With little maintenance between 1924 and 1971 when the National Historical Park was created, this stretch of the towpath was particularly vulnerable to flood waters. In 1996 two large floods dealt a devastating blow completely washing away long stretches of the towpath causing all towpath visitors to endure a 5-mile detour. Since then the enormity of the erosion prevented the repairs to Big Slackwater making it the only segment of the 184.5-mile canal towpath closed to park visitors.
9/22/2012 - Big Slackwater is now OPEN to the public! Visitors can access at Burnside or Dam 4 area. McMahon's Mill access is still closed. Use extreme caution riding this section as it is very narrow and there are no guard rails. Obey the speed limit and slow down when passing others to avoid accidents. Remember to RSVP for the ribbon cutting ceremony on October 13.
Did You Know?
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.