‘Resurfaced Towpath’ by Simon Barber
Thanks to the funding support of private donors to the C&O Canal Trust, along with funds from the National Park Service and the State of Maryland, resurfacing crews continue their march up the towpath. As of this spring, 42 miles of the C&O Canal’s towpath between Edwards Ferry and Lock 38/Shepherdstown Bridge have been graded and resurfaced. The Park anticipates a further 14 miles from Swains Lock to Edwards Ferry to be completed by the end of 2020.
The work is part of the “Towpath Rehabilitation: A Safe Towpath” project, aimed at improving more than 80 miles of the 184.5 mile-long towpath by removing the rocks, roots, and ruts in the towpath surface that can be dangerous to cyclists and hikers. “Nearly 5 million visitors recreate along the C&O Canal each year and nearly all of them use the towpath for a variety of activities,” Superintendent Tina Cappetta said. “We want to ensure that our visitors have a safe, durable towpath for years to come.”
Besides removing obstacles from the towpath, the resurfacing work is also removing the grassy median strip that contributes to puddling. Crews are then grading the towpath to facilitate water runoff and resurfacing it with the same crushed stone dust that is used on the Great Allegheny Passage, the rail trail that connects to the C&O Canal towpath in Cumberland, MD, and runs to Pittsburgh, PA.
The current towpath surface is gravel over clay, which holds water and is prone to muddiness when wet. The new crushed stone dust does not retain water when applied to a properly graded surface and hardens with use, making it less likely to erode and rut. It is also easier to maintain over time.
The C&O Canal Trust has raised funds to support this work and engage an engineering consultant to provide technical expertise to the National Park Service for this project. We have also assisted with advocacy work to secure $1.14 million as of 2019 from Maryland’s Transportation Alternatives Program.
REI Group Shot by Trust Staff
REI is well known as a retailer that sells quality gear to outdoor enthusiasts. What is less well known is that the Seattle-based co-op is also an industry leader in supporting organizations that provide stewardship for parks and public lands around the nation. Since 2012, as our premier Canal Pride sponsor, REI has contributed close to $90,000 to fund the work our Canal Pride volunteers do to improve access to the C&O Canal National Historical Park’s recreational assets. This generous support is driven by REI’s philosophy that a life outdoors is a life well-lived. For folks to enjoy that experience, they need places in nature that are welcoming and accessible, be they residents of city, suburbs, or country.
The C&O Canal Trust is the recipient of an REI “Place Grant” that funds projects to improve access to the Park’s great recreational assets. With REI’s support, the Trust’s Canal Pride volunteers work each year to repair the towpath, provide paddlers with access to the Potomac River, improve popular trails like the Billy Goat Trail, and spruce up campgrounds and picnic areas.
“With the 2019 visitation to the Park at a 30-year high of 5.1 million, this work is increasingly important,” said Trust President Robin Zanotti. “REI’s support helps ensure that today’s visitors have a great experience and choose to come back again and again.”
The co-op’s engagement in the Park extends beyond grant-making. Employees from REI’s local stores volunteer for Canal Pride and run a variety of programs in the Park such as climbing classes at Carderock and sunset hikes along the towpath and other trails. As the effects of climate change become more apparent, REI believes that getting people outdoors is an important part of the solution. Since 2014, the co-op has closed its stores nationwide on Black Friday to encourage Americans to use that day to enjoy nature rather than hit the shopping mall. “On average, people spend 95 percent of their time indoors,” said Naz Ahmed, Experiences and Philanthropy Manager for REI Mid-Atlantic. “They are facing a nature deficit and that impacts our ability to combat climate change. As the naturalist David Attenborough once said, ‘No one will protect what they don’t care about, and no one will care about what they haven’t experienced.'” In partnership with REI, the Trust is working to overcome that deficit.
- 1. The C&O Canal is run by the ______
Answer: National Park Service
The National Park Service runs 419 units including battlefields, monuments, historical parks, parkways, scenic trails and more.
2. A National Scenic Trail that intersects with the C&O Canal (abbreviation)
The Appalachian Trail or AT, is a National Scenic Trail that runs from Georgia to Maine. Harpers Ferry is considered the midpoint of the trail. The AT intersects with the C&O Canal outside of Harpers Ferry, runs for 2.6 miles along the towpath and diverges at Lock 31.
