in the crevices in the summer. This area also has a fair population of Pine Swifts as well as Black Racers on the upper portion of the trail.

Join Béla in becoming a Canal Steward this year! Sign up here.

A Day in Williamsport, Maryland – An Itinerary

By Blog, Explore Your Canal, Planning Your Visit, Things to Do, Towns and Communities

Park: You can get to the towpath from the town by bike or car when you head west on W. Potomac Street until you reach the Cushwa Basin parking lot. The towpath is located approximately 300 ft north west through the RailRoad Lift Bridge.    

River access: There are two entry points for boats along the Potomac River at River Bottom Park. The park can be accessed by bike or on foot from the towpath 0.9-miles. west of Lockhouse 44. For car access to the boat ramp, make a right onto N. Commerce St from W. Potomac St heading east out of the Cushwa Basin parking lot. Then make a right onto W. Salisbury Street to cross the Bollman Bridge. Follow this path down 0.1-miles to reach the boat access point. The second access point is located 600 ft to the right of the bridge overpass.

Stay: Depending on your preference, Williamsport offers a variety of lodging options. If you are interested in staying close to the towpath Bay farms, Bed and Breakfast is two blocks down W. Salisbury Street, totaling 0.5- mi. It offers an ideal stop for overnight travelers, hikers, or cyclists. Red Roof Inn is located a short distance, 1.1-mi from the towpath on E. Potomac Street, and provides affordable economy lodging choices. Another overnight stay option is Elmwood Farm Bed and Breakfast, which showcases cozy rooms and historic barn settings. Two miles up the towpath heading north is Jordan Junction Campground. An excellent place for hikers and bikers on the move; portable water, toilets, picnic tables, and grills are available for use. For extensive overnight camping Safari Campground and Yogi Bears, Jellystone Park Resort reside at the cross-section of Kendle and Lappans Rd. Cabin rentals, tent sites, and water amenities are available at the camp resort. 

Cushwa Basin by Mark Crilley

Williamsport Aqueduct by John Gensor

Don’t Miss: The RailRoad Lift Bridge & Conococheague Aqueduct.

The Conococheague Aqueduct is an exciting access point for canal boat riders interested in the full canal experience. Since the permanent lifting of the RailRoad Lift Bridge in 2016, pedestrians have been given access to cross the canal through the bridge. The restoration allowed for the expansion of the canal boat tour. The launch boat ride now explores the full length, from the Cushwa Basin to Lockhouse 44, with an informative historical tour of the canal. The tour also includes the newly restored Conococheague Aqueduct, which allows for boat operations to continue. This area is the, “Only place in North America where visitors can view, an operational lift lock, railroad lift bridge, lockhouse, turning basin and warehouse. (NPS, Conococheague Aqueduct 2020)”  

Eat: Dessert Rose Cafe 

Desert Rose Cafe is located a convenient two blocks from the towpath, heading east on W. Potomac for 0.3 miles. The restaurant provides a relaxed space for those eating in and hikers, bikers, and pedestrians on the go. Bike racks, outdoor seating, and amenities for trail users are available, such as bike pumps, inner tubes, first aid, and more. 

Chill: Byron Memorial Park

Byron Memorial Park is a brisk 0.8 miles from the towpath and leads into the center of town. This is a multiuse park that is located at the interaction of E Potomac St and Park Rd. Byron Memorial Park is known for its eventful celebrations encompassing car shows, concerts, and elaborate holiday celebrations such as Christmas lights and Fourth of July displays. Besides festivals, the park offers different facility rentals for those interested in using the Williamsport Community Building, pavilions, bandstand, gazebo rentals, and other rentals advertised on the Williamsport Town website.   

If you have time: Visit Lockhouse 44 

Located at mile marker 99.1 on the towpath, Lockhouse 44 stands along the canal. It was built in 1834 out of white and gray limestone; it now serves as a historical exhibit for requested tours. It is one of few surviving Lockhouse’s that initially maintained and operated the boat-locking system along the canal. 

Come back for: Springfield Farm

Springfield Farm is perfect for history fanatics interested in following the rich history of Williamsport. The Springfield farm is one of the largest barns in Maryland built by Otho Holland Williamsport himself in 1755. The estate contains a museum, two four bays, and a participant of the Living Legacy Project, an initiative dedicated to the 150th Anniversary of the Civil War and the fallen soldiers. Although the property is commemorated for its historical contributions, it is also available for reception, community events, fundraisers, banquets, and more. Questions can be directed to their email springfeildbarnweddings@gmail.com or phone number listed on the website.  

Events: Fourth of July Fireworks Display 

If fun and exciting celebrations are what you are looking for, join Williamsport in celebrating Independence day at Byron Memorial Park. It is a free venue that provides live local music performances, vendors, and a grand firework display.  

Along the Towpath in Williamsport by Ed Crawford

A Day in Poolesville, Maryland – An Itinerary

By Blog, Explore Your Canal, Planning Your Visit, Things to Do

Parking access: Poolesville is located about five miles from the C&O Canal National Historical Park. To get to the Park from the Old Town Bank Museum located on Fisher Avenue in Poolesville, head west on Fisher Avenue and make a left onto W. Willard Rd. Make a right onto Westerly Road in approximately 1.4 miles. You will then make a left onto Edwards Ferry’s Rd and continue until the end of the road. There is a small parking lot available for day and overnight parking located here. 

River access: Edward’s Ferry boat ramp access is located at the end of Edward’s Ferry Road, past Lockhouse 25. This is a historic Civil War site used by the Union Army for crossing the Potomac River. This area is known for smallmouth bass fishing.

Where to stay: Poolesville is home to Lockhouse 25. A blast from the past, this rustic lockhouse can be reserved through the Canal Quarters program. This historic structure was built in the 1830s and sits at mile marker 30.9 on the towpath. It is available for overnight stays by up to eight guests. 3.7 miles upstream from the towpath, is Turtle Run hiker/biker campsite. It includes a water pump, a portable toilet, and a picnic table & grill.

Sunflower Field located at Sycamore Landing Road (mile marker 27), Poolesville, Maryland. by Nicholas Clements

Civil War Reenactment at Lockhouse 25 by Jan Branscome

Don’t miss: The John Poole House

Originally built in 1793 as a log store, the John Poole House is the oldest building in Poolesville. It served as Poolesville’s first Post Office in the early nineteenth century and is now the Historic Medley District office. This historic building is located behind The Old Bank/ Old City Hall of Poolesville.

Where to eat: Poolesville Athletic Club & Cafe 107

Café 107 is located in the Poolesville Athletic Club and offers a wide selection of both hot and cold drinks, such as blended coffee drinks, smoothies, and food such as grilled chicken wraps, pizza, and even tasty breakfast dishes, which are available all day. It doesn’t get much better than that!

Where to chill: Whalen Commons

Whalen Commons, located in the town center, is a place to meet and greet new and old friends alike. Enjoy outdoor concerts, farmer’s markets, and outdoor movie nights in the open grassy area, . You will also find restrooms, a bandshell and a walking trail here.

If you have time: White’s Ferry

White’s Ferry is the last one hundred cable ferries that used to operate on the Potomac River. Every day, cars, bikes, and pedestrians use the ferry to cross the river between Maryland and the Leesburg, Virginia area. It is located at 24801 Whitess Ferry Rd, Dickerson, MD 20842.

Come back for: Sugarloaf Mountain overlook

This registered National Landmark has a breathtaking view and is accessible for bikers and hikers on the towpath. This is about a 10– mile bike ride from or 15mins by car from White’s Ferry. from Poolesville and 17 mins from Whites Ferry. The park is open 8 a.m to sunset. Gates close one hour before sunset.

Events: Poolesville Day Saturday, September 26, 2020

This is a special day to commemorate Poolesville’s 25 years of community. This is a free day event hosted by the Poolesville Day Committee. That will feature a town parade including a marching band, 5K charity run, arts and crafts, vendors, children’s entertainment, and more. This exciting event is capped off with live music and car shows.

Bassett’s Public Art Mural by Trust Staff

https://www.visitloudoun.org/listing/whites-ferry/56/https://www.poolesvillemd.gov/338/Whites-Ferryhttps://www.canaltrust.org/pyv/whites-ford/http://sugarloafmd.com/https://www.poolesvilleday.com/about-ushttps://www.poolesvillemd.gov/facilities/facility/details/Whalen-Commons-8

A Day In Brunswick, Maryland – An Itinerary

By Blog, Explore Your Canal, Planning Your Visit, Things to Do, Towns and Communities

Park: You can get to the towpath from town by a car when you head west on Potomac Street. Make a right onto S. Maple Ave. Head south past the Brunswick Train Station and over the tracks where a small dirt parking lot resides next to the towpath.    

River access: There are two points of access for boats along the Potomac River. Larger boats can access the river by making a right through the railroad parking lot. Follow this to reach the river access point. The second access point is located at Brunswick Family Campground. Make a left onto the towpath from S. Maple Ave. Follow the towpath for 0.4 miles to arrive at the campground and access point. 

Stay: Visitors can find a cozy room at the Travel Lodge or the Holiday Inn. They offer rooms for leisure, adventures, and business space. 0.6 miles on the towpath is the Brunswick Family Campground. This campsite includes tent sites, dumping stations, full hook-up sites, limited wifi, and other amenities. 

 Brunswick, C&O Canal Park Sign by Paulie Ward

Towpath in Brunswick, MD by Jerry Knight

Don’t Miss: The Visitor Center & Brunswick Heritage Museum 

The Heritage Museum doubles as two museums in one, while also sharing a building with the Brunswick Visitor Center. The second floor tells of how the town was shaped by the railroad, and the third floor depicts a 1700 square HO scale model of the B&O Metropolitan Subdivision. In 1890, the Baltimore &Ohio Railroad came to Brunswick, increasing travel to and from Brunswick. Remains of the railroad yard are still visible to this day and were known as the longest railroad yard owned by a single company, totaling 5 miles of the rail yard. 

Eat: Beans & the Belfry

Beans & the Belfry is a cozy, hiker, biker, friends, and family cafe located just .4 miles from the towpath on W. Potomac St. They offer indoor and outdoor seating with complimentary bike racks. Beans & Belfry has what you need to stay refreshed. They serve hot dishes, sweet desserts, refreshing snacks, all-day breakfast, and more. Live entertainment can be found Friday and Saturday from 7-9:30 pm, and live Jazz brunch on Sunday at 11 am-2 pm.

Chill: The City Park Building & Parks 

The City Park Building is located at 655 East Potomac Street, which is open for public access and private rentals. Amenities include a small kitchen, tables chairs, and restrooms. Other recreational spaces include the Corner Park located on Maple Ave and W. Potomac St., three minutes from the towpath, and a Brunswick dog park located .6 miles from the towpath on E. Potomac St. 

If you have time: Visit Remains of Lock 30 or the Rivers Edge Trials

Located at mile marker 55 on the towpath, the red Seneca sandstone and Patapsco granite rubble of the Lockhouse are still visible today. Next to the remains of Lock 30, a bridge carries Route 17 over the Potomac, replacing previous ferries and a wooden bridge that burned down by the Confederacy early in the Civil War. The Rivers Edge Trails are 2.9 miles from the towpath located on 13th Avenue and great for bikers looking for intermediate trails. The path consists of a single rolling track six miles in length with four route options. Natural cuts, berms, and switchbacks are an added plus to increase momentum and intensity. 

Come back for: Boxcar Burgers & Towpath Creamery 

This two-in-one unique restaurant deserves a stop, especially if you are looking for burgers and ice cream to fill you up and cool you down. They share the same building, only a brisk five-minute walk from the towpath. Boxcar Burgers serves “ simple food, done well made from the best local ingredients,” while the Towpath Creamery “offers healthy, all-natural farm-fresh ice cream from both Cold Run Creamery and South Mountain Creamery.”

