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History

Women on the C&O Canal

By Blog, Content, History, Stories

Maryland is celebrating the year of the woman in 2020, the centennial of the ratification of the 19th amendment. 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

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

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 Read More

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

Celebrating Presidents’ Day on the C&O Canal

By Blog, History

Photo by David Everett Strickler on Unsplash

Many people are familiar with the C&O Canal’s connection to the Judicial Branch because of Justice Douglas, but what about the Executive Branch? In honor of Presidents’ Day, we ask how our Presidents have supported the C&O Canal and how they themselves have benefited from the canal.

With the White House only a 10-minute walk from the Park, various Presidents have enjoyed the Canal and the Potomac River over the years for both its recreational opportunities and its tranquility.

 

 

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Charles Fisk’s Impact on the Canal

By Blog, History

Written by Karen Gray- C&O Canal National Historical Park Historian

Charles Bezaleel Fisk (June 14, 1806–Jan. 11, 1866) is the only C&O Canal engineer who served throughout the construction period, being hired as a mere assistant engineer in 1828, rising to the position of chief engineer in April 1837, and leaving the canal in 1852. Fisk’s name is on the builders stone in the middle of the berm parapet of the Monocacy Aqueduct, the keystone of the upstream portal of the Paw Paw Tunnel, and the C&O completion obelisk beside the Wisconsin Avenue bridge over the canal in Georgetown on the NW side.

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April is Archeology Month in Maryland

By History

April is Archeology Month in Maryland! To celebrate, we wanted to bring you a look at the archeological work that takes place along the canal. The C&O Canal National Historical Park is home to nearly 300 identified archeological sites that span back approximately 9,000 years. Many more exist that have not been documented.

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Presidents and the C&O Canal

By History, Stories

The C&O Canal is wonderful for many reasons, but one of them is its vast history. With the White House only a 10-minute walk from the Park, various Presidents have enjoyed the Canal and the Potomac River over the years for both its recreational opportunities and tranquility.

Without further ado, let’s take a stroll through history on the Canal with our former Presidents. Read More

Recreation After Restoration: CCC Life Along the Canal

By History, Stories

William Allen lived and worked at Camp NP-2 in Cabin John, and was well known to his fellow enrollees as the “camp jitterbug No. 1” for his dancing all about the camp. In June 1938, the camp welcomed a new batch of enrollees from Baltimore. Not long after that, Allen stopped dancing – those “Baltimore boys” were experienced visitors to jazz clubs, and Allen was essentially shamed into early dancing retirement by his friends. Read More

The CCC and the C&O

By History, Stories

The C&O Canal National Historical Park (NHP) traces its existence as a recreational site to hundreds of young black men. These men, all of whom were out-of-work and between 18 and 25 years old, lived and worked at two camps (Camp NP-1 and Camp NP-2) operated by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), located along the canal near present-day Carderock Recreation Area from 1938-1942. Read More

Mercer Canal Boat at Great Falls

Experience History: Mule-Pulled Boat Rides on the Charles F. Mercer

By History, Things to Do
Charles F. Mercer Canal Boat by John Gensor

Charles F. Mercer Canal Boat by John Gensor

The 1870s are alive and well in the C&O Canal National Historical Park. Experience a history lesson, a unique boat ride, and the famous C&O Canal mules when you take a trip on the Charles F. Mercer canal boat at the historic Great Falls Tavern.  It’s a great way to see how folks lived and worked along the canal during its heyday. 

The Charles F. Mercer is a replica packet Canal boat, named after Charles Fenton Mercer who was the first president of the C&O Canal Company from 1828-1833. Packet boats like the Mercer operated regularly and carried visitors back and forth between Georgetown and the Great Falls area. Your ride on the Mercer will begin at the Tavern and take you upstream through a historic operating lock as your boat is raised eight feet to meet the height of the canal waters. The boat, fully loaded with passengers, will then be pulled upstream by the famous C&O Canal mules while park rangers in period clothing describe what life was like for people who lived and worked on the canal during the 1800s. 

Take a look at Visit Montgomery’s video to see what it’s like to experience a ride on the Mercer : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QDG_7nsUpnE. 

Tickets can be purchased at the Great Falls Tavern Visitor Center in the park at 11710 MacArthur Blvd., Potomac, MD.  The Charles F. Mercer boat capacity is 65 people and boat programs last approximately one hour. Rides are offered weekends, including some Fridays, during the spring and summer. Check if the boat is operating before setting out at https://www.nps.gov/choh/planyourvisit/great-falls-canal-boat-rides.htm.

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National Historic Preservation Month

By History

May is National Historic Preservation Month! Historic preservation is very important to us here at the C&O Canal Trust, and much of our work involves partnering with the National Park Service staff to preserve the historic structures in the C&O Canal National Historical Park (NHP). Read on to learn more! Read More

10 Architectural Wonders of the C&O Canal

By History, Landmarks, Things to Do

The C&O Canal National Historical Park boasts some of the most breathtaking scenery in the area. Not only is our Park magnificent to look at, but it is home to many natural and man-made wonders. The architects and builders who built the canal had to overcome rocky land, mountains, and changes in elevation, and through these difficulties, many architectural wonders were born.  Below, we take a closer look at 10 of them in honor of the C&O Canal Trust’s 10th anniversary. Read More

1850s shop ledger provides peek into C&O Canal history

By History, Stories

The archives of the C&O Canal National Historical Park (NHP) hold a merchant’s ledger (1856-1858) from Williamsport, MD that provides details about everyday life along the canal and insights into park history. The ledger’s more than 260 lined pages provide insight into the foodways, economics, and material culture of people along the canal whose stories have often become invisible to the historical record.

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Justice Douglas: One Man Can Make a Difference

By History, News

Imagine that a place you love, a place of refuge and retreat, is threatened with destruction in order to make way for a shopping center or an office building or a highway. What would you do?

That was exactly the situation Justice William O. Douglas faced early in 1954 when the neglected remnants of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal were threatened by the construction of a scenic highway. The proposed project would be much like Skyline Drive built right next to, if not on top of, the old canal.

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