- Animal seen sunning on a rock
- Something canal boats transported
The canal transported coal, flour, iron, and limestone products. Learn more about what the canal and railroad transported here.
- Where a lock keeper lived
The men, women, and families that operated the locks lived in nearby lockhouses.
- River that runs alongside the Canal
- National Historical Park that intersects with the C&O Canal
Canal visitors can access Harpers Ferry at mile marker 60.7. Harpers Ferry NHP interprets the story of John Brown’s Raid, an unsuccessful attempt to start a slave revolt in 1859 that was a precursor to the Civil War.
- Transportation system that raced to be completed before the canal
Learn more about the race between the C&O Canal and the B&O railroad here.
- Animals pulling canal boats walked on the ______
Mules towed canal boats on the path next to the canal, giving it the name “towpath”.
- A tunnel and fruit found in the Park
Answer: Paw Paw
- Supreme Court Justice who walked to help save the canal
Justice William O Douglas advocated for preserving the canal instead of turning it into a parkway. He walked the length of the canal with nine editors from the Washington Post.
- Animal used to move canal boats
Today you can meet the mules of the C&O Canal.
- Family that lived in Lockhouse 21
Lockhouse 21 or ‘Swains’ was rehabilitated in 2019 and is available for overnight stays. Generations of Swains lived in Lockhouse 21 for 99 years, including current C&O Canal Trust board member Bert Swain.
- There are 36 ______ sites along the C&O Canal
There are 31 rustics hiker-biker campsites and five drive-in campsites in the Park.
- Terminus of the C&O Canal
Although the Canal Company planned to continue on to Pittsburgh, financial troubles and the superiority of the railroad contributed to the canal ending in Cumberland. Cumberland is now a member of the Canal Town Partnership and is where the C&O Canal meets the Great Allegheny Passage.
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 only 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.
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, offer 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.
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.
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.) (link to https://www.nps.gov/choh/planyourvisit/conditions.htm)
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.
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.
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 provide interpretation and guide visitors through the historic home on Saturdays during the spring and fall. – Ben, is this still open?
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.
Mile Marker 35.5 White’s Ferry
White’s Ferry is a one-of-a-kind on the Potomac River. It is 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.
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. 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/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 offers 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 at various times 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, as well as availability to visit Lockhouse 44 and the Trolley Barn.
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. Visit www.canalquarters.org for more information and to book your stay!
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.
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 166.7 Lockhouse 70 – Explore a Lockhouse
Lockhouse 70 is located at the center of Oldtown. It burned and was re-built in 1906. During the summer months, it is open to the public on Saturday and Sunday afternoons. Visitors can see the inside of the historic structure and view a small exhibit on the history of Oldtown. Ben, is this still open?
Mile Marker 175.7 Lockhouse 75 – Explore a Lockhouse
Lockhouse 75 is the last lockhouse heading west on the C&O Canal and it is one of the few existing lockhouses made of wood, because it was difficult to get quality stone to the far end of the canal. When stone did arrive, it was needed for the locks so the lockhouses were built with wood. The structure that stands today is a 1978 reconstruction on the original foundation. The lockhouse is staffed by C&O Canal Association volunteers from Memorial Day through Labor Day on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays from 10am-4pm. Visitors can explore interpretive displays, learn about the function of the lock and life on the canal. Ben, is this still open?
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.
We may still be in the depths of winter, but planning is already underway for our Canal Pride Days volunteer events in the spring. Sponsoring Canal Pride is a great way for your business or family to contribute to preservation and beautification projects in the Park. Our sponsors provide the money that make Canal Pride possible. In 2019, our volunteers completed over 7,000 hours of service in the Park, valued at $204,131. Read More
The Brunswick Heritage Museum, previously the Brunswick Railroad Museum, tells the story of Brunswick, Maryland, the B&O Railroad, and the C&O Canal. Whether you are a canal buff, model train enthusiast, baseball fan, or just want to learn more about the area, the Brunswick Heritage Museum has something for you.