Events: Fun Runs, Bike rides & Wine and Chocolate Walks

If running is your thing, sign up for the Potomac Street Mile. It will be taking place from August 1st through the 15th. Be sure to sign up before the close of registration on July 31st, 2020.

If biking is more your style, support Brunswick on August, 2nd 2020, and join Throwback on the Towpath. A physical distanced ride dedicated to celebrating the history of penny farthings, welcoming all riders.  

Further down the calendar, Saturday, September 5th, Brunswick will be hosting wine and luxury chocolates. Local venues gather to offer delicious samples, food selections, while live music cascades through the streets. 

Smoketown Brewing by Esther Herbers

Brunswick

  1. About Boxcar. (2020). Retrieved July 29, 2020, from http://www.boxcarcatering.com/about-boxcar/
  2. City Hall. (2020, July). Parks, Recreation, and Pool. Retrieved July 29, 2020, from https://brunswickmd.gov/?SEC=CF1E2F23-FC1F-4F29-870E-35A7D96F5FB7
  3. Creamery, T. (2020). Towpath Creamery. Retrieved July 29, 2020, from http://www.towpathcreamery.com/
  4. Heritage Museum, B. (2020, July). About. Retrieved July 29, 2020, from http://brunswickmuseum.org/about/
  5. High, M. (2000). The C & O Canal companion. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press.
  6. N. (2020). Brunswick Visitor Center. Retrieved July 29, 2020, from https://www.nps.gov/choh/planyourvisit/brunswickvisitorcenter.htm

Photo Contest Winners of 2020

By Blog

Congratulations to these photo contest winners of 2020!

Want to enter your photos for a chance to win the C&O Canal Trust Facebook Photo Contest? Visit here for more information on how you can submit and maybe we will see you next year on our list of winners for 2021. Happy snapping!

The McNulty Family Cleans up Violettes Lock on MLK Day

By Blog, Volunteer
The McNulty family has a passion for the C&O Canal National Historical Park, grown over years of exploring the Park’s diverse recreational opportunities.  At the start of the pandemic, they section hiked the towpath from Dargan Bend to Georgetown, soaking in the different landscapes and wildlife.  The McNultys enjoyed their experience so much they decided to give back to the Park by volunteering on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.   Read More

Lockhouse 28 Receives New Decking

By Blog, Canal Quarters

Lock 28 at Point of Rocks by Paul Graunke

Lockhouse 28, located in Point of Rocks, MD, is one of the rustic gems in the Canal Quarters program.  Our most remote lockhouse, this piece of history is only accessible by way of the towpath. Visitors can enjoy a  tranquil overnight stay with just a short hike or bike ride from the Point of Rocks parking lot. Read More

Outdoor Recreational Opportunities Along the C&O Canal

By Blog, Fish, Hike, Paddle

Sky Fire at Dam 5 by Margaret J Clingan

The C&O Canal’s official designation as a historical park is based on the Park’s rich transportation history, but the park offers a multitude of recreational opportunities as well. Visitors can enjoy everything from hiking to cycling, climbing, paddling, fishing, and more. There’s no shortage of things to see and do at the park, and you’ll enjoy nature and beautiful scenic landscapes along the way. Always check the Park’s website before heading out – some trails and locations close periodically. (https://www.nps.gov/choh/planyourvisit/conditions.htm)

You can also copy this itinerary into our C&O Canal Itinerary Builder here.

Jump to:

‘Towpath Hikers East of Harpers Ferry Near Milepost 60’ by Jim Kirby

Hiking

The C&O Canal National Historical Park has hiking opportunities for hikers of all skill levels, ranging from hiking on the flat, level terrain of the towpath to rock scrambling on the Billy Goat A trail, by far the most challenging of all the Park’s trails. In addition to 184.5 miles of flat towpath, there are 14 miles of trails in the Great Falls area, the Paw Paw Tunnel Trail, plus a number of trails that are adjacent to the park. Hikers should always bring water, wear proper footwear, and be prepared for changing weather conditions. Trail maps are available at visitor centers and on the Park’s website

 

East: DC to Brunswick

Mile Marker 9.9-10.9
Billy Goat Trail C
Billy Goat Trail C is the easiest of the three Billy Goat Trails. The 1.7 mile loop has both an East Trailhead at mile marker 11.2 and a West Trailhead at mile marker 12.3. The trail offers outstanding views of the Potomac River. It features beautiful wildflowers in the spring and even has a small waterfall.

Mile Marker 11.3-12.3
Billy Goat Trail B
Considered to be moderately difficult, Billy Goat Trail B includes some rock scrambles but is not as challenging as Billy Goat Trail A. It passes through a floodplain forest and along the Potomac River, offering beautiful views and oftentimes bird sightings. The trail is 1.4 miles long and can be accessed from the towpath near Anglers or Carderock. 

Mile Marker 12.8-13.8
Billy Goat Trail A
Billy Goat Trail A is the most demanding of the three Billy Goat trails at Great Falls with plenty of rock scrambling. It is not suggested for novice hikers, small children, or dogs. As you climb over angled rocks and boulders, you’ll be rewarded with magnificent views of the Potomac River as it squeezes through Mather Gorge. The trail begins below Great Falls near the Stop Gate and ends on the towpath just upstream from the Park’s Anglers’ access point. The hike is a total of 1.7 miles, but you can make it a 3.7 mile loop by returning to your starting point via the towpath. 

Mile Marker 13.6
Gold Mine Trail
The Gold Mine Loop Trail is considered a nature-lover’s delight, despite its close proximity to Washington, D.C. The most direct route to get there is the Gold Mine Spur Trail (0.8 miles), which begins near the Great Falls Tavern Visitor Center. It connects with the Gold Mine Loop that is 1.6 miles long. The loop has many intersections, all of which are clearly marked, leading to a network of other spurs and trails. 

Mile Marker 14.4
River Trail
The River Trail, just upstream from Great Falls Tavern, winds along the Potomac, affording views of small rapids, eagles’ nests, and rocky outcroppings in the river. The trail is both shorter and flatter than Billy Goat A, making it an ideal way to take in the beauty of the mighty Potomac without any climbing or rock hopping. The trail is one mile, one way. 

Mile Marker 14.7
Ford Mine Trail
The Ford Mine Trail is lollipop-shaped, meaning it is accessed via a straight out-and-back portion that connects to a loop. The trail is 2.7 miles long and easy to moderate in difficulty with one strenuous hill. While you won’t see any evidence of mining on the trail, you will be in the area of the old Ford Mine, a gold mine that operated in the Great Falls area.

 

Central: Brunswick to Hancock

Mile Marker 58.0-60.3
Appalachian Trail
The Appalachian Trail connects with the C&O Canal towpath at mile marker 58, following the towpath to Harpers Ferry, where it diverts across the footbridge and into the historic town. At Weverton, northbound hikers can hike approximately one mile to the spectacular view at Weverton Cliffs. Southbound hikers heading into Harpers Ferry can see Jefferson Rock and stop at the Appalachian Trail Conservancy before heading across the WV/VA state line in the direction of Keys Gap.  

Mile Marker 61.1
Maryland Heights Trail
The view of Harpers Ferry and the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers from Maryland Heights is spectacular. The vantage point is well worth the 1,200-foot-climb to get there. Hikers start from several different locations for this hike depending on parking, but the trailhead is located just off of Harpers Ferry Road near milepost 61 on the C&O Canal. The trail itself is a steeply graded 4.1 miles round trip. The Stone Fort Loop Trail adds elevation and another two miles to your hiking distance. 

 

West: Hancock to Cumberland

Mile Marker 144
Green Ridge State Forest
Green Ridge State Forest is directly adjacent to the C&O Canal in Allegany County. At 47,560 acres, Green Ridge is the largest contiguous block of public land in Maryland – offering 50 miles of hiking trails and 200 miles of both dirt and gravel roads through the forest. Across the Canal  at Lock 58, a side trail leads to the extensive networks of trails at Green Ridge State Forest. After 21 miles, the trails rejoin with the towpath at Lock 67.

Mile Marker 154.8
Tunnel Hill Trail
The Tunnel Hill Trail is an alternative to walking a half mile through the Paw Paw Tunnel. The two mile trail begins from the downstream side of the tunnel with a series of moderate to difficult switchbacks, before leveling out the winding back down to the Canal level. The trail offers a walk through history and outstanding views of the Potomac River and tunnel gorge.

Under the Western Maryland RR Trestle by Paul Graunke

Cycling

The C&O Canal towpath is a bicyclist’s dream, perfect for day trips or bikepacking, with hiker/biker campgrounds conveniently spaced throughout the Park. There are also a number of trails for cycling that connect to the C&O Canal National Historical Park.

 

C&O Canal Towpath
The C&O Canal has 184.5 miles of towpath. The gravel path is mostly level and perfect for cyclists of all ages and abilities. Bicyclists are expected to ride single file, stay on the right except when passing, yield the right of way to all pedestrians and horses, and walk bikes across aqueducts. Bells and helmets are recommended for all cyclists, and helmets are required for children.

 

East: DC to Brunswick

Mile Marker 1.5-3.1
Capital Crescent Trail
The Capital Crescent Trail connects Georgetown with Silver Spring, MD. Combined with the Rock Creek Trail, it forms a 22 mile loop. Built on the abandoned rail bed of the 11 mile Georgetown Branch of the B&O Railroad, it closely parallels the canal for 1.7 miles before taking a right turn toward Bethesda. 

 

Central: Brunswick to Hancock / West: Hancock to Cumberland

Mile Marker 114.4-136.2
Western Maryland Rail Trail: East Trailhead | West Trailhead
The Western Maryland Rail Trail is approximately 28 miles long and parallels the C&O Canal for its entire length, from Big Pool to Little Orleans. The easy grade and paved trail make it easy to travel. It can be accessed from a variety of points along the canal including Big Pool, Hancock, Pearre and Little Orleans.

Mile Marker 184.5
Great Allegheny Passage
The Great Allegheny Passage connects to the C&O Canal in Cumberland, extending 150 miles to Pittsburgh. The trail takes users over valleys, around mountains and alongside the Casselman, Youghiogheny, and Monongaleha Rivers on a nearly level path. Highlights include the Cumberland Narrows, the Eastern Continental Divide, the Laurel Highlands, Ohiopyle State Park, and Point State Park. 

Rock Climbing by Trust Staff

Rock Climbing/Rock Scrambling

Rock climbing is allowed within selected areas of the park. Climbing outside of those areas is dangerous and has resulted in visitor injuries. Rock climbers should use proper equipment when climbing and stay within their abilities. Rock scrambling is also allowed in selected areas of the park. Hikers should stay on the trail at all times to avoid serious injuries, dress appropriately and stay hydrated. 

 

East: DC to Brunswick

Mile Marker 10.5
Carderock Recreational Area
Carderock Recreation Area, located adjacent to the Clara Barton Parkway is the most popular rock climbing area in the park, with cliffs up to 80 feet high. Carderock has routes for climbers of all skill levels, including beginners. It’s a popular location for rock climbing classes.

Mile Marker 11.3-12.3
Billy Goat Trail B
Considered to be moderately difficult, Billy Goat Trail B includes some rock scrambles but is not as challenging as Billy Goat Trail A. It passes through a floodplain forest and along the Potomac River, offering beautiful views and oftentimes bird sightings. The trail is 1.4 miles long and can be accessed from the towpath near Anglers or Carderock. 

Mile Marker 12.8-13.8
Billy Goat Trail A
Billy Goat Trail A is the most demanding of the three Billy Goat trails at Great Falls with plenty of rock scrambling. It is not suggested for novice hikers, small children or dogs. As you climb over angled rocks and boulders, you’ll be rewarded with magnificent views of the Potomac River as it squeezes through Mather Gorge. The trail begins below Great Falls near the Stop Gate and ends on the towpath just upstream from the park’s Anglers’ access point. The hike is a total of 1.7 miles but you can make it a 3.7 mile loop by returning to your starting point via the towpath. 

