• 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 »

Places

lockhouse

Historic C&O Canal Lockhouse

The word 'canal' is simply defined as a man-made waterway. However, when referring to the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal, the definition encompasses thousands of places, each with a unique story and all having a different meaning for those who have had the experience to work or walk along the towpath.

For the thousands of laborers and immigrants during the 19th century, constructing this early transportation route, the canal proved to be quite a challenge. Low wages, poor living conditions, back-breaking work, disease and death are images these laborers likely associated with the term canal. Today, more than 1,300 historical structures exist as remnants of their efforts and help to share their stories.

With the arrival of the canal, many businesses and communities sprang up along the banks of the Potomac River. To the folks living in these communities, the definition of canal meant economic prosperity, as new towns formed and those in existence benefited greatly from the increased flow of traffic, people and commerce. Although the canal stopped operating long ago, many of these towns still stand, some deeming themselves as "Canal Towns" to represent their unique heritage.

 
Cyclist near Great Falls

Biking the towpath near Great Falls

When the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal ceased operation in 1924, places along the canal developed new meanings as communities from Georgetown to Cumberland came to appreciate the canal for its beauty in both historical remains and abundant nature and wildlife. In 1971 the Chespaeake and Ohio Canal was declared a National Historical Park to preserve and interpret these special places. Each year over 4 million visitors seek the canal as a place to discover history, explore nature, and enjoy recreating outdoors.

Today, we encourage you to explore the historical, natural and recreational resources along the C&O Canal and discover what meaning the canal has for you. We've listed several key points of interest and locations at the top of the page to help you get started. Whether you're interested in history or hiking, nature or wildlife the canal offers something for everyone!

Did You Know?

Monocacy Aqueduct along C&O Canal.

Aqueducts are water filled bridges. Aqueducts carried the canal and boat traffic over major waterways, like rivers. Of the 11 aqueducts built along the canal, the Monocacy Aqueduct is the longest at 516 feet, its seven arches constructed mainly of stone quarried from nearby Sugarloaf Mountain. More...