News Release

Prescribed fire planned this month at Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park

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Date: March 7, 2023
Contact: Christiana Hanson, 301-491-6265

OLDTOWN, Md.—The National Park Service is preparing to conduct a prescribed burn at Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park in early spring, depending on weather conditions. The park plans to burn approximately 90 acres, in the former agricultural fields between rural Oldtown and Spring Gap, Maryland.  

The goals of this burn are to maintain open grasslands throughout the park, maintain wildlife habitat and control invasive species. The NPS maintains historic agricultural landscapes throughout the park, using a variety of methods including leasing and prescribed fire. Prescribed burns allow the park to maintain the openness of the historic, agrarian landscape by preventing tree and shrub growth. Fire also promotes the growth of native herbs, forbs, and grasses, ultimately providing an ideal habitat for meadow wildlife species such as grassland birds and pollinators.   

Many factors must align to conduct a prescribed fire and ensure public and firefighter safety. The timing of the prescribed fire is dependent on weather conditions being within required wind, temperature, and relative humidity levels. Wildland fire engines, firefighters and mowed lines work together to create buffers and fire breaks to ensure the fire is contained. NPS staff will monitor air quality and smoke impacts. Following the active burn, wildland firefighters will continue to patrol the area to ensure the fire is completely out.  

During the prescribed fire, the towpath will remain open; however, it may need to be closed temporarily if prescribed burn conditions reduce visitor safety.


Preserving America's early transportation history, the C&O Canal began as a dream of passage to Western wealth. Operating for nearly 100 years the canal was a lifeline for communities along the Potomac River as coal, lumber, and agricultural products floated down the waterway to market. Today it endures as a pathway for discovering historical, natural, and recreational treasures. Learn more at 

Last updated: March 7, 2023

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