Reservations are required for groups of 10 or more on the Mule-Drawn Canal Boat Ride located at Great Falls Tavern Visitor Center. Please call 301-767-3714 for more information.
Reservations are not required for the Williamsport Launch Boat, but can be made up to 7 days in advance by calling the Cushwa Basin Visitor Center at 301-582-0813. The maximum capacity of the boat is 12 visitors.
For more information on seasonal boat rides, go to our boat ride page for more information.
Reservations are required for all drive-in sites at the C&O Canal NHP as of December 1, 2016. Reservations are made at the C&O Canal Recreation.gov site. Reservations are also required for civic groups camping at Marsden Tract, as well as groups wishing to use the Carderock Picnic Pavillion.
Permit Quick Links:
C&O Canal Permits Office (Mon-Thurs)
Leigh Zahm, Permits Coordinator
1850 Dual Highway
Hagerstown, MD 21740
E-mail the Permits Coordinator
The Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park (C&O Canal) extends 184.5 miles along the Potomac River from Georgetown to Cumberland, Maryland. 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
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
- 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
Scattering of Cremation Ashes
Please download the Scattering of Cremation Ashes letter in order to scatter ashes from human cremains in C&O Canal National Historical Park. There are specific rules and conditions outlined in the letter that are required of all ash scattering requests. There is no fee for the scattering of ashes, but for the permit letter to be valid, you must report in advance your intention to conduct this activity. In turn you will be given a permit number to which should be recorded on the bottom right on the permit letter.
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 Capital 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 a Regional Office Permits application and additional information, contact the NCR Park Programs Division office at (202) 245-4715 or visit the Regional Office website. 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
Obtain Commercial Use Application and Commercial Use Authorization Report Form.
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
Federal Law authorizes the National Park Service to recover costs associated with special use permits. Cost recovery for permit issