Although diverse in their resources and stories, national parks protect the American legacy. The parks are the legacy of Stephen Tyng Mather. Mather fought hard for the protection of important natural and cultural areas, and in 1917 became the first director of the National Park Service.
Mather believed parks could provide emotional, physical and spiritual well-being. Many National Parks across the country have a "Mather Point" or a "Mather Trail", paying homage to Stephen T. Mather. The C&O Canal National Historical Park has Mather Gorge.
Mather Gorge is part of the Potomac Gorge and lies just downstream from Great Falls. Its sheer cliffs provide a mini-canyon for the wild Potomac River. It is a great place to watch the water bounce off the rocks and for sunrises.
There are four ways to enjoy the wildness of Mather Gorge. The most accessible view of the Gorge is from the Great Falls Overlook. Mather Gorge is the steep and narrow section just downstream. Those looking for more of an adventure should take the rugged Billy Goat Trail A, which traverses the cliff top. For experienced adventurers, the most immersive way to experience the Gorge is by rock climbing or paddling it. Proper training and equipment for these activities is a must.