Paddling at Antietam Creek by Nora Slick

Paddling

Non-motorized boats are allowed in several re-watered sections of the C&O Canal. Boats must be carried around lift locks. Personal floatation devices should be used as required by the state of Maryland. The re-watered sections are: 

Mile 0 to 22 Georgetown to Violettes Lock
Mile 99.3 to 99.8 Williamsport to Lock 44
Mile 112 to 113 Big Pool
Mile 120 to 121 Little Pool
Mile 124.1 to 124.7 Hancock
Mile 162 to 167 Oldtown to Town Creek

 

East: DC to Brunswick

Mile Marker 0.0
Thompson Boat Center
With easy access to the Potomac River, Thompson Boat Center offers classes and rentals for everyone from the first timer to the seasoned water adventurer. They can get you out on the water to kayak, canoe, row, or paddle. Thompson Boat Center is an authorized concessioner of the National Park Service.

Mile Marker 3.1
Fletcher’s Boathouse
Fletcher’s Boathouse is located close to the Potomac River and the C&O Canal. They offer guided SUP and canoe tours as well as boat rentals for paddling, rowboating, canoeing, and kayaking. Fletcher’s Boathouse is an authorized concessioner of the National Park Service. 

Mile Marker 5.6 
Kayak Run
There are 40 to 50 training gates at Kayak Run in Class I-II difficulty levels at normal river flow. Some of the nation’s most accomplished kayakers have spent hours perfecting their craft on Potomac River whitewater training runs. One training site is here on the feeder canal, originally built to allow the Potomac River to feed into the C&O Canal as it made its way into Georgetown.

Mile Marker 14.3
Great Falls
Paddling at Great Falls is extremely dangerous and best suited for expert level kayakers. Those in canoes should not attempt to paddle in this area. Rapids at Great Falls are classified as Class 5 and 6. 

Kids Fishing by Mike Mitchell

Fishing

The canal and the Potomac River have many fishing spots for anglers. The upper Potomac is considered one of Maryland’s most popular freshwater fishing destinations. Forming Maryland’s southern boundary, the upper Potomac offers fishermen more than 160 miles of warm water fishing opportunities for smallmouth bass, walleye, muskie and channel catfish. 

 

East: DC to Brunswick

Mile Marker 19.6
Pennyfield
Pennyfield Lock was a favorite fishing spot of President Grover Cleveland’s and remains a popular spot for anglers today. Northern snakehead fish can often be found here.  

 

Central: Brunswick to Hancock / West: Hancock to Cumberland

Mile Marker 71.7
Boteler’s Mill/Potomac Mill
Boteler’s Mill, also known as Potomac Mill, is on the shore of the Potomac River in eastern Jefferson County, West Virginia, half a mile below Shepherdstown. The mill is a popular fishing area, and the water is usually shallow enough to allow for wading to take a closer look at the mill.

Mile Marker 84.6
Dam 4
Dam 4 is a scenic spot on the canal with a beautiful view of its roaring waters. Those turbulent waters below the dam are popular with anglers. It’s a well-known spot for good walleye fishing and catfish.

Mile Marker 99.6
Cushwa Basin

The re-watered section of the Canal, from Cushwa Basin to just below Lockhouse 44, is a popular spot for anglers of all ages and abilities. From bluegills to bass to carp and even some catfish, it’s a great place to teach first timers how to cast.

Mile Marker 112.1-113.8
Big Pool
Big Pool is a 1.5 mile long natural depression that was filled with water during C&O Canal construction. Located within Fort Frederick State Park, it’s a popular fishing and boating site with a boat ramp. It is primarily a warm water fishery with species like largemouth bass, catfish, carp, bluegill and more. 

 

West: Hancock to Cumberland

Mile Marker 173.3
Spring Gap

Spring Gap to Hancock is one of the best fishing spots on the Potomac River and provides a wonderful place to relax in a peaceful setting. The boat ramp at Spring Gap is the westernmost boat ramp in the park.

Blue Heron Near Mile Marker 16 by Indraneel Samanta

Private Outfitters

Thompson Boat Center
Washington, DC
-Sculling, kayaking, paddleboarding, canoeing, bicycling
-Rentals, classes, group events and tours

Fletcher’s Boathouse
Washington, DC
-Kayaking, paddleboarding, canoeing, rowboating, bicycling
-Rentals, classes, group events and nature tours

River & Trail Outfitters
Knoxville, MD
-Tubing, kayaking, canoeing, bicycling, etc.
-Guided adventures, rentals and sales

River Riders
Harpers Ferry, WV
-Tubing, kayaking, canoeing, paddleboarding, etc. 
-Guided adventures, rentals and sales

Shepherdstown Pedal & Paddle
Shepherdstown, WV
-Kayaking, canoeing and bicycling 
-Rentals, sales and service, shuttle service and group rides

C&O Bicycle
Hancock, MD
-Bicycle rentals, sales and service

Get Out & Play! Outfitters
Cumberland, MD
-Bicycle shuttle service
-Canoe and kayak rentals

C&O Canal Trust Answers “What Are You Grateful for?”

By Blog, Content, News
The holiday season is almost upon us, and it is bound to look very different this year while we still maintain safe ways of gathering in the midst of a world-wide pandemic. The C&O Canal Trust staff are here to remind you that while the impending holiday season is bound to look a little different this year, we are all so grateful for everything we do have, namely the Park!

Celebrate with us and share what you are also most grateful for this November!

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Bird is the Word on the C&O Canal

By Blog, Nature
Calling all bird enthusiasts! If you love bird watching, the C&O Canal is the spot. The canal is home to over 120 species of birds, according the NPS website. We have collected some of the most iconic photos of birds around the Park thanks to you, our canal visitors! Read more below and get your birding on.

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Must-See Locales Within 5 Miles of the Canal

By Blog, Things to Do
McKee Bechers Wildlife Management Area

McKee Bechers Wildlife Management Area by Martin Radigan

The C&O Canal National Historical Park showcases a multitude of historical and natural treasures from Georgetown to Cumberland, but if you’re willing to go just five miles off the towpath, it opens another world of things to see and do. Along with the communities in the Canal Towns Partnership, here are some must-see attractions within five miles of the canal.

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They Answered the TowpathGO! Call

By Blog
Eight-year old Brody, who learned to ride a bike earlier this year, rode the whole of the towpath and the Great Allegheny Passage rail trail with his dad, Dan. His final 50 miles was his TowpathGO! challenge. He raised $6,430. “On the trail this summer, Brody and I have laughed together, cried together, physically pushed ourselves together, and celebrated together,” his dad recalled. Read more about Brody’s ride here: https://secure.givelively.org/donate/c-o-canal-trust-inc/towpathgo/brody-reppe Read More

Callie Fisburn Recalls Her Year with the C&O Canal Trust

By Blog
For the past year, I served as the Chesapeake Conservation Corps (CCC) Member at the C&O Canal Trust. This professional development program, funded by the Chesapeake Bay Trust (CBT), provided me with many valuable experiences and learning opportunities that will help me in my future career. As the CCC member at the C&O Canal Trust, I assisted with several programs, including Canal Quarters, Canal Pride, and Canal for All. I also assisted the communications and marketing team, writing several articles for the Canal Connection and Canal Quarterly. Read More

There’s Nothing Like Pawpaw Season

By Blog
Throughout much of the American South, Mid-Atlantic, and Midwest, fall arrives on the wings of red or gold foliage and the taste of the pawpaw fruit. Pawpaw (Asimina triloba) is a small understory tree with large deep green leaves that can be found from the eastern portion of Texas to South Carolina and north to Michigan. It is the only temperate member of a large, tropical family of plants (Annonaceae) and produces North America’s largest edible fruit. This distinctive but obscure-looking green fruit ripens in September and October and is relished by humans and wildlife alike. The taste is usually compared to a banana mixed with a complex assortment of mango, vanilla, pineapple, and citrus flavors. Read More

Hancock Bikers by Sam Judge

Day Trip Jumping Off Points

By Blog
Cyclists on the towpath in Hancock

Cyclists on the towpath in Hancock by Sam Judge

At first glance, it may seem overwhelming to choose where to begin your adventure on the C&O Canal. There are over 80 access points to the canal with ample parking. Begin your day trip adventures on the canal by checking out these suggested points of interest below! Continue reading or view by region: EastCentralWest

You can also copy this itinerary into our C&O Canal Itinerary Builder here.

East: DC to Brunswick

Mile Marker 0.0 – Georgetown

The C&O Canal begins in Georgetown, and there are many ways to access the canal in this area. Canal users can explore Locks 1, 2, 3, and 4, a picturesque series of four locks very close together, separated by boat basins. A bust of Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas is placed at Lock 3, in honor of’ Douglas, who helped raise awareness of a 1950s plan to turn the canal into a parkway. Tucked along M Street in Georgetown, just east of the towpath, is the Old Stone House. It is the oldest structure on its original foundation in the nation’s capital. The Abner Cloud House is one of the oldest existing structures on the canal. Here, The Colonial Dames of America, Chapter III, offer interpretive programs. Continuing upstream from Georgetown, canal users can see Fletchers Cove and Carderock Recreation Area, which is the Park’s premiere rock climbing area.

Mile Marker 3.2 – Fletchers Cove
A large parking lot off of Canal Road NW, near Fletchers Boathouse and the Abner Cloud House makes for easy access to the Canal at Fletchers Cove. The area is popular for fishing and boating, biking, hiking, and picnicking. You can rent rowboats, kayaks, canoes, and bikes at the concession stand or grab a hot dog and snacks. The slow waters make it an ideal location for fishing and bird watching. The Capital Crescent Trail crosses and parallels the towpath at Fletchers Cove. Built upon the abandoned rail bed of the 11-mile Georgetown Branch of the B&O Railroad, the trail is one of the most popular of more than 700 rails-to-trails projects nationwide. Downstream, canal users will find the Abner Cloud House and Georgetown. Heading upstream, canal users will find Lockhouse 6, part of the Canal Quarters program, the Cabin John Bridge, a National Historic Civil War Landmark, Seven Locks, Lockhouse 10, also part of the Canal Quarters program, and Carderock Recreation Area, the Park’s premiere rock climbing area. 

Mile Marker 10.8 – Carderock

Carderock is accessible from the Clara Barton Parkway with lots of parking. It’s a great location for those who enjoy outdoor recreation and picnicking. The western end of Carderock is the Park’s premiere rock climbing area, with routes ranging from easy to extremely technical. Billy Goat Trail C surrounds the entire area and offers a beautiful 1.6-mile hike along the Potomac River. Canal users traveling downstream will find Lockhouse 10, part of the Canal Quarters program where guests can spend the night living as the lock keepers once did, Seven Locks, the Cabin John Bridge, a National Historic Civil War Landmark, Lockhouse 6, also part of the Canal Quarters program, Fletchers Cove, the Abner Cloud House, and Georgetown. Upstream, canal users will come to Great Falls, where the historic Great Falls Tavern serves as a visitor center, and Lockhouse 22,

Mile Marker 22.7 – Riley’s Lock and Seneca Aqueduct
Riley’s Lock offers lots of parking for easy access to this section of the C&O Canal. Riley’s Lockhouse is well restored and local Girl Scouts dressed in period clothing provide interpretation and guide visitors here on Saturdays during the spring and fall. This is also the location of an engineering marvel on the canal. Of the canal’s 11 aqueducts and 74 lift locks, this is the only one that was both a lift lock and an aqueduct. Canal users heading downstream will find Lockhouse 22, part of the Canal Quarters program, and Great Falls, where the historic Great Falls Tavern serves as a visitor center. Upstream, canal users will find the remains of Goose Creek River Lock, Edwards Ferry and Lockhouse 25, another lockhouse in the Canal Quarters program.

