• 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, Jordan Junction and Big Woods Hiker Biker Campsites 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.


*NEW* Overnight Parking Permit Form
General Application (Special Use Permit)

Commercial Filming & Photography

Commercial Use Application

Research Permits

First Amendment Permits

Commercial Use Authorization Report Form

C&O Canal Permits Office (M-Th)

Leigh Zahm, Permits Coordinator

Phone: 301-745-5815

Fax: 301-745-3337

To reach our permits coordinator by email: e-mail us

The Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park (C&O Canal) extends 184.5 miles along the Potomac River, a treasure hidden in plain sight. From Georgetown in the District of Columbia to Cumberland, Maryland, the park preserves a wealth of our nation's history and a rich array of rare natural resources.

Many visitors enjoy recreational benefits, such as hiking and cycling, by means of the park's towpath, hiking trails, campgrounds, and other facilities.

In order to coordinate special park use events it is necessary to require permits for certain activities. The Special Use Permit (SUP) program authorizes activities that provide benefit to an individual, group or organization, rather than the public at large; and that require written authorization and some degree of management control in order to protect park resources and the public interest. These activities include, but are not limited to:

  • Display of commercial notices or advertisements
  • Sale or distribution of printed matter
  • Special events
  • Public assemblies, including first amendment right activities
  • Possession of alcoholic beverages on park property
  • Operating a public address system or other sound amplified audio devices
  • Non-commercial soliciting
  • Weddings

To protect the resources and preserve the purpose of the park, permits are also necessary for the following activities:

  • Commercial photography and filming
  • Collection of research specimens and conduction of scientific research
  • Scattering human ashes in C&O Canal National Historical Park
  • Entering closed areas of the park
  • Construction projects conducted on or over park property
  • Requests for events or services not offered to the general public

Regional Office Permits

Permits for first amendment rights demonstrations, special events, and/or commercial filming and photography that take place in Montgomery County and the District of Columbia are required by C.F.R., Title 36, Chapter 1, Section 7.96 to be processed through the National Capitol Region (NCR) Park Programs Division. For C&O Canal NHP, any event that takes place between Georgetown and the Monocacy Aqueduct require a regional permit. To obtain an application and additional information, contact the NCR Park Programs Division office at (202) 245-4715 or download the application and mail it in. You may visit their website for additional information. To determine if your event will be processed by the park or region, please contact the Special Park Use Coordinator at (301) 745-5815.

Commercial Use Authorization

A Commercial Use Authorization (CUA) is required for businesses to conduct commercial activities within C&O Canal NHP. Businesses that bring visitors into the park who provide a product or service in exchange for payment of said services require a CUA. Examples of typical commercial operations within the park include, but are not limited to, rock climbing instruction at the Carderock climbing area, access to the Potomac River through C&O Canal NHP, bike tours utilizing the park's historic towpath, horseback riding tours in authorized areas, and shuttle services utilizing C&O Canal NHP parking lots.

Permit Fees & Cost Recovery

As directed by Congress, the National Park Service collects a fee to recover the cost of administering permits. Recoverable fees are charged for permits as described in 16 U.S.C. 3a, 31 U.S.C. 9701, and National Park Service Guidelines for Special Park Uses. The following charges are established for special use, commercial filming and photography permits for C&O Canal National Historical Park.

  • An Application Charge must accompany the application for a permit. This charge covers the costs involved in analyzing and processing the request for an application including secretarial, printing, mailing costs and the administrative charge. This is a non-refundable fee that must be remitted with the completed application.
    • Special Use Permit application fee - $200.00

    • Commercial Use Authorization application fee - $300.00

    • Commercial Photography/Filming application fee - $200.00
    • Commercial Filming Location Fees:

In addtion to the permit application fee, all commercial filming permits and still photography permits are statutorily subject to cost recovery and a location fee. No waivers are allowed. The location fee is calculated per day and must be based on the following schedule and is determined by the type of activity (commercial filming versus still photography) and the number of people on park lands associated with the permitted activity. There is no deviation from this schedule:

Commercial Filming/Videos

2-10 people $150/day

11-30 people $250/day

31-49 people $500/day

50 people or more $750/day

Still Photography

1-10 people $50/day1

1-30 people $150/day

30 people or more $250/day

  • An Administrative Charge reflects the actual costs incurred by the National Park Service in processing the permit, from its inception to final approval. It also includes all our costs associated with Natural and/or Cultural compliance. This cost recovery element for basic events, subject to determination by the park's permit coordinator, is included in the above listed application charges.
  • Monitoring Costs cover the actual costs incurred by the park accomplishing the required monitoring or management of the permit. This cost is determined on a case-by-case basis. An estimate of the monitoring cost will be provided to the permittee before a Bill for Collection is sent.

Refundable Bond

Some projects involve activities which have a high potential for damage to resources, or a high potential for intense site restoration. In those cases, NPS may require the posting of a refundable bond. The bond amount is determined by estimating the cost of monitoring and site restoration, if the permittee failed to adequately care for or complete the clean up the site.

If it is not needed, the bond is released when the on-site NPS representative signs off that site restoration is complete and all site use charges have been paid. If you fail to complete the clean-up or pay all site use and monitoring costs, NPS will restore the site and use the bond to reimburse the actual costs of monitoring and site restoration, plus the cost of processing the payment. If a surplus remains after the costs have been reimbursed, the surplus is returned to the permittee. If the bond does not cover all the costs, we will bill you for the difference.

Insurance Requirements

C&O Canal requires all permittees to obtain a certificate of insurance for general liability. The National Park Service must be listed as additional insured in the certificate of insurance. Commercial Use Authorization permittees are additionally required to have automotive insurance and worker's compensation. Please contact the park's permit office for amounts of insurance required for your permit.


The National Park Service is directed to conserve park resources "unimpaired" for the enjoyment of future generations. Therefore, any activities that would cause derogation of or detract from the values and purposes for which a park has been established cannot be allowed.

Did You Know?

Many mules work and have worked at the canal through the years.

A mule is a hybrid animal, a mix of a female horse (a mare) and a male donkey (a jack). Remember, "M" for mom, "M" for mare and "D" for dad, "D" for donkey. Switching the parents will produce a hinny. The mule is the superior work animal, preferred by canal boat captains on the C&O Canal. More...