The first 5-mile section of towpath resurfacing between Edwards Ferry and Whites Ferry is complete and work is now underway on the stretch between Brunswick and Harpers Ferry. The Park anticipates completing rehabilitation of the towpath all the way to Packhorse Ford near the Shepherdstown Bridge this year. Horseback riders are asked to stay off the newly-resurfaced sections for about three weeks to give the new stone dust surface time to harden.
Locks 3 & 4 Project (Georgetown)
Re-watering of the canal between Georgetown and Fletchers Cove is imminent! A small section of the canal will remain dry to facilitate replacement of the 31st Street bridge by the District of Columbia. Water will be channeled through the dry area via a pipe.
Locks 5-22 Project
Work is close to complete on the water management structures between Lock 5 (Fletchers Cove) to Lock 22 (Violettes Lock/Inlet Lock 2). The Park has re-watered the canal from Pennyfield to Violettes Lock, and will re-watering from Great Falls to Pennyfield once work is finished on Lock 19 in July, at which time the Charles F. Mercer boat operation will resume.
Construction on the rehabilitated aqueduct is complete. Contractors are currently waiting for the newly-poured concrete to cure before applying brown stain to the inner wall, built to look like wood to replicate the “fix” to the aqueduct following the collapse of the wall of the aqueduct in 1922. Following water testing, the aqueduct will be officially re-watered, hopefully in July. The ribbon-cutting for the project is expected to take place sometime in August.
Paw Paw Tunnel Rock Scaling Project
Rock scaling of the cliff above the towpath on the upriver end of the tunnel will begin as soon as the final engineering design is complete. Hikers and bikers will be able to continue to use the tunnel once the work begins, with flaggers controlling tunnel traffic when necessary.
You may have seen this on our Facebook page:
A baby barred owl, sitting in water.
Photographer- Sandy Rosenblatt
We received this adorable photo and the accompanying story through our Facebook photo contest and we are so happy that Sandy thought to share her experience with us!
Now that the contest is over and the winner is announced (this photo in fact! Congrats Sandy Rosenblatt!), we can share all the details!
Sandy was walking along the towpath by Lock 8 in Cabin John, MD and turned to take a dirt trail down to the river. Along the way, she came upon a woman asking for help and she was led to where this barred owlet was sitting in the water. The woman explained that she didn’t know how to help but knew that something needed to be done. Together, they gently took the owlet out of the water and began to warm it up in Sandy’s jacket. After calling animal control, they sat with the owl, keeping it warm and comforting it. The owlet was taken to Owl Moon Raptor Center where they confirmed that although it was uninjured, it was still too young to be able to fly and would likely not have survived the night in the chilly waters. They guessed that he fell into the water and washed downstream.
Go to our Facebook page to see a video with more adorable images and footage provided to us by Sandy Rosenblatt https://www.facebook.com/CanalFriends/videos/447900339104646/
Remember, don’t touch wildlife unless you have spoken with a licensed wildlife rehabilitation specialist. Many times, the baby animal is fine and the parents are close by or are returning soon! Fawns can be left for hours while their mothers go out and forage. Fledgling birds (those that have feathers), may be found out of their nest and look lost, but their parents are normally within earshot and are feeding them throughout the day. For more information about specific species, check out this website
free background music from https://www.fesliyanstudios.com
Please note: The 12 p.m. lecture has sold out. Please email email@example.com if you would like to be placed on a waiting list. We hope you will join us at the open house, which does not require an RSVP.
Free open house at Lockhouse 10 to follow.
Potomac, MD – The C&O Canal Trust and the C&O Canal National Historical Park will host a lecture on Sunday, February 25 from 12-1 p.m. by historian Dr. Josh Howard about two African American Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) camps that existed along the C&O Canal from 1938-1942. Located near Cabin John and Carderock, Maryland, the camps were established as a part of the New Deal program and are a unique lens to examine the African American experience in the CCC, as most of the CCC’s history has been based on its white enrollees. Howard will present his research as a part of Black History Month. Read More
Life can be hectic, especially during the holidays. If you’re still searching for last-minute gift ideas for that special someone, we can help. We’ve compiled a list of affordable items sure to please everyone. Read More
Canal Quarters lockhouses are popular for their historic charm, proximity to the towpath, and unique overnight lodgings. Through the years, the lockhouses have also been the destination for marriage proposals. Recently, George Marshall contacted us to relate his story about his recent experience at Lockhouse 6. Read More