Mile Marker 35.5 – Whites Ferry
Whites Ferry is the last of 100 ferries that operated on the Potomac River, transporting automobiles, cyclists, and pedestrians across the river from Montgomery County, Md., to Loudoun County, Va. This canal access point offers ample parking for access to the ferry, the canal, the boat ramp, and Whites Ferry Store. Canal users heading downstream will find access to Edwards Ferry, Lock 25 and Lockhouse 25, part of the Canal Quarters program. Canal users heading upstream from Whites Ferry will find the Monocacy Aqueduct, and Nolands Ferry.

Mile Marker 48.2 – Point of Rocks
Point of Rocks has been a longtime transportation crossroads, beginning with the Native Americans, then European traders and settlers, until the arrival of the railroad led to rapid growth. During the heyday of the canal, the town was booming with businesses, hotels, restaurants, and more! The canal terminated operations in 1924, leading to the decline of Point of Rocks. The original village is a county park and a parking lot for railroad commuters, however there is a deli, convenience and gas station store, restaurant, library, church, and the picturesque Point of Rocks Train Station. Downstream, canal users can travel to Nolands Ferry, one of the earliest crossings on the Potomac during Native American times, and the Monocacy Aqueduct. Heading upstream, canal users will find Lander, with access to the Catoctin Aqueduct, and Brunswick.

Mile Marker 55.0 – Brunswick
Brunswick was a small community of several hundred people when the C&O Canal reached the area. When the B&O RR established a major railyard there, the town grew dramatically, becoming very much a “company town.” Today Brunswick is on the MARC commuter train line to Washington, D.C. Brunswick’s downtown has restaurants, specialty shops, and antiques stores as well as the C&O Canal Visitor Center and the Brunswick Heritage Museum. Downstream, canal users can visit Lander, with access to the Catoctin Aqueduct, Point of Rocks, and Nolands Ferry, one of the most ancient crossings of the Potomac. Upstream, canal users can access Weverton, Harpers Ferry and Dargan Bend Recreation Area.

Central: Brunswick to Hancock

Mile Marker 60.7 – Harpers Ferry National Historical Park
The town of Harpers Ferry is located at the confluence of the Potomac and the Shenandoah Rivers and is rich in history. It was designated a National Monument in 1944, and later a National Historical Park in 1953. Harpers Ferry is an ideal day trip with all the things to see and do at the park, which covers a multitude of interpretive themes from the Industrial Revolution to the Lewis and Clark Expedition to the Civil War and Civil Rights Movement. From Harpers Ferry, canal users can travel downstream on the Appalachian Trail where it uses the towpath for three miles to Weverton, as well as Brunswick, and Lander, with access to the Catoctin Aqueduct. Upstream from Harpers Ferry, canal users can see a dry dock at Lock 35, Dargan Bend Recreation Area, the lime kiln ruins at Antietam Ironworks, and Antietam Aqueduct.

Mile Marker 72.8 – Railroad Bridge/Canal Road
The Railroad Bridge/Canal Road lot provides ample parking and access to some well-known locations along this stretch of canal. The remains of Lock 38, also known as the Shepherdstown River Lock, are located here. It is one of only three river locks on the canal and was used most often by Boteler’s Mill, shipping and receiving cement and coal materials via canal boat. Downstream, canal users will find Antietam Aqueduct, the ruins of Antietam Ironworks, and Dargan Bend Recreation Area . Upstream, canal users can see Ferry Hill Plantation, the Killiansburg Cave and Snyders Landing.

Mile Marker 84.0 – Big Slackwater
The Big Slackwater section of the C&O Canal is a modern-day engineering marvel. The reconstruction of a 2.7-mile section of towpath here had been closed for more than a decade due to flood damage. It reopened in 2012 and features a suspended, 10-foot-wide concrete walkway, anchored in the stone of the cliff embankment. Downstream, canal users can enjoy the impressive roaring power of Dam 4. There are lots of cave features along this section of the canal including Bergen Cave at Dam 4, Snyders Landing and the Killiansburg Cave, which is where a group of Sharpsburg residents took shelter during the Battle of Antietam. Upstream, canal users can enjoy McMahon’s Mill area, which has more cave features. The towpath then becomes quiet as it leads into the 10-mile stretch with no access points.

Mile Marker 99.8 – Williamsport/Cushwa 

Williamsport is a bustling hub of activity on the C&O Canal. It is the only place in North America where visitors can see a lift lock and refurbished lockhouse, a railroad lift bridge, a canal turning basin and a re-watered aqueduct with seasonal boat rides available. Lock 44 is furnished and is open to the public seasonally and canal boat rides are offered from Cushwa Basin over the re-watered aqueduct. Downstream, canal users can enjoy a quiet 10-mile stretch of the canal with no access points. This section follows close to the river and is exceptional for wildlife viewing opportunities and wildflowers in the spring. A historical marker at Falling Waters explains the area’s significance during the Confederate Retreat from Gettysburg in 1863. Upstream, canal users can see Dam 5 and Four Locks, including Lockhouse 49, part of the Canal Quarters program, where guests can spend the night in a lockhouse.

Mile Marker 108.0 – Four Locks
Four Locks (Locks 47, 48, 49, and 50) was a thriving community when the canal was operational. Today, several of the historic buildings remain, including Lockhouse 49, also a part of the Canal Quarters program. The area is now popular for recreation, from fishing and boating to bicycling and hiking. Downstream, canal users can access Dam 5 and Williamsport/Cushwa Basin. Williamsport is the only place in North America where visitors can see a lift lock and refurbished lockhouse, a railroad lift bridge, a canal turning basin and a re-watered aqueduct with seasonal boat rides available. Upstream, canal users can enjoy McCoys Ferry, with its Civil War history and beautiful views, as well as Fort Frederick State Park, which offers both historical interpretation and opportunities to enjoy nature, Big Pool, a popular fishing and boating site, and Licking Creek Aqueduct

West: Hancock to Cumberland

Mile Marker 124.1 – Bowles House/Hancock Visitor Center Parking

The Bowles House Visitor Center, at mile marker 123, is open five days a week from Memorial Day through October. Visitors can enjoy sitting on the front porch and, on occasion, may hear a ranger or local resident playing banjo or acoustic guitar. Downstream, canal users can view Licking Creek Aqueduct, Big Pool, which is a popular fishing and boating site, and Fort Frederick State Park, which borders the canal. Upstream, canal users can enjoy Little Tonoloway Recreation Area, with beautiful picnic views of the Potomac River, and Tonoloway Creek Aqueduct

Mile Marker 136.0 – Western MD Rail Trail
The Western Maryland Rail Trail (WMRT) runs parallel to the C&O Canal from Big Pool to Little Orleans. This parking lot at Pearre allows for easy access to the WMRT, and canal users can connect to the towpath less than a mile away at Lock 56. Downstream from here, many locals bike what they call the “bow-tie,” which utilizes both the WMRT and the towpath for 40+ miles round-trip. Bikers can experience the history and terrain of both the towpath and the restored railroad bed. Upstream, canoe rentals are available at Little Orleans Grocery Store/Bill’s Place by the Fifteenmile Creek Drive-In Campground. This is the canoe and float take-out point for the 21-mile trip through the Paw Paw Bends. The Fifteenmile Creek Aqueduct is also accessible from the campground. The rail trail now continues westward to Little Orleans, which includes the Indigo Tunnel Bypass, which utilizes ramps to the canal. 

Mile Marker 184.5 – Cumberland 

This terminus of the C&O Canal offers easy access to the C&O Canal Visitors Museum, housed in the historic 1913 Western Maryland Railway Station. The museum offers interactive exhibits and educational displays. Cumberland is where the terminus meets up with the B&O Railroad and the National Road. It’s also where the canal connected to the Great Allegheny Passage (GAP) trail which continues on to Pittsburgh. Downstream from Cumberland you can access the smallest and the last of the aqueducts along the canal, Evitts Creek Aqueduct, and the last lift lock on the canal, Lock 75. There are wonderful bird watching opportunities on this section of the canal, particularly at mile marker 176.87 where a marsh that was formerly a basin attracts marsh birds and other wildlife. Similar wildlife can be viewed at mile marker 180.35 where the berm is a marsh. 

Written by: Charissa Hipp

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Books for the C&O Canal Lover

By Blog

Photo: Old Railroad Bridge Pier between MM 97 and 98 by MJ Clingan

You may already be deep into your summer reading list, but you may want to add some of these popular books featuring the C&O Canal. Whether you’re interested in historical fiction, nonfiction, or books for children, this list has something for everyone who loves the canal! This list is not exhaustive; books were selected based on popularity, quality, and availability on major book-selling websites.

Historical Fiction

River, Cross My Heart: A Novel by Breena Clarke
An Oprah’s Book Club selection, this novel is set in 1920’s Washington, DC, and tells the story of young girl’s tragic drowning in the Potomac River, and the subsequent fallout in her Georgetown neighborhood. 

Canawlers by James Rada, Jr.
Set on the C&O Canal during the Civil War, Canawlers is the first book in a series about the Fitzgeralds, a fictional family of canal boaters who are also part of the Underground Railroad. This book is perfect for both C&O Canal and Civil War history buffs!

Historical Non-Fiction

The Grand Idea: George Washington’s Potomac and the Race to the West by Joel Achenbach
This book follows George Washington in his attempt to connect the East Coast to the Western territories by constructing the C&O Canal. This is an excellent read for fans of George Washington, the history of early America, and of course, the C&O Canal. 

Home on the Canal by Elizabeth Kytle
This illustrated book provides a thorough and comprehensive history of the canal from its origins and construction in the early 19th century to the effort to preserve it as a national park that culminated in 1971. The book also includes first-hand accounts from several men and women who worked and lived on the canal, providing rare insight into their daily lives and experiences. 

Children’s Books

Captain Kate by Carolyn Reeder
The story of Captain Kate follows a young girl whose family hauls coal on the C&O Canal during the Civil War. With her stepfather off fighting in the war, Kate must step up and provide for the family by making the difficult 184.5-mile journey down the canal. This historical fiction book for young readers is a great way to introduce your kids to the history of the C&O Canal. 

Guidebooks

The C&O Canal Companion (2nd ed.) by Mike High
This book offers a comprehensive mile-by-mile guide to the history and features of the C&O Canal with accompanying photographs and illustrations. The book also includes practical information about biking, boating, and other popular recreational activities in the Park. The second edition delves deeper into the history, featuring more information on the Native Americans and African Americans who lived in the region, as well as updated information on recreational facilities. 

Towpath Guide to the C&O Canal by Thomas F. Hahn
Another excellent and comprehensive guidebook, the Towpath Guide to the C&O Canal, also provides a detailed mile-by-mile guide with modern and historic photographs, and detailed maps of specific sections of the canal. The book also includes information about Canal Towns and the Canal Quarters program.

The C&O Canal Trust also offers a diverse selection of books about the canal at our online store, including guidebooks to the C&O Canal and GAP Trail, and local history books that feature stunning scenic photography of the most beautiful places in the Park. Browse the selection here

15 Most Instagrammable Places Along the Canal

By Blog, Photography

As many visitors of the C&O National Historical Park will tell you, the canal is a very photogenic place. From birds to flowers to landmarks, the canal serves as not only a place to escape from our busy lives, but a picturesque landscape for photographers to create art.

Below we have listed the 15 most instagrammable spots in the canal. We hope this will urge you to get out and explore the beauty of the Park. Share your photos with us by tagging the C&O Canal on Facebook or Instagram!

You can also enter your photos in our monthly Photo Contest.

