• 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 »

Rivers and Streams

Water is the life-line of C&O Canal NHP. Adjacent to the Potomac River for 184.5 miles from the District of Columbia to Cumberland, Maryland, there are 261 perennial streams; 4 water bodies (Little Pool, Big Pool, Seneca Swamp, Widewater); estimated 54.4 miles of watered canal (35.9 miles maintained watered canal, 7.7 miles year-round naturally watered canal, 10.8 ephemerally watered canal); 27 documented springs/seeps; and an unknown number of other wetlands. Flooding is a natural process that has shaped and reshaped the Potomac River Valley for a long time. Ground was broken for the C&O Canal in 1828. The following year, the canal experienced its first flood. By 1996, 17 major floods and numerous minor ones have impacted life of the canal. These floods have caused millions of dollars in damages to historic structures along the canal, and a major flood in 1924 ultimately caused the Canal Company to cease operation. The potentially devastating force of flooding is also largely responsible for the extraordinary biological diversity of the park. Flooding has been a part of the Potomac River for millions of years. As a result, flood-adapted habitats such as floodplain forests and scourbars, have been created. These habitats have gained significance in Maryland and nationally due to increasing habitat loss and fragmentation from development and invasion of exotic plant species. In fact, many rare plants depend on these unique habitats created by the river. Like so many things in nature, floods occur in cycles that fluctuate in frequency and magnitude. Floods also occur at different times of the year. Many Potomac River floods occur in spring after heavy rainfall when the ground may still be frozen, preventing runoff from being absorbed. Periodic inundation of the banks of the Potomac River and bordering C&O Canal NHP benefits the natural system as a whole. Silt, enriched by nutrients and minerals, is deposited by flood waters creating fertile soils which foster biological diversity. Many spring wildflowers thrive in floodplain habitat, which comprises about 85% of the park.

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...