Early morning jog at Violettes Lock by Paul Graunke
- 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.
- 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!
- 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!
- 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.
- 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.
The C&O Canal National Historical Park has a new Botany Fellow, partially funded by the C&O Canal Trust. Clara Thiel is completing her Master of Science in Applied Ecology and Conservation at Frostburg State University, and for the next year, she will focus on surveying rare, threatened, and endangered plant species in and around the Billy Goat Trail System of the C&O Canal NHP.
There are currently 102 known rare, threatened, and endangered plant species along the trails in the Great Falls area of the park. “I have never seen such rare habitats, so I am excited and am looking forward to learning more,” said Thiel.
The purpose of the surveys is to collect data from known rare plant populations and identify other rare plant species to ensure that planned rehabilitation work on the trail system will not have a negative impact on the future of the habitats and species.
Each day, Thiel will conduct botanical surveys of identified rare, endangered, and threatened plant species and search for new species not currently documented in the park’s records.
The park provides some of the only habitats remaining for these plant species across the entire State of Maryland. The C&O Canal NHP plays such an important role for certain plant species that they would not continue to exist in this region without the park.
The Potomac River Gorge area of the park, which is home to the Billy Goat Trail System, is one of the most biologically diverse areas in the entire National Park Service and contains numerous globally rare plant communities. Due to the sensitivity of the area and the extent of visitation and development, the Potomac River Gorge is in constant need of protection and monitoring.
“The park is experiencing an increased number of visitors. Greater trail and off-trail use of the park, coupled with the spread of invasive plant species, threatens the long-term survival of these plant species and communities,” said Andrew Landsman, Natural Resource Program Manager for the C&O Canal National Historical Park.
The Billy Goat A Trail can see over 2,000 visitors a day. Dozens of informal social trails made by off-trail hiking litter the area, threatening the survival of these plant populations. The Billy Goat B Trail is currently closed to the public for visitor safety as well as the protection of rare plant species.
The park also recognizes that this trail system is an important recreational resource for visitors. “We are doing our best to create a balance between stewardship of these habitats and providing recreational opportunities for the public,” said Landsman. “For some of these species, the park contains one of the only known locations in the region, and we have the responsibility to preserve them as best we can while still providing for visitor use and enjoyment.”
As Botany Fellow, Thiel is working to help identify species at risk of being disturbed or destroyed by the repair and rehabilitation of the Billy Goat Trail system and to inform a path forward for their protection.
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.
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.
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
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 email@example.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
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
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
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.
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.
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
- About Boxcar. (2020). Retrieved July 29, 2020, from http://www.boxcarcatering.com/about-boxcar/
- City Hall. (2020, July). Parks, Recreation, and Pool. Retrieved July 29, 2020, from https://brunswickmd.gov/?SEC=CF1E2F23-FC1F-4F29-870E-35A7D96F5FB7
- Creamery, T. (2020). Towpath Creamery. Retrieved July 29, 2020, from http://www.towpathcreamery.com/
- Heritage Museum, B. (2020, July). About. Retrieved July 29, 2020, from http://brunswickmuseum.org/about/
- High, M. (2000). The C & O Canal companion. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press.
- N. (2020). Brunswick Visitor Center. Retrieved July 29, 2020, from https://www.nps.gov/choh/planyourvisit/brunswickvisitorcenter.htm
Lock 28 at Point of Rocks by Paul Graunke
Sky Fire at Dam 5 by Margaret J Clingan
Snowy Prints on the Towpath at Big Pool Mile Marker 111 by Lesley Pearl
Celebrate with us and share what you are also most grateful for this November!
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: East | Central | West
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 raised 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 railroad came through in the late 1800s it was transformed and grew to nearly 2,500 people almost overnight. 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.
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 parallel to the Appalachian Trail 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, 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.
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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Photo: Old Railroad Bridge Pier between MM 97 and 98 by MJ Clingan
You may already be deep into your summer reading list, but you may want to add some of these popular books featuring the C&O Canal. Whether you’re interested in historical fiction, nonfiction, or books for children, this list has something for everyone who loves the canal! This list is not exhaustive; books were selected based on popularity, quality, and availability on major book-selling websites.
River, Cross My Heart: A Novel by Breena Clarke
An Oprah’s Book Club selection, this novel is set in 1920’s Washington, DC, and tells the story of young girl’s tragic drowning in the Potomac River, and the subsequent fallout in her Georgetown neighborhood.
Canawlers by James Rada, Jr.