Canal For All Partner Identity Responds to COVID-19

By Blog, Canal For All, Content

The C&O Canal Trust’s Canal For All program seeks to engage traditionally underrepresented audiences with the canal through education, recreation, and service. The Trust works with several partners in Montgomery County to bring groups of youth out to the C&O Canal National Historical Park for unique experiences, and one of those partners is Identity. 

Identity was founded in 1998 to serve Latino youth and their families. Today, they provide a variety of programs to the Latino communities of Montgomery County including after school and workforce development programs, a parent leadership academy, recreation activities, and more.

Identity has been a part of the Canal for All program since 2016. They have participated in a variety of activities with the Trust, including Canal Pride Days and Latino Conservation Week, which brings youth out to the C&O Canal and exposes them to nature through hiking, biking, rock climbing, and service activities.

“The environment and climate change are such important topics right now, and teaching youth the importance of nature and our parks is critical,” said Identity’s Program Director Nora Morales. “The only way to instill that is through experience. If you can create a connection to a place for a child, you’re instilling in them the value of protecting their environment. They get to pass that love of nature down to their children.” 

During the COVID-19 health crisis, Identity has been working hard to provide essential services to their community. Many Latino families cannot get to supply distribution sites so Identity has delivered food, medical supplies, toilet paper, and Chromebooks (to facilitate distance learning for children) directly to them. They have also been helping families navigate rental and utility assistance programs, and the unemployment process. In addition, they are providing critical health education about COVID-19 and ways to prevent its spread. 

Like many organizations, Identity has had to adapt and move much of its programming online. They are currently offering virtual after-school programs, one-on-one tutoring, and YouTube programs to their communities. Learn more about Identity and all the great work they are doing to support Latino families in Montgomery County here

“Our mission is to help Latino and other marginalized communities in Montgomery County thrive,” said Program Director, Nora Morales. “Families are usually economically isolated and children tend to miss out on recreational and cultural activities. We are constantly looking for new partners to provide new and unique experiences.”

Read more about the Canal for All program here

Go Back in Time with Canal Quarters

By Blog, Canal Quarters

Image: Lockhouse 6 by Kenneth Lyons

The Canal lockhouses are known for their proximity to the Potomac River, suspended in nature, providing a time capsule into the past.

The C&O Canal Trust’s Canal Quarters program enables visitors from all over a chance to experience a time in history when the canal was flourishing, transporting goods and services across hundreds of miles. The lock keepers that lived in these stone houses were the managers of the locks, ensuring travel across the canal ran smoothly between the various locks.

The lockhouses are not just a place where history is preserved but where the present comes alive. The guest books left in each lockhouse tell stories of the visitors who stayed there, breathing life into the homes that still hold the stories of the lock keepers.

From birthdays, inauguration or Martin Luther King Jr. celebrations, intimate, private weddings and Girl Scout troop adventures, the lockhouses have kept guests’ memories preserved within its walls. They continue to keep history alive just as the world marches on. If you are interested in planning a stay with Canal Quarters to make your own memories, please visit https://www.canaltrust.org/programs/canal-quarters/ to learn more!

“Once upon a time, there was a lovely girl from the wooded hills of PA and a quiet boy from a hi-tech computer town. Life was good, but something was missing. Then, one day, their youthful souls met, but they didn’t fall fast in love. Instead, they spent the next few years laughing ans sharing and they learned from each other. They slowly fell into a wonderful happiness. The boy [unintelligible] so quiet and the girl no longer [unintelligible] together they lived and laughed and shared many adventures: camping, hiking, biking, finding peace of mind in the great outdoors… fresh air, warm fire, smells and sounds of the wilderness.

The girl – a proud descendant of the unrefined, adventurous, and hard-working, Wiley Pennsylvaninans & Pittsburgh Steelers fans – was always searching for her next quest. So she rode her bike from Pittsburgh to Washington DC 318 miles!! From the Allegheny Passage across the Continental Divide to Cumberland where C&O Canal guided here through MD, WV, and VA into the nation’s great capital. She biked and biked. It rained and shined. She slept in a tent and bathed in the river. The boy bough her [unintelligible] when it was all over. Covered in mud, she met him in Georgetown on a Friday night, and as he loaded her bike and gear onto the back of his Toyota, Georgetown’s finest — dressed in high heels and suit coats — gawked to see the dirty girl covered from head to toe in mud!!! It was a great adventure!!!

Only last year did the fine couple learn of the lockhouse rentals, and wow what a wonderful surprise! And so here they are – 7 years after they met, many adventures later and preparing for their coolest adventure yet!!

There’s a bun in the oven 13 weeks 4 days

Sarah  & Chris 

Enjoying lockhouse 6 with one of their favorite people in the world Papa Joey & Navi”

“Happy Inauguration Day, Mr. President! Brookmont’s own Innaugural Ball was held right here at historic Lockhouse 6. It was a night of great rejoicing and celebration, with live music, singing… dancing, and of course lots of awesome food. We were doubly fortunate tonight to be honoring the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and his legacy of Freedom and equality for all of us – as President Obama so eloquently emphasized in his speech today. Four more years.

Jennifer, our beloved hostess, organizer and quartermaster, asked us to bring our own personal time capsules to Lockhouse 6, in the form of photos of our childhoods and young adulthoods – a record of a time before we knew each other as Brookmonters. It was amazing to hear all there stories, and to see all that hair. Lots and lots of hair! We’ve all done such cool things in our lives. Our own bit of history here in Lockhouse 6 was a great place to share them.

Here tonight were: Jennifer, Davey,and Jesse 

Jeff & Julie 

Alice 

Jane  & Harry 

Leslie 

Paul  & Ginny 

Alan 

Dan & Janet 

Jamie 

Mary  & Joe”

“Leaders and girl scouts of Troop 2518 had a wonderful time. We walked from Lockhouse 6 to Lockhouse 10 and had dinner with the rest of our troop. On the way we saw ducks, turtles and [unintelligible] along with lots of people enjoying the path. After we had dinner at Lockhouse 10 the girls shared skits by a fire. Each skit incorporated a fact about the lockhouses. We came back to Lockhouse 6 for the night and had a lovely breakfast. What a beautiful spot – perfect get away for our troop. Thank you for sharing it with us!

Thank you so much!

Leaders of Troop 2518″

March 23, 2014

“I am currently in my 60th year and decided that every day this year I would do something I’ve never done before. So today was staying in one of the C&O Lockhouses. It was wonderful. We are local. So last night we had a few friends over for dinner & had a fabulous night. I could stay another week if I could.

Marilyn

Germantown, MD”

June 24, 2017

“We had a great day here for Shawn’s birthday. Both the house and the scenery are beautiful. It was fun to step back in time playing jacks and pick up sticks, cooking in the period kitchen, and relaxing by the outdoor fire. What a great little gem in DC! Laura, Shawn, Anna, Josh”

Sep 2, 2012

“We ‘locked it in’ at the lockhouse! We got married on the porch at sundown, just the 2 of us & a celebrant under a clear, crisp, clean December night with a full-moon smiling down on us! A small gathering of friends & family joined us later in the evening to celebrate. We toasted with sparkling cider & ate yummy goodies! A midnight walk on the canal 23 degrees, under silvery light. It was a unique and extraordinary adventure & will start off our lives together with a blessing!

 

Keith & Debra

(Kensington, MD)”

Book your stay at one of the lockhouses and make you own memories!

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Show Your Canal Pride From Home

By Blog, Canal Pride, Content

The C&O Canal Trust’s Canal Pride Days events bring hundreds of volunteers to the Park to perform maintenance and preservation tasks aimed at readying the Park for the busy season.

Last year, Canal Pride Days kicked off on April 27 at Paw Paw, where over 30 volunteers came out to work on several projects, including adding stone dust to the Paw Paw Tunnel, beautifying 11 campsites, and filling in potholes.

The following week, on May 4, over 80 volunteers converged on Great Falls. Volunteers worked on repainting the mule shed, painting picnic tables, cleaning the fee booth area, and spreading over 40 cubic yards of mulch. Volunteers from the Friends of the Historic Great Falls Tavern worked on cleaning the tavern and the Charles F. Mercer canal boat.

The final event was held on May 18 at Cushwa Basin in Williamsport with 56 volunteers picking up trash, cleaning exhibits in the trolley barn, and planting native plants in front of Lockhouse 44.

Canal Pride 2019 at Great Falls by Simon Barber

This year, our 13th annual Canal Pride Days events have been postponed due to COVID-19. When stay-at-home restrictions lift, we will be ready to hit the ground running with our Canal Pride activities, working in small teams to beautify the Park and return it to its pre-COVID levels of maintenance.

However, there are several ways you can safely show your Canal Pride by caring for the environment in your own neighborhood. Take a walk outside if you are able to and pick up trash along the way. If you feel comfortable doing so, you can also pick up any pet waste that you see to prevent it from ending up in waterways.

Another way to show your pride is in your own backyard! Cultivate native plants in your garden and help them thrive by removing any invasive plant species. Native plants provide forage for pollinators like butterflies and honeybees and support greater biodiversity than invasives. For resources on native and invasive plants, visit the Maryland Native Plant Society and the Maryland Invasive Species Council.

 

Drawn by Sweet Nectar by MJ Clingan

Additionally, the Park’s volunteer office has put together some resources for staying engaged:

City Nature Challenge – creating an inventory of the flora and fauna in your own communities through iNaturalist. For more information, please visit: https://citynaturechallenge.org/

Zooniverse – virtual citizen science projects for almost any interest. https://www.zooniverse.org/

Smithsonian citizen science projects:  https://www.si.edu/volunteer/citizenscience

Maryland Department of Natural Resources projects: https://dnr.maryland.gov/Pages/Community_Science_Resources.aspx

Chesapeake Monitoring Cooperative – supports local organizations in water quality monitoring efforts and provides opportunities for people and organizations to get involved. For more information and a list of partnering organizations offering citizen science projects, please read on here.

Stay engaged with the C&O Canal National Historical Park and the C&O Canal Trust through social media! Follow the Park on Facebook and Instagram, and follow the Trust on Facebook and Instagram for COVID-19 updates, information about the Park, and cool photos. Finally, you can also show your Canal Pride by supporting the Canal Towns! Read about three ways you can do this here.

We look forward to welcoming all of our Canal Pride volunteers back to the park soon, but until then, stay safe and healthy!

5 Ways to Celebrate Earth Day From Home

By Blog, Nature, Things to Do

Happy Earth Day! We may all be stuck at home, but that will not stop us from celebrating this holiday. Find out how you can make a difference this Earth Day by implementing the five tips below!

1. Give Extra Love to Your House Plants
Got plants? Give them some extra attention by watering them and singing to them. Do some transplanting for those plants that have gotten too big for their pot.

Don’t have plants? You can find seeds without leaving your home! Save those cores from consumed fruits and veggies and plant them in small containers. You will be amazed at how quickly the ends of lettuce or an apple or lemon seed will grow.

Read More

C&O Canal Activities to do at Home

By Blog, Content, Things to Do

Great Falls Canal View Credit: Sean Matthews

Stuck at home? You can still engage with the C&O Canal! The C&O Canal Trust has developed several fun activities that you and your family can do to keep engaged and learn new things, all from the comfort of your home! Interested in word puzzles? Complete our canal-themed word search and crossword puzzle. The park also has some cool coloring pages on their Facebook page and a Canal Kids Online Portal with information and activities.

Explore the canal from home by browsing the C&O Canal Trust website, including our Canal Discoveries page which has information about several of the canal’s hidden gems.

Word Search

Download PDF

 

Crossword Puzzle

Test your C&O Canal knowledge with our crossword puzzle. You can complete it below, complete it online, or download and print a PDF.

If you get stumped visit this page to see the solution.

