Boating and Paddling Along the C&O Canal

Kayak and Mercer at Great Falls. Photo Credit: Paul Graunke

The C&O Canal National Historical Park offers a variety of opportunities to get on the water. Visitors can paddle in canoes and kayaks, take a boat ride on the canal with Park Rangers, or take their own boats on the Potomac River.

Paddling Along the C&O Canal

Whitewater Adventures Credit: Shelley Stuart

The Potomac River offers white water rapids and flat water paddling. The most difficult rapids, ranked class IV and V, are in the eastern area of the Park, particularly at Great Falls. Some easier rapids exist in the Harpers Ferry area, ranked class II and III. Paddlers can also paddle in some watered areas of the canal. The Park offers plenty of river access and limited canal access.

Life jackets are required by the State of Maryland. Please consult this list of restrictions and safety information before you head out on the water and never go into rapid areas over your skill level.


Boat Rides on the C&O Canal

Mules pull the Mercer Canal Boat at Great Falls. Photo Credit: Roy Sewall

Guests can take a boat ride on the canal with Park Rangers at two areas in the C&O Canal National Historical Park. Great Falls, in the eastern region, offers mule-drawn rides on a 1870’s packet boat. Williamsport, in the central region, provides rides on a 1920s electric launch boat.


Boating Along the C&O Canal

There are a variety of boat ramps in the C&O Canal National Historical Park that provide boat access to the Potomac River; however, boating on the Potomac River is governed by the State of Maryland. Visit their website for rules and regulations.

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