Set on the C&O Canal during the Civil War, Canawlers is the first book in a series about the Fitzgeralds, a fictional family of canal boaters who are also part of the Underground Railroad. This book is perfect for both C&O Canal and Civil War history buffs!
The Grand Idea: George Washington’s Potomac and the Race to the West by Joel Achenbach
This book follows George Washington in his attempt to connect the East Coast to the Western territories by constructing the C&O Canal. This is an excellent read for fans of George Washington, the history of early America, and of course, the C&O Canal.
Home on the Canal by Elizabeth Kytle
This illustrated book provides a thorough and comprehensive history of the canal from its origins and construction in the early 19th century to the effort to preserve it as a national park that culminated in 1971. The book also includes first-hand accounts from several men and women who worked and lived on the canal, providing rare insight into their daily lives and experiences.
Captain Kate by Carolyn Reeder
The story of Captain Kate follows a young girl whose family hauls coal on the C&O Canal during the Civil War. With her stepfather off fighting in the war, Kate must step up and provide for the family by making the difficult 184.5-mile journey down the canal. This historical fiction book for young readers is a great way to introduce your kids to the history of the C&O Canal.
The C&O Canal Companion (2nd ed.) by Mike High
This book offers a comprehensive mile-by-mile guide to the history and features of the C&O Canal with accompanying photographs and illustrations. The book also includes practical information about biking, boating, and other popular recreational activities in the Park. The second edition delves deeper into the history, featuring more information on the Native Americans and African Americans who lived in the region, as well as updated information on recreational facilities.
Towpath Guide to the C&O Canal by Thomas F. Hahn
Another excellent and comprehensive guidebook, the Towpath Guide to the C&O Canal, also provides a detailed mile-by-mile guide with modern and historic photographs, and detailed maps of specific sections of the canal. The book also includes information about Canal Towns and the Canal Quarters program.
The C&O Canal Trust also offers a diverse selection of books about the canal at our online store, including guidebooks to the C&O Canal and GAP Trail, and local history books that feature stunning scenic photography of the most beautiful places in the Park. Browse the selection here.
As many visitors of the C&O National Historical Park will tell you, the canal is a very photogenic place. From birds to flowers to landmarks, the canal serves as not only a place to escape from our busy lives, but a picturesque landscape for photographers to create art.
Below we have listed the 15 most instagrammable spots in the canal. We hope this will urge you to get out and explore the beauty of the Park. Share your photos with us by tagging the C&O Canal on Facebook or Instagram!
You can also enter your photos in our monthly Photo Contest.
Photo: ‘Paw Paw Tunnel South Entrance’ by Garner Woodall
If you have never taken a hike to the Paw Paw Tunnel, you are missing out. It took 12 years for this canal landmark to be completed. At about 3/5 of a mile long and composed of about 5,800,000 bricks, the Paw Paw Tunnel is well loved for being one of the most photogenic locations on the canal.
Photo: ‘A Mill in Time at McMahons Mill’ by Wanda Poffenberger
Have you ever seen a mill look so pretty? After the closure of the mill due to flooding in 1922, the National Park Service revitalized this beautiful structure of canal history in Williamsport, MD. Today, you can visit and even stay at the various local campgrounds nearby; just be sure to check out the McMahon’s Mill Museum while you’re there!
Photo: ‘Monocacy Aqueduct’ by John Gensor
This breathtaking structure is located in Dickerson, MD. If you look closely at the Monocacy Aqueduct, you may find some of the exposed brick is a light pink color – a perfect background to any Instagram picture!
Photo: ‘Pennyfield Lock’ by Patrick Benko
Pennyfield Lock is anything if not extraordinary. It is well known for being a local ‘getaway’ for city goers. Even the great President Grover Cleveland visited Pennyfield Lock from time to time. If you desire to bring some historic views to your social media, this is just the place for you. Pennyfield Lock is also home to one of our lockhouses available for your next canal getaway. Find out more here.
Photo: ‘Canal in Georgetown’ by Tim Walters
A beloved canal town, Georgetown is a very scenic spot for those who enjoy the quaint atmosphere of a small town tucked away in an antique time. The canal flows through the town, and because of the Venice-like views, it is quite photograph-worthy. In the town, you can explore the streets, where you are bound to find even more photogenic nooks and crannies.
Photo: ‘Conococheague Aqueduct’ – Williamsport by Ellen Kinzer
At 196 ft long, the Conococheague Aqueduct is the second largest aqueduct in the park behind the Monocacy. If you get the opportunity to visit the Conococheague, be sure to take a ride on one of the canal boats. It’s definitely worth the picture.