 

Written by Callie Fishburn and Esther Herbers

Women on the C&O Canal

By Blog, Content, History, Stories

Maryland is celebrating the year of the woman in 2021. To celebrate, we are taking a look at the roles women played on the C&O Canal. Much of the canal’s history focuses on men, but Karen Gray, the C&O Canal National Historical Park’s volunteer historian, pieced together information on the canal’s women. Read More

Charles F. Mercer Canal Boat

Experience the Authentic C&O Canal

By Blog
Charles F. Mercer Canal Boat

Mules pull visitors up the canal on the Charles F. Mercer canal boat. Photo by Roy Sewall

Although the canal stopped operating one hundred years ago, you can still step back in time and experience what life was like on the C&O Canal during its heyday. You’ll find a multitude of authentic canal experiences, historic structures you can visit or book a night’s stay in, and even canal boat rides, with and without mules.

You can also copy this itinerary into our C&O Canal Itinerary Builder here.

Canal Quarters Lockhouses

Arguably the most unique experience you can have is to stay in an historic lockhouse! The Canal Quarters program features seven authentic lockhouses along the C&O Canal that have been preserved and are available to guests for overnight stays. Step back in time and experience what life was like during the heyday of the canal. Each lockhouse has been furnished with furniture and accessories from a different time period and each tells a different story about the development of the C&O Canal. Each lockhouse can sleep up to eight people. Visit www.canalquarters.org for more information and to book your stay!

Aqueducts
Eleven aqueducts stand along the C&O Canal – some of the most impressive of the canal structures that stand today. Aqueducts transported the canal over streams and tributaries. Several have been rebuilt, including the Conococheague Aqueduct in Williamsport, which is watered and is one of the only places in the country where you can ride a boat over an aqueduct. Learn more about the C&O Canal’s aqueducts here.

Other Experiences

The C&O Canal National Historical Park offers a variety of other authentic canal experiences, including boat rides and historic canal structures you can visit. Read on for more, or view by region: East | Central | West

East: DC to Brunswick

Mile Marker 1.0                      Alexandria Aqueduct
An earlier attempt to relieve the congestion of canal boats unloading cargo in Georgetown, the Potomac Aqueduct allowed canal boats to cross over the Potomac River, connect with the Alexandria Canal, and deliver goods to the wharves at Alexandria, Virginia. This structure was built between 1833 and 1843. Only two of the aqueduct’s abutments and one pier near the Virginia shore remain today.

Mile Marker 3.1                      The Abner Cloud House

One of the oldest existing structures on the Canal, the Abner Cloud House and nearby mill date back to 1801. The site provided grain and excellent quality flour called “Evermay” to Washington, D.C. for nearly 70 years. Only ruins of the mill remain, but the house was restored in the 1970s. Today, the Colonial Dames of America, Chapter III, periodically offers interpretive programs in the house.

Mile Marker 5.4                      Lockhouse 6
Experience life on the canal with an overnight stay at Lockhouse 6, part of the Canal Quarters program. Lockhouse 6 is furnished in the 1950s time period and tells the story of Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas’s walk of the entire 184.5-mile long towpath to help save the canal. Learn how you can spend the night in this lockhouse here.

Mile Marker 8.8                      Lockhouse 10

Lockhouse 10 is also a part of the Canal Quarters program. Like Lockhouse 6, it provides a unique lodging option for your canal visit. It is furnished in the 1930s time period and tells the story of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) efforts to preserve the canal. With a screened-in porch overlooking the canal and full amenities, this lockhouse provides a restful spot to recharge from your canal explorations. Learn how you can spend the night in this lockhouse here.

Mile Marker 14.4                    Historic Great Falls Tavern and Canal Boat Program

Today, Great Falls Tavern, once known as the Crommelin House, is a visitor center for the C&O Canal National Historical Park, offering visitor services, exhibits, interpretive programs, and more. This grand two-story historic structure, completed in 1829, served a number of purposes through the years as a locktender’s house, a tavern, a hotel, and even a private club.

One of the most authentic experiences available on the C&O Canal is a canal boat ride. Experience life in the 1870s, a history lesson and a unique boat ride that includes a ride through a 19th century lock, complete with canal mules and costumed guides. You’ll get all this and more during an hour-long ride aboard the replica Charles F. Mercer canal boat at the Historic Great Falls Tavern. (Check www.nps.gov/choh for the schedule of boat rides. Rides are closed for 2020 and will resume in 2021.)

Mile Marker 16.7                    Lockhouse 21 “Swains Lockhouse”

Also a part of the Canal Quarters program, Lockhouse 21 is also known as “Swains Lockhouse” after the family who lived there for over a century. This lockhouse interprets 1916, the year the National Park Service was formed and the date when the C&O Canal was beginning to transition from a working canal to a recreational space. The lockhouse has been completely modernized with full amenities, including an ADA-accessible bathroom and a Murphy bed on the first floor, ramps into the house, and hallways wide enough to accommodate a wheelchair. Learn how you can spend the night in this lockhouse here.

Mile Marker 19.6                    Lockhouse 22
Experience life on the canal with an overnight stay at Lockhouse 22, part of the Canal Quarters program. Lockhouse 22 is furnished in the 1830s time period, reflecting on the early phase of canal construction and the architectural marvels that were necessary to make it functional. Step back in time and experience life as the lock keepers truly lived. Learn how you can spend the night in this lockhouse here.

Mile Marker 22.7                    Seneca Aqueduct
Seneca Aqueduct and Lock 24 are combined into a single structure here, the only place along the canal that this was necessary. This is one of 11 aqueducts that carried the canal over major tributaries of the Potomac.

Mile Marker 22.7                    Lockhouse 24 “Riley’s Lockhouse”
Riley’s Lockhouse is very well restored, with one-and-a-half stories over a full basement. Local Girl Scouts dressed in period clothing periodically provide interpretation and guide visitors through the historic home.

Mile Marker 30.9                    Lockhouse 25
Experience life on the Canal with an overnight stay at Lockhouse 25, part of the Canal Quarters program. Lockhouse 25 is nestled in the sleepy town of Edwards Ferry and is furnished in the 1860s time period, telling the story of the Civil War’s impact on the Canal. Learn how you can spend the night in this lockhouse here.

Mile Marker 35.5                    White’s Ferry
White’s Ferry is a one-of-a-kind on the Potomac River. Until it closed in 2020, it was the last operating ferry on the river, transporting vehicles, cyclists and pedestrians from Maryland across to the Leesburg area of Virginia.

Mile Marker 42.2                    Monocacy Aqueduct
The Monocacy Aqueduct is the largest of the canal’s 11 stone aqueducts. It is often considered one of the two finest features of the C&O Canal. It was built from 1829-1833.

Mile Marker 49.0                    Lockhouse 28 
Lockhouse 28 is the most remote of all the Canal Quarters lockhouses, located nearly a half mile from the nearest parking. This rustic retreat was completed in 1837 and is a reminder of the fierce competitive race between the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal and the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad in the race to reach the Ohio River Valley. Learn how you can spend the night in this lockhouse here.

Mile Marker 51.5                    Catoctin Aqueduct
The Catoctin Aqueduct is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It was built with two semi-circle arches on either side of an elliptical arch. The elliptical arch was not structurally strong and began to sag, leading to structural failure. In 1973 two arches collapsed leaving only a remnant of the eastern arch standing. The Park Service buried the original stones to help preserve them in case the aqueduct was ever restored, which began in 2007. The restored aqueduct was dedicated and re-opened in 2011.

Central: Brunswick to Hancock

Mile Marker 69.4                    Antietam Aqueduct
The Antietam Aqueduct is the fourth of 11 stone aqueducts in the Park. The 140-foot structure is built of limestone from a nearby quarry and has three elliptical arches. It’s located near Antietam Battlefield but actually sustained extensive damage by the Confederates during General Jubal Early’s invasion of Maryland in 1864. Learn more about the C&O Canal’s aqueducts here.

Mile Marker 99.2-99.8                        Williamsport Visitor Center/Cushwa Basin
The historic Cushwa Basin warehouse is open seasonally as the C&O Canal Visitor Center in Williamsport, interpreting the 1920s time period on the canal. The Park staff offer boat tours at Williamsport/Cushwa Basin on a replica launch boat that passes over the refurbished Conococheague Aqueduct. It’s the only place in North America where visitors can see a lift lock and refurbished lockhouse, a railroad lift bridge, a canal turning basin, and a re-watered aqueduct. Lockhouse 44 is fully furnished on the lower level and is open to visitors periodically throughout the spring and summer. Visitors can step back in time to learn about what lock keepers did and how they lived. Inside the Cushwa Basin warehouse visitors will find interpretive exhibits and visitor information. The Trolley Barn at Cushwa Basin features hands-on activities for children and replica historic toys. Days and times may vary for boat tours and visitation to Lockhouse 44 and the Trolley Barn. Visit the Park’s website for more information.

Mile Marker 99.6                    Conococheague Aqueduct

Completed in 1834, the Conococheague Aqueduct was built of limestone from nearby quarries. The aqueduct has three equal arch spans. Both armies launched raids against the aqueduct during the Civil War. Years later, the berm wall collapsed early on the morning of April 20, 1920. The boat traveling across the aqueduct fell into the Conococheague Creek and remained there until the 1936 flood carried it down the Potomac. A full restoration of the aqueduct was completed in 2019. Canal launch boat rides across the re-watered aqueduct are offered seasonally. Learn more about the C&O Canal’s aqueducts here.

Mile Marker 108.9                  Lockhouse 49
Experience life on the Canal with an overnight stay at Lockhouse 49, part of the Canal Quarters program. Lockhouse 49 is a two-story lockhouse furnished in the 1920s time period that tells the story of the canal community at Four Locks. With four canal locks located so closely together, the community was truly a canal community with stores, warehouses, a dry dock for boat repair, a school, a post office and a dozen houses. Learn how you can spend the night in this lockhouse here.

Mile Marker 116.1                  Licking Creek Aqueduct
The 90-foot, single-span aqueduct was described by the C&O Canal Company in 1839 as “one of the longest, if not the longest, aqueduct arch which has been constructed in the United States.” Constructed between 1836 and 1838, the structure is largely built of limestone and cement transported from nearby Hook’s mill, just across the river from Hancock. The aqueduct was first used in 1839 when the canal was watered from Dam no. 6 down to Dam no. 5. This was the same year canal operations began in the town of Hancock. Learn more about the C&O Canal’s aqueducts here.

Mile Marker 122.8                  Bowles House/Hancock Visitor Center

The historic Bowles House is open seasonally as the C&O Canal Visitor Center in Hancock. The house was built in the 1780s as a one-story structure overlooking the Potomac. The parcel of land, known as “Sarah’s Fancy,” was transferred from Lord Baltimore to William Yates around 1775. The Yates family occupied the house during canal construction until 1875, when it was acquired by the Bowles family. They remained in the house until 1905. Visitors can enjoy sitting on the front porch and, on occasion, may have the treat of hearing a ranger or local resident play banjo or acoustic guitar. Visit the Park’s website for more information and hours.

Mile Marker 123.0                  Tonoloway Aqueduct
Constructed between 1835 and 1839 of limestone extracted upstream on Tonoloway Creek, Tonoloway Aqueduct carried canal boats across Tonoloway Creek, a 31-mile tributary of the Potomac River. Cement for the aqueduct came from Captain Hook’s mill but during a water shortage in the summer of 1837, cement was imported from Boteler’s Mill and Baltimore. Learn more about the C&O Canal’s aqueducts here.

West: Hancock to Cumberland

Mile Marker 136.6                  Sideling Hill Creek Aqueduct
The Sideling Hill Creek Aqueduct was built between 1837 and 1840, primarily using Tonoloway Limestone from the quarry at the mouth of the Cacapon River, as well as Pocono sandstone rubble from Sideling Hill. The aqueduct has a single arch with a 70-foot span. The creek marks the boundary between Washington and Allegany Counties. Learn more about the C&O Canal’s aqueducts here.

