• Historic Shot of Canal Boat on the Canal

    Chesapeake & Ohio Canal

    National Historical Park DC,MD,WV

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  • Towpath Reroute!

    6/14/14- Towpath breach at MM 106, just below Dam #5. Towpath Detour in place (this detour does not leave park property). Please be aware of possible towpath hazards due to heavy rains.

  • Water Pump Handles Temporarily Removed

    Purslane Run, Stickpile, Evitts Creek Hiker-Biker Campgrounds and Paw Paw Campground water pump handles have been removed due to bad water samples. Handles will be installed when good water samples are received.

  • 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.

  • Boat Rides at Great Falls

    Regularly scheduled tour times for the mule-drawn canal boat at Great Falls have changed. In July and August 2014 tours will be offered Saturdays and Sundays at 11:00, 1:30 and 3:00. Please call the Visitor Center for more info: 301-767-3714. More »

Canal President Charles Fenton Mercer

Charles Fenton Mercer, visionary, entrepreneur, businessman and politician spearheaded the construction of the C&O Canal. In 1823, he led a canal convention that included investors like Francis Scott Key. Five years later, he watched President John Quincy Adams break ground for the canal at Little Falls on July 4, 1828.

Although John Eaton became president of the canal company in 1833, Mercer continued to serve as an advocate of federally funded internal improvements, such as the canal, while serving in the U.S. House of Representatives. One of his dreams was to construct a great canal across the Isthmus of Panama to connect the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.

Did You Know?

Photo canal boat exiting lock 20.

Most freight boats on the C&O Canal were approximately 95 feet long and 14.5 feet wide while most locks were 100 feet long and 15 feet wide. This left boat captains little margin for error as they steered their boats into the locks, trying to avoid the $5.00 fine for damaging lock masonry.