• 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

    Water pump handles at Bald Eagle Island, Evitts Creek, and Iron Mtn. Hiker-Biker Campground and Arbaugh Camp 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.

Civil War

Photo of Civil War Reenactors on canal boat

There are many special events along the C&O Canal

NPS Photo

The War Between the States, 1861-1865.

The C&O Canal runs alongside the Potomac River. The river was a dividing line between the Union and the Confederacy during the Civil War. The canal was strategically important to both sides. Union forces protected the canal and used it for transportation purposes, moving troops, coal, and war supplies. Confederates tried to damage both the canal and boat traffic. It became the subject of many raids by famous confederate cavalrymen such as Jeb Stuart and John Mosby. Canal mules were taken for the war efforts of both the North and the South. Both sides used the towpath as a road when war came into the state of Maryland.

The people who worked on the C&O Canal were divided by the war. Boatmen joined both sides and fought against former friends and neighbors. Several campaigns were fought on or near the canal.

runaway slave on canal ad

Dreams Along the C&O Canal

"… justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream…. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania." Martin Luther King, I Have a Dream Speech, August 28, 1963, presented at the Lincoln Memorial downstream from the eastern terminus of the C&O Canal

Dreams motivated many along the Potomac - from George Washington looking for a transportation route to the west, to Irish and German laborers who built the C&O Canal, to escaped runaways traveling on the underground railroad fleeing north to freedom, to Martin Luther King who downstream from the canal at the Lincoln Memorial shared his dream that one day all will live in this land as equals. more

Did You Know?

Photo upstream entrance Paw Paw Tunnel.

The Paw Paw Tunnel is 3,118 feet long and is lined with almost six million bricks. The 2/3 mile long tunnel saved the canal builders almost six miles of construction along the Paw Paw bends of the Potomac River. The project took twelve years to complete. The tunnel was only wide enough for single lane traffic. More...