Mile Marker 140.9                  Fifteenmile Creek Aqueduct
The Fifteen Mile Creek Aqueduct is a small, single-arch aqueduct. Built between 1838 and 1850, it is in excellent condition for a century and a half old structure. It was constructed with hard flint stone quarried at Sideling Hill on the West Virginia side of the river. In 1842, during construction, the canal company ran out of funds and work was suspended for a time, but finally, work was completed and the aqueduct began service in 1850. Learn more about the C&O Canal’s aqueducts here.

Mile Marker 155.0                  Paw Paw Tunnel
It took 12 years and nearly all of the Canal Company’s funds to complete the Paw Paw Tunnel, but it opened to traffic on October 10, 1850. The tunnel was built to save five miles of construction by cutting across a neck of land formed by the Paw Paw bends. What resulted was the most notable landmark on the Canal—at three-fifths of a mile and 5,800,000 bricks in all.

Mile Marker 162.4                  Town Creek Aqueduct
Town Creek Aqueduct is a single-span aqueduct. Construction began in 1837 and was abandoned in 1838 when the contractor quit during the Canal company’s financial crisis. It was completed during the final phase of C&O Canal construction (1848-1850) by Michael Byrne. It is the tenth of eleven aqueducts on the Canal and, like many of the other eleven, is missing its upstream wall. Learn more about the C&O Canal’s aqueducts here.

Mile Marker 180.7                  Evitts Creek Aqueduct
The Evitts Creek Aqueduct is the last of the 11 aqueducts on the Canal, and is made of “Fossilferous Tonoloway Limestone” quarried upstream and shipped to the aqueduct via a 1.5 mile railroad. Work began in 1839 and was completed in 1841 when the Canal Company ran out of funds, with final touches and service beginning in 1850. Learn more about the C&O Canal’s aqueducts here.

13 Canal St., Cumberland       “The Cumberland” Canal Boat Replica
Visitors can tour “The Cumberland,” a full-sized replica canal boat constructed in 1976. Guides in period clothing interpret the history of the canal and daily life aboard a canal boat. Visitors can also tour the mule shed, hay house and furnished Captain’s cabin. Visit the Park’s website for more information and hours.

Written by: Charissa Hipp

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C&O Canal Aqueducts

By Blog, Content, Explore Your Canal, History, Landmarks, Planning Your Visit

Eleven aqueducts stand along the C&O Canal – some of the most impressive of the canal structures that stand today. Aqueducts transported the canal over streams and tributaries. Several have been rebuilt, including the Conococheague Aqueduct in Williamsport, which is watered and is one of the only places in the country where you can ride a boat over an aqueduct. The eleven aqueducts are all different – the stone they were constructed with varies, including red sandstone, grey limestone, white granite, white and pink quartzite. Some have fallen apart and exist only as ruins, while others have been lovingly restored by the National Park Service to their former glory. All stand testament to the engineering ingenuity and devoted labor that went into their construction and the important role they played in the growth of our country. Read More

Canal for All: A Reflection Four Years In

By Blog, Canal For All, Content

In October of 2016, almost four years ago, the Canal for All Pilot Phase was launched thanks to a grant provided by the National Environmental Education Foundation (NEEF) and the Kendeda Fund. The two-year pilot initiative focused on connecting African-American and Latinx communities in Montgomery County with the C&O Canal National Historical Park (NHP) through the themes of work, play, learn and serve. 

Throughout those two years, the C&O Canal Trust formed ten new partnerships with local government, nonprofits, and businesses, and provided access to the park through fee-free overnight experiences and recreational programming. Read more about the launch of Canal for All and its efforts to engage underrepresented audiences here and here

In 2018 the Trust received a $19,000 grant from the Montgomery County Council to launch a Conservation Jobs Corps (CJC) program. The program was implemented in the spring of 2019 in partnership with the Montgomery County Department of Recreation’s TeenWorks program and the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. The season began with crew of youth volunteering in the park on select Saturdays to work on maintenance and beautification projects. Then, from July of 2019 to early August, CJC crews were employed to provide valuable help with park maintenance projects, and were instrumental in helping the park recover from severe flooding events in Great Falls and the surrounding area. Program participants were exposed to a variety of projects, while also having the opportunity to engage in recreation throughout the park. CJC members also participated in the Trust’s 2019 Canal Pride events. Read more about the CJC here

Teenworks Crew at Great Falls in October 2019

Throughout 2019, the Trust also continued programming with its other partners including Identity Inc. and Community Bridges. Youth from Identity Inc. were able to experience the park through a variety of activities during Latino Conservation Week, and two groups of girls from Community Bridges were given a free overnight stay in Lockhouse 6 accompanied by a mini-lesson from a Canal Classrooms teacher. 

Youth from Identity Inc. on a bike ride during Latino Conservation Week 2019

Looking ahead to the next phase of Canal for All, the Trust plans to continue relevant programming with our partners, foster existing partnerships and seek out new ones, and look for opportunities to expand the Canal for All initiative into other counties and communities. The Trust is also committed to weaving the values of diversity, tolerance, and inclusion into all aspects of our work and increasing the cultural competency of our organization and the C&O Canal NHP. 

3 Ways to Support the Canal Towns

By Blog, News, Towns and Communities
The Canal Towns, ten towns that line the C&O Canal National Historical Park, provide cyclists and tourists with lodging, food, and services that make the thru-ride possible for so many people. However, the merchants in these towns are suffering, as the tourism and hospitality industries are some of the hardest hit due to COVID-19 closures. As we enter what would be the start of the busy outdoor recreation season on the canal, please consider supporting the Canal Town businesses in the following ways: Read More

Georgetown

Places for History Buffs Not to Miss

By Blog, Explore Your Canal, History, Landmarks, Planning Your Visit, Things to Do, Towns and Communities
Georgetown from the Canal

Georgetown from the Canal by Tim Walters

Most people think of the C&O Canal as a place for outdoor recreation, but the park is designated as a national historical park because of its rich history. The canal’s history is multi-faceted—from its use as a transportation route with over 1,000 historic structures to its strategic location along the Potomac during the American Civil War and beyond. Today it’s not only a great place to enjoy the outdoors, but it’s a treasure trove for history enthusiasts. You can explore by region: East | Central | West

You can also copy this itinerary into our C&O Canal Itinerary Builder here.

East: DC to Brunswick

Mile marker 0.0                       Georgetown
Georgetown is situated on the Fall Line and was the farthest point upstream that oceangoing boats could navigate the Potomac River. Established in 1751 as a tobacco port town, Georgetown is where the C&O Canal begins. The creation of the C&O Canal provided an economic boost to the area. Transportation of goods such as tobacco, sugar, and molasses from the West Indies, as well as salt from Europe, passed through Georgetown. These shipping industries were later replaced by coal and flour industries, until they declined in the late 19th century. A flood in 1890, coupled with the expansion of the railroads, brought destitution to the canal, and Georgetown’s waterfront became more industrialized. The shipping trade vanished from Georgetown between the Civil War and World War I. In 1967 the Georgetown Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Mile marker 0.4                       Douglas Bust
Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas played an integral part in saving the canal from being turned into a parkway during the 1950s. His love for the canal led him to challenge editors from The Washington Post to hike the entire 184.5 miles of towpath with him to see why the space should be left untouched. His efforts provided a focal point for media attention and intensified the efforts of conservation groups who sought to preserve the canal. Thanks to his efforts, the National Park Service abandoned the parkway idea.

Mile marker 7.6                       Glen Echo Park and Clara Barton House

The bluffs above Lock 7 were the site of a Chautauqua, an adult education and social movement in the United States, highly popular in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. This one had only one successful season in 1891. Glen Echo Amusement Park then occupied the site, becoming the area’s premier amusement park for many years, until 1968. The National Park Service acquired the site, removed some of the amusement structures, and opened the park to the public in 1970. Since then the park has offered cultural and educational programming, and visitors can ride the historic Dentzel Carousel.

Just upstream from Glen Echo is the Clara Barton House, where Clara Barton spent the last 15 years of her life. Barton, known as the “angel of the battlefield,” was a volunteer nurse and relief worker during the Civil War. She later founded the American chapter of the Red Cross. Barton lived in the house, which served as a working headquarters for her relief operations, until her death in 1912. Today the house is managed by the National Park Service and open to the public for tours.

Mile marker 22.8                     Seneca Stone Cutting Mill
Seneca Stone Cutting Mill operated from 1837 to the early 1900s, milling stone from Seneca Quarry for many structures on the canal and public buildings in Washington, D.C., including the iconic Smithsonian Castle on the National Mall. The mill’s water wheel, and later a turbine, were powered by water from the canal. Seneca Stone Cutting Mill also cut granite and stone shipped from neighboring quarries. Granite and marble used in the U.S. Capitol and the Washington Monument were cut here.

Mile marker 35.5                     Whites Ferry

White’s Ferry is a one-of-a-kind on the Potomac River. Until it closed in 2020, it was the last operating ferry on the river, transporting vehicles, cyclists and pedestrians from Maryland across to the Leesburg area of Virginia. The ferry dates back to the early 1800s and gets its name from former Confederate Lieutenant Colonel Elijah White, who owned a nearby farm and purchased the ferry after the Civil War.

Mile marker 44.6                     Nolands Ferry

Nolands Ferry was an important crossing on the Potomac River even before the United States was a nation. Native Americans crossed here traveling from the Susquehanna River southward through Maryland to the Carolinas. Licensed ferry operations date back to 1735, with the Noland family operating the ferry here as early as 1758. Thomas Jefferson crossed the Potomac here on May 10, 1776, en route to Philadelphia to sign the Declaration of Independence. It was also the site of several Revolutionary War crossings, used by the colonists and the British. The ferry was surrounded by a thriving community but that faded with the construction of the Point of Rocks Bridge across the Potomac.

Mile marker 48.2                     Point of Rocks Railroad Station
The Point of Rocks Railroad Station, considered one of the most picturesque railroad depots in the nation, was built when the B&O’s connector line to Washington was constructed in the late 1860s. Its location, where the two lines meet, is truly unique. The station is unusually sophisticated for its rural setting, done in the Victorian Gothic Revival style. The station is a testament to the significance of the railroad in post-Civil War America. It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973 and is still used by CSX, the successor to the B&O Railroad, as an office.

Mile marker 50.0                     Point of Rocks Trail Tunnel

The rivalry between the C&O Canal and the B&O Railroad came to a head in the mid 1800s when continuation of both the Canal and the railroad tracks required passage through the narrow Point of Rocks section of the Potomac River basin. The B&O bought up much of the land in this stretch, but the C&O countered with a claim that it had the rights to the route based on a previous charter. It was eventually ruled the C&O Canal must share the right of way with the railroad as far as Harpers Ferry. To provide a little more breathing room through this very tight squeeze, the railroad built tunnels through two spurs of the Catoctin ridge following the Civil War. Once the Canal was out of business, the B&O ran tracks around the outside of the tunnels as well, and the Canal unfortunately became a dumping ground for the railroad.

Central: Brunswick to Hancock

Mile marker 60.8                     Harpers Ferry

On the night of October 16, 1859, abolitionist John Brown marched his “army of liberation” down the C&O Canal towpath and crossed the B&O Railroad Bridge into Harpers Ferry to raid the federal armory. The historic town of Harpers Ferry, much of which is part of Harpers Ferry National Historical Park, is a must-see for history buffs. Several historical eras are interpreted for visitors, from the Industrial Revolution to the Lewis and Clark Expedition and the Civil War to the Civil Rights Movement.

