Passages of the Western Potomac Heritage Area


    Beginning in the early 1800's, Allegany County served as a vital hub for the coal and other industries as well as the staging and outfitting point for westward migration. Where the C&O Canal, the Western Potomac, major roads and railroads converged, the western region of America connected to the Eastern Seaboard. The very first portion of the National Road, the first federally funded highway that stretched through Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois, began construction here in 1811 and eventually became known as "The Road that Built a Nation."

    At the same time, a budding railway system began to take shape here in the very nascent days of canal and railroad transportation. The story of this area's role in the history of the railroad is legendary, if still somewhat unknown. While the early railroad mainly transported coal and occasional passengers, another major passageway transported people in a different way: below ground, the original Fort Cumberland tunnels provided refuge and escape for slaves on their journey towards freedom just across the Mason Dixon line a few miles away.

    Maryland’s Heritage Areas are State certified regions where public and private partners make commitments to preserving historical, cultural and natural resources for sustainable economic development through heritage tourism.

    Passages of the Western Potomac Heritage Area (Maryland’s first designated Heritage Area, formerly known as ‘Canal Place Heritage Area’) features a wealth of activities and attractions including canal boat replica tours, scenic rail excursions, the Shops at Canal Place retail plaza, hiking/biking along the canal, and the C&O Canal National Historical Park's  Visitor Center.

    Canal Place features a wealth of activities and attractions including canal boat replica tours, scenic rail excursions, the Shops at Canal Place retail plaza, hiking/biking along the canal, and the C&O Canal National Historical Park's Cumberland Visitor Center.

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    Photo by: Tina Yoder

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