Photo: ‘Violettes Lock’ by Stan Collyer
Located in Darnestown, MD, Violettes Lock is a great place to snap a picture of the Potomac River during a breathtaking sunset. The exposed brick of this lock is made of the famous red sandstone that can also be found in Seneca.
Photo: ‘Dam 4’ by MJ Clingan
If you have ever visited Dam 4, you know that even pictures of this landmark are ones you can hear. Dam 4 was built to divert water for 22 miles of the canal, and it is not surprising that as you come up to it, that you can hear it before you see it. Today, the dam works to provide energy for the whole of Washington County.
Photo: ‘Big Slackwater’ by Ellen Kinzer
After Hurricane Agnes destroyed the part of the towpath at Big Slackwater, many people were unable to enjoy the 2.7 miles of towpath that connected mileposts 84 through 89. In the fall of 2012, the Park completed their restoration project, allowing for visiting hikers and bikers to appreciate this section of the canal.
Photo: ‘Dawn’s Glow’ – Great Falls Overlook on Falls Island by Roy Sewall
Can’t make it to Niagara Falls? Great Falls in Potomac, MD is a local spot that will give Niagara a run for its money. Just follow the quarter-mile footbridge to the scenic overlook and spend your day in awe of the magnificent view.
Photo: ‘Harpers Ferry Foilage’ by Kevin Donohoe
Harpers Ferry, a canal town located in West Virginia, is the perfect place to capture that instagram-worthy shot of foggy mountain foliage. Harpers Ferry is known for this historically famous John Brown Raid that made a big difference in the Civil War. Be sure to check out the many hiking opportunities in the area. Maryland Heights is a popular hike that can give you a breathtaking view of the small town.
Photo: ‘Lock 28 at Point of Rocks’ by Paul Graunke
From 1828 to 1832, Point of Rocks was at the center of a feud between the C&O Canal and the B&O Railroad. For these two companies, Point of Rocks was an important spot for the two major modes of transportation; what resulted was a court battle that ultimately ended with the government siding in favor of the canal. Despite this, the railroad was completed way before the canal, making it obsolete. Today, Point of Rocks contains many landmarks that are especially beautiful and worthy of photographic appreciation. Find out how you can plan your stay at the lockhouse in Point of Rocks here!
Photo: ‘Little Pool Day’ by Lesley Pearl
Looking for your moment of zen? Little Pool is a great spot to go nature watching. With a scenic view of the water and the critters that live all around the area, Little Pool will easily become your happy place.
Photo: ‘Dam 5’ by Craig Kuhn
Dam 5, like Dam 4, maintains water levels by diverting water into the canal and providing hydroelectricity for neighboring areas. The brick house that sits beside the dam was once used as a paper mill for a short period in 1887 to 1891.
Photo: ‘Great Falls Tavern’ by Mike Mitchell
Great Falls Tavern is one of the most iconic structures of the canal. Night or day, this landmark is impressive; it’s no wonder that visitors love taking pictures of it! W.W. Fenlon was the first locktender, and he convinced the canal company to allow him to build an inn at Great Falls. Visitors to the inn would also visit the tavern – then called the Crommelin House.
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.
Image: Lockhouse 6 by Kenneth Lyons
The Canal lockhouses are known for their proximity to the Potomac River, suspended in nature, providing a time capsule into the past.
The C&O Canal Trust’s Canal Quarters program enables visitors from all over a chance to experience a time in history when the canal was flourishing, transporting goods and services across hundreds of miles. The lock keepers that lived in these stone houses were the managers of the locks, ensuring travel across the canal ran smoothly between the various locks.
The lockhouses are not just a place where history is preserved but where the present comes alive. The guest books left in each lockhouse tell stories of the visitors who stayed there, breathing life into the homes that still hold the stories of the lock keepers.
From birthdays, inauguration or Martin Luther King Jr. celebrations, intimate, private weddings and Girl Scout troop adventures, the lockhouses have kept guests’ memories preserved within its walls. They continue to keep history alive just as the world marches on. If you are interested in planning a stay with Canal Quarters to make your own memories, please visit https://www.canaltrust.org/programs/canal-quarters/ to learn more!
