Field Trips

C&O Canal: Time in a Tree (3rd Grade, near Cumberland, Maryland)

A photo of the C&O Canal towpath near Spring Gap.
Come hike the C&O Canal towpath with us and learn about the fascinating lives of trees!

NPS Photo

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Students participate in a ranger hike along the C&O Canal between Lockhouse 75 and Spring Gap. Along the way students participate in hands on activities including field-based science activities while exploring the canal environment. 

At the end of the activity, students should be able to…

  1. Explain real-life, field-based science applications,
  2. Understand how historians use historic structures as primary sources,
  3. Use tools such as thermometers, tape measures, and yard sticks to collect data,
  4. Understand life on the C&O Canal during its operating years.

The park partnered with Allegany County Public Schools to develop this field trip along with pre- and post-visit activities for your classroom. Completing the classroom activities will enhance student learning. The lessons include watching a short video about the tunnel and completing a journal and mapping activity (links below). 

DIRECTIONS TO LOCK 75: From Cumberland, follow Maryland Route 51 South for 5 miles. Turn right onto PPG Road. Follow PPG Road for about ½ mile. Make the second left turn into the Lock 75 parking lot entrance, immediately adjacent to the Allegany County Compost Site. 

DIRECTIONS TO SPRING GAP: Follow MD Rt. 51 South for six miles from Cumberland. Turn right at Spring Gap sign and follow main entrance road to the split. Follow the access road to the right leading to the boat launch ramp.

Field Trip Itinerary

During this extended outdoor experience, students join a ranger for a hike along the C&O Canal between Lockhouse 75 and Spring Gap, a total of approximately 1.5 miles. Along the way students participate in hands on activities including field based science activities while exploring the canal environment.

Welcome (10 minutes)

Children will meet the ranger at the parking lot of Lockhouse 75. One group will travel by bus to Spring Gap.

Lockhouse 75 (45 minutes)

Students will learn how historians use historic structures like the lock house and the lock to gather data. These primary sources tell us much about canal operations. We will use this data to learn about people on the canal.

Nature Hike on the Towpath (90 minutes)

Students will hike from Lockhouse 75 to Spring Gap, approximately 1.5 miles, on the C&O Canal towpath. Along the way, students will observe natural and historical features of the canal and play Nature Bingo.

Time in a Tree at Spring Gap (45 minutes)

Working in small groups of 3-5, students will take tree measurements including height and circumference, and compare their data to other groups. Students will play a game to help demonstrate what trees need to live and grow.

Closing Activity (10 minutes)

Student scientists will share observations about their data.

Pre-Visit Activities

These pre-visit classroom activities introduce students to the canal. 

  • Option A: Locking Through Video. Students watch the five-minute video on the process of how a lift lock operates in the canal system to raise and lower canal boats and discuss in the classroom.  
  • Option B: Journey on the C&O Canal. Students complete an activity following Michael O'Leary as he traveled the canal in 1876. This lesson addresses a host of indictors and objectives in both reading and social studies. Students will learn why the C&O Canal is an amazing accomplishment in Maryland's history, understand more about the genre of historical fiction, and describe what a typical nine-year old canal boy and family were like in the late 1800's. Join Michael on his journey 
  • Option C: Web Rangers (STEM Activity). Students complete a National Park Service online activity called Dendrochronology. It is a STEM activity about using growth rings on trees to learn about the past. No registration is required and the activity is free. Other learning modules are available, and students may create a password to help them track their progress at Ranger School.

Post-Visit Activities

Use one or more of these lessons as a post-visit activity.

  • Option A: Build a Lock (STEM Activity). Students build a working lift lock using simple materials. See Build a Lift Lock STEM Guide for more details. 
  • Option B: Family Tree Cookie. Students complete their family tree cookie, incorporating a home/parent connection. See Family Tree Cookie Instruction Sheet for more details. 
  • Option C: Complete Junior Ranger Book. Ask the students to work through the Junior Ranger book. When they are complete, a ranger will come to the school for a swearing in ceremony. Download the Junior Ranger Book.

Plan Your Visit

Print the Plan Your Visit Guide for more information. To schedule a field trip, email us.


Canal Classrooms Rangers


Architecture (Building Styles and Methods), Biology: Plants, Engineering, History, Science and Technology, Transportation
National/State Standards:
Field Trips