News Release

National Park Service completes flood prevention project along the C&O Canal towpath

Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park receives Maryland Historical Trust Preservation Award for work
Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park receives Maryland Historical Trust Preservation Award for work

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News Release Date: June 2, 2023

Contact: Christiana Hanson, 301-491-6265

WILLIAMSPORT, Md.— In honor of completing the largest restoration project in modern park history, Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park today received the Excellence in Historic Preservation and Sustainable Design award from the Maryland Historical Trust (MHT).  

This award recognizes the park’s efforts to combat the impacts of flooding with long-term, sustainable solutions along a 0.9-mile stretch between McMahons Mill (mile 88) and Lock 42 (mile 89) in Williamsport, Maryland. The rehabilitated historic retaining wall and towpath ensures future generations will continue to learn and enjoy the C&O Canal in its historical context.  

This section of the park was intermittently covered with water during river flooding, causing damage and requiring bicycle and pedestrian detours. Potomac River high waters, driven by floods, caused sections of the towpath in this area to be impassable many times each year, requiring a 3-mile detour for hikers and bikers on narrow, winding county roads. 

The park reconstructed missing or washed-out portions of a historic stone masonry retaining wall and stabilized the towpath, replaced drainage culverts and removed unnecessary vegetation.  To prevent flooding and reduce closures, some portions of the towpath and retaining wall were raised and moved more inland. The towpath was also widened to allow for emergency and maintenance vehicles, as needed.  

The park received the award during an outdoor event at the McMahons Mill area of the park. Elizabeth Hughes, Director of the MHT, presented the award to Engineering Services Team Leader and Civil Engineer Joseph Reed on behalf of the park. Attendees toured the McMahons Mill area with MHT. A digital recording of the event is available at  


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: June 3, 2023

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