“Once upon a time, there was a lovely girl from the wooded hills of PA and a quiet boy from a hi-tech computer town. Life was good, but something was missing. Then, one day, their youthful souls met, but they didn’t fall fast in love. Instead, they spent the next few years laughing ans sharing and they learned from each other. They slowly fell into a wonderful happiness. The boy [unintelligible] so quiet and the girl no longer [unintelligible] together they lived and laughed and shared many adventures: camping, hiking, biking, finding peace of mind in the great outdoors… fresh air, warm fire, smells and sounds of the wilderness.
The girl – a proud descendant of the unrefined, adventurous, and hard-working, Wiley Pennsylvaninans & Pittsburgh Steelers fans – was always searching for her next quest. So she rode her bike from Pittsburgh to Washington DC 318 miles!! From the Allegheny Passage across the Continental Divide to Cumberland where C&O Canal guided here through MD, WV, and VA into the nation’s great capital. She biked and biked. It rained and shined. She slept in a tent and bathed in the river. The boy bough her [unintelligible] when it was all over. Covered in mud, she met him in Georgetown on a Friday night, and as he loaded her bike and gear onto the back of his Toyota, Georgetown’s finest — dressed in high heels and suit coats — gawked to see the dirty girl covered from head to toe in mud!!! It was a great adventure!!!
Only last year did the fine couple learn of the lockhouse rentals, and wow what a wonderful surprise! And so here they are – 7 years after they met, many adventures later and preparing for their coolest adventure yet!!
There’s a bun in the oven 13 weeks 4 days
Sarah & Chris
Enjoying lockhouse 6 with one of their favorite people in the world Papa Joey & Navi”
“Happy Inauguration Day, Mr. President! Brookmont’s own Innaugural Ball was held right here at historic Lockhouse 6. It was a night of great rejoicing and celebration, with live music, singing… dancing, and of course lots of awesome food. We were doubly fortunate tonight to be honoring the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and his legacy of Freedom and equality for all of us – as President Obama so eloquently emphasized in his speech today. Four more years.
Jennifer, our beloved hostess, organizer and quartermaster, asked us to bring our own personal time capsules to Lockhouse 6, in the form of photos of our childhoods and young adulthoods – a record of a time before we knew each other as Brookmonters. It was amazing to hear all there stories, and to see all that hair. Lots and lots of hair! We’ve all done such cool things in our lives. Our own bit of history here in Lockhouse 6 was a great place to share them.
Here tonight were: Jennifer, Davey,and Jesse
Jeff & Julie
Jane & Harry
Paul & Ginny
Dan & Janet
Mary & Joe”
“Leaders and girl scouts of Troop 2518 had a wonderful time. We walked from Lockhouse 6 to Lockhouse 10 and had dinner with the rest of our troop. On the way we saw ducks, turtles and [unintelligible] along with lots of people enjoying the path. After we had dinner at Lockhouse 10 the girls shared skits by a fire. Each skit incorporated a fact about the lockhouses. We came back to Lockhouse 6 for the night and had a lovely breakfast. What a beautiful spot – perfect get away for our troop. Thank you for sharing it with us!
Thank you so much!
Leaders of Troop 2518″
March 23, 2014
“I am currently in my 60th year and decided that every day this year I would do something I’ve never done before. So today was staying in one of the C&O Lockhouses. It was wonderful. We are local. So last night we had a few friends over for dinner & had a fabulous night. I could stay another week if I could.
June 24, 2017
“We had a great day here for Shawn’s birthday. Both the house and the scenery are beautiful. It was fun to step back in time playing jacks and pick up sticks, cooking in the period kitchen, and relaxing by the outdoor fire. What a great little gem in DC! Laura, Shawn, Anna, Josh”
Sep 2, 2012
“We ‘locked it in’ at the lockhouse! We got married on the porch at sundown, just the 2 of us & a celebrant under a clear, crisp, clean December night with a full-moon smiling down on us! A small gathering of friends & family joined us later in the evening to celebrate. We toasted with sparkling cider & ate yummy goodies! A midnight walk on the canal 23 degrees, under silvery light. It was a unique and extraordinary adventure & will start off our lives together with a blessing!
Keith & Debra
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.
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.
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!
Happy Earth Day! We may all be stuck at home, but that will not stop us from celebrating this holiday. Find out how you can make a difference this Earth Day by implementing the five tips below!
1. Give Extra Love to Your House Plants
Don’t have plants? You can find seeds without leaving your home! Save those cores from consumed fruits and veggies and plant them in small containers. You will be amazed at how quickly the ends of lettuce or an apple or lemon seed will grow.
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.
If you get stumped visit this page to see the solution.
Written by Callie Fishburn and Esther Herbers
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
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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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
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.
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.
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.
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!