• Historic Shot of Canal Boat on the Canal

    Chesapeake & Ohio Canal

    National Historical Park DC,MD,WV

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  • NEW Overnight parking system

    Before parking a vehicle overnight in any Canal Parking area, visitors must register their vehicle through the new online registration system. Print your reciept and place on your dashboard. If unable to print, please visit the nearest visitor center. More »

  • Water Pump Handles Temporarily Removed

    Bald Eagle Island and Evitts Creek Hiker-Biker Campground water pumps handle have been removed due to bad water samples. Handles will be reinstalled when good water samples are received.

  • Boat Tours at Great Falls

    Due to low water levels in the Great Falls area, call the Great Falls Tavern Visitor Center (301-767-3714) in advance of your trip to confirm the mule-drawn boat tour schedule.

  • Parking Lot Closure

    CSX is now beginning a phase of their bridge project that requires the closure of the Lock 74 parking lot for approximatly 18 months. Access to visitor parking near Lock 75 is now re-opened with a gravel parking lot at the site.

Frequently Asked Questions


When did the government acquire the Canal?

When did the Canal become a National Park?

How many acres does the Park own?
approximately 12,000 acres

What is the condition of the Canal today?
Aprroximately 25 miles remains watered and a few locks are still in working condition.


When was construction started?
July 4, 1828

When was the Canal completed?
October 10, 1850

What was the cost of the Canal?
About $14 million

How many years did it take to build the Canal?
22 years

How many people comprised the labor force?
4,000 workmen at the height


How long is the Canal?
184.5 miles long

How deep is the Canal?
Workers dug it to be 6 feet deep but many areas that are watered are only 2-3 feet deep.

How wide is the Canal?
60 to 80 feet depending upon the section

How wide is the towpath?
Originally 12ft wide, now 7ft in some areas

What is the distance in elevation end to end on the canal?
605 feet

How many locks are on the Canal?
74 lift locks

What are the dimensions of the locks?
Variations of 95-100 ft long; 15 ft wide; 12-18 ft deep

What was the size of the cargo boats?
90 ft long with a 125 ton capacity

How big was the family’s cabin on the boat?
12x12 feet

How many dams were built along the Canal to divert river water into the inlets?
7 dams

How many aqueducts were built along the Canal?
11 aqueducts

How many culverts were built along the Canal?
Over 150 culverts

What are the dimensions of the Paw Paw Tunnel?
3,118ft long; 27ft wide; 24ft high

How long did it take to construct the tunnel?
8 years, an average of 1ft per day


What were the years of operation?
1850-1924, some sections opened starting in 1830.

How long was the journey down the Canal?
average of 5-7 days, working 18 hours a day

How many trips did a boat take per year?
average of 25 trips a year

How much coal did a boat take per trip?
About 100-120 tons

How much money did a boat make per trip?
$25 for 100 tons

When was the peak year of the Canal?
1871 with 850,000 tons of coal transported

How many boats operated on the Canal?
500 during peak operating years

How many mules worked on the Canal?
2,000 during that same time

What was the speed limit on the Canal?
about 4 MPH

How long does it take to "lock through"?
approximately 10 minutes

How long is the towline?
100 ft long


A mule is a cross between what two animals?
A female horse and a male donkey

How many mules needed per boat?
2 sets of 2 or 3 mules

How long did the mules work before they needed a break?
6-8 hours

What did the mules eat?
Hay and other grains


Did You Know?

Drawing DaVinci's lock gate design 1485.

Transporting goods and people by canal dates back to antiquity. The lock gates used on the C&O Canal were an adaptation of a design by Leonardo DaVinci in the late 1400's. Until the advent of the railroad, water travel was far superior to land travel.