Mile marker 69.5                     Antietam Village and Antietam Ironworks

The remnants of the once-thriving village of Antietam and the old limekilns from Antietam Ironworks are just beyond the stone bridge over Antietam Creek. Located at the confluence of Antietam Creek and the Potomac River, this was the site of extensive iron-working facilities for most of the century following 1765. Pig iron was the major product. During the Revolutionary War, craftsmen forged cannons, cast cannon balls, and turned out muskets at Antietam Ironworks. In 1786, metal parts for James Rumsey’s experimental steamboat were forged here. Powered by water from the Antietam Creek, the village had a rolling mill, slitting mill, nail factories, large grist mill, limestone crushing mill, spinning mills, hemp mills, flour mills, sawmill, shingle mill, cooperage factory, woolen mill, and stove works at various times. During the Maryland Campaign of 1862, General Ambrose Burnside’s Ninth Army Corps passed through the village on its way to Sharpsburg. The ironworks suffered some damage during the Civil War but was rebuilt and operated until 1882. Antietam Village and Antietam Ironworks are on the National Register of Historic Places.

Mile marker 71.4                     Packhorse Ford

Also known as Blackford’s Ford, Boteler’s Ford, and Shepherdstown Ford, this is the site where Stonewall Jackson’s Command crossed en route from Harpers Ferry to Sharpsburg to join Confederate forces on September 17, 1862, during the Battle of Antietam. This is also where the entire Army of Northern withdrew into Virginia on September 18 and 19.

Mile marker 72.6                     James Rumsey Monument and State Park

Just across the Potomac River on top of the cliff is the James Rumsey Monument and State Park. James Rumsey was a pioneer of steam navigation and was the first superintendent of the Patowmack Company, a position that George Washington recommended him for. On December 3, 1787, Rumsey’s steamboat, which used a type of hydraulic jet-propulsion, made its debut in this calm section of the Potomac River. Hundreds of spectators witnessed the craft make its way upstream from the Shepherdstown ferry landing at a rate of four miles per hour. A 75-foot monument sits on the hillside to commemorate Rumsey’s first-in-steam navigation.

Mile marker 72.8                     Ferry Hill Plantation

Ferry Hill sits on the high bluff overlooking the Potomac River and the C&O Canal, opposite Shepherdstown. The property has been a farm, a restaurant, an encampment for Union troops, and, at one time, the headquarters for the C&O Canal National Historical Park. Ferry Hill was built by Col. John Blackford in 1813 and once encompassed 700 acres. Blackford had one of the largest slaveholdings in the area, owning 18 slaves and hiring part-time laborers as well. In 1850 the Douglas family moved into the mansion with their four children, which included Henry Kyd Douglas. Henry enlisted in the Confederate army in 1861 and served as Stonewall Jackson’s youngest staff officer. Maryland was a border state but because Henry enlisted as a Confederate, the Federals kept the Douglases under house arrest for much of the Civil War. Ferry Hill was used by both armies during the war and wounded Confederates were cared for here following the September 17, 1862, Battle of Antietam. Henry’s father Robert was suspected of spying for the Confederates. The Federals arrested him and sent him to Fort McHenry, in Baltimore, for several months.

Antietam National Battlefield

Located approximately 5 miles from the C&O Canal, Antietam National Battlefield is the site of the bloodiest single-day battle in American history. After three phases of fighting, more than 23,000 soldiers were dead, missing, or wounded. The September 17, 1862, battle ended in a draw, but was considered a strategic victory for the North, preventing England and France from intervening. Following the battle, President Abraham Lincoln issued the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation, making slavery an official issue of the war.

Mile marker 75.7                     Killiansburg Cave
After the Battle of South Mountain, as the Confederate army retreated and settled in Sharpsburg, the town residents felt the tension mounting between the Confederates and the Federals. Many families left their homes to go stay with nearby relatives while others found refuge in caves, including the Killiansburg Cave, along the Potomac River. Out of the line of fire, the caves provided a safe haven for residents to gather until the battle ceased.

Mile marker 94.44                   Falling Waters
Following the Confederate defeat at the Battle of Gettysburg, General Robert E. Lee and his troops withdrew into Maryland. Rain and high water levels made a retreat back into Virginia difficult so the army worked on making pontoon boats. Water levels subsided enough for the army to cross over fords at Falling Waters and also Williamsport, under darkness.

Mile marker 99.2-99.8             Williamsport

Williamsport is the only place on the canal where examples of major canal structures can be viewed within a half-mile stretch of the towpath. Visitors can see a refurbished lockhouse and its adjacent lift lock, the only Bollman Iron Truss bridge over the canal, a railroad lift bridge, a canal turning basin and a re-watered aqueduct. The railroad lift bridge is a rare surviving example of a short-span railroad vertical lift bridge. It was built in 1923 by the Potomac Public Service Company, where the Western Maryland Railway spur crosses the canal. Cushwa Basin is the only restored historical basin on the C&O Canal. The basin was excavated and rebuilt in 1994. The Cushwa warehouse was built between 1790 and 1810, predating the canal. It is one of the oldest buildings along the canal. Adjacent to the basin, on its downstream side, was the Cushwa wharf. This, along with the Steffey and Findlay wharf near Lock 44, made Williamsport the most important coal shipment point on the canal above the Federal District. Replica launch boat rides over the re-watered Conococheague Aqueduct are offered seasonally.

Mile marker 110.2                   McCoys Ferry

Union and Confederate troops clashed several times at McCoys Ferry throughout the Civil War, On May 23, 1861, Confederate forces tried to capture the ferry boat but were halted by fire from the Clear Spring Guards. They let the boat drift downstream where Union soldiers later retrieved it. On October 10, 1862, less than one month after the Battle of Antietam, Confederate General J.E.B. Stuart and his cavalry crossed the Potomac River at McCoys Ferry on his second ride around McClellan’s army. Part of the Confederate cavalry in the McCausland-Johnson raid crossed the Potomac here on July 24, 1864. The cavalry was on its way to Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, where it burned the town after residents refused to pay a ransom.Mile Marker 112.4

Fort Frederick

Fort Frederick State Park borders the Potomac River and surrounding parts of the C&O Canal. Within the park is Fort Frederick, built from 1756-57 at the request of Governor Horatio Sharpe to protect the frontier. It is the only remaining stone fort from the French and Indian War. It was also used during the Revolutionary War and the Civil War, when Union troops were often stationed at the fort to guard the canal. Today the fort and surrounding area is a Maryland State Park. Visitors can enjoy tours of the fort, interpretive programs, and living history programming throughout much of the year.


West: Hancock to Cumberland

Mile marker 155                      Paw Paw Tunnel

Made up of six million bricks and at three-fifths of a mile long, the Paw Paw Tunnel is considered the most notable landmark and greatest engineering marvel on the C&O Canal. It took 14 years and cost more than $600,000 to complete, coming in way over budget. The tunnel was built to eliminate six miles of canal and cut across a neck of land formed by the Paw Paw bends. Immigrant laborers worked on the tunnel in difficult conditions. A great deal of labor unrest including riots, strikes, violence, and even arrests, disrupted progress on the tunnel.

Mile marker 166.7                   Oldtown

Oldtown’s history dates back thousands of years to early Native American settlements in the area. Five of their trails passed through Oldtown; in fact, the town’s original name was Shawnee Oldtown. In the early 1740s, frontiersman Thomas Cresap established a fort near the Potomac River. His son, Michael, was the first white male born in Allegany County. Today, one of the oldest structures in Allegany County is the 1764 Michael Cresap House. George Washington crossed the Potomac here in 1748 when he was in his teens, working on a survey mission. The low water crossing of the Potomac River at Oldtown made it a popular spot for troops to cross during the French and Indian War and again later during the Civil War. Several Civil War incidents at Oldtown affected the canal and the B&O Railroad. In August of 1864, after burning Chambersburg and occupying Hancock, Confederate troops threatened Cumberland. Union forces amassed an unsuccessful attempt to trap Brigadier John McCausland’s Confederate raiders behind Union lines in the Battle of Oldtown on August 2.

Mile marker 182.6                   Wiley’s Ford

On the night of February 21-22, 1865, about 65 men known as McNeil’s Rangers crossed the Potomac River near Brady’s Mills and entered Cumberland, while approximately 8,000 Union troops were encamped there. The rangers captured Generals Kelly and Crook while they were sleeping and took them, along with their horses, down the canal to Wiley’s Ford where they crossed into Virginia. The generals were taken to Richmond where they were held in captivity.

Mile marker 184.6                   Cumberland

Cumberland, established as a town in 1787, was once the second largest city in Maryland. During the Industrial Revolution the mountains of the Cumberland region provided coal, iron ore and timber, which turned the city into a key manufacturing center. Other industries took off as well, like glass, breweries, fabrics, and tinplates. Prior to the arrival of the railroad and the canal, the National Road brought travelers to Cumberland. The railroad made it to Cumberland in 1842, followed by the canal in 1850. At that time, use of the National Road began to decline. The last stagecoach line stopped operating in 1853. During much of the Civil War, Union General Benjamin Kelley’s troops, headquartered in Cumberland, were responsible for protecting the B&O Railroad and the canal. Following World War II, industry in Cumberland began to decline, as did the population. Today, Cumberland is a member of the Canal Towns Partnership and features a variety of shopping and history for tourists to discover.

Written by: Charissa Hipp

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My Time as an AmeriCorps VISTA with the C&O Canal Trust

By Blog, News
I’m 10 months into a year-long internship as an AmeriCorps VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America) with the C&O Canal Trust. Towards the end of college, I knew I didn’t want to go straight into another degree program. I was interested in program evaluation, policy research, community, and international development. I was keenly aware that there was a disconnect between the theories and case studies I was reading about and the reality of community development and the nonprofit world. I strongly wanted experience in the nonprofit or public sector before I continued my education. For these reasons, I applied to the AmeriCorps VISTA program and accepted a one-year position working with the C&O Canal Trust and the Canal Towns Partnership. Read More

Remote Places Along the C&O Canal to Explore While Socially Distancing

By Blog, Content, Explore Your Canal, Landmarks, Planning Your Visit, Things to Do

Towpath near Shepherdstown by Alma Rebekah Hanna

During this stressful time of social distancing and isolation, it is critically important you take care of your physical and mental health. Fortunately, the C&O Canal National Historical Park can offer you fresh air, relaxation, and a break from the news coverage. The western section of the C&O Canal offers many remote points of interest that are less frequently visited than popular eastern hubs such as Great Falls. Consider visiting some of these western gems along the canal for a stroll or a bike ride along the towpath — but make sure you are following all social distancing guidelines. If you have kids, take our C&O Canal Scavenger Hunt with you!

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Exploring New Routes – On and Off the Towpath

By Blog, Explore Your Canal, Planning Your Visit, Things to Do
One of my favorite things about the resurfaced towpath is how easy it is to go from biking on the towpath to biking on the road. Before the resurfacing, I would never bring a road bike on the towpath, and even a gravel bike would be uncomfortable. So I would have to choose between a road ride and a towpath ride. Now I don’t have to choose. The resurfaced towpath opens up a whole new set of routes that combine the quiet nature of the towpath with nearby state parks, battlefields, and towns. Learn more about towpath resurfacing here.

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African American Heritage Sites Along the C&O Canal

By Blog, Content, Explore Your Canal, History, Landmarks
The C&O Canal is a great place to experience history! Visitors can learn about the construction of the canal in the mid-nineteenth century, the fierce competition between the C&O Canal and the B&O Railroad, and even experience life as a lock keeper with an overnight stay in a historic lockhouse through the Canal Quarters Program. But the C&O Canal is also a great place to learn about African American history in the region. There are many historic churches, communities, and heritage sites along the canal that preserve the African American experience in the 19th and 20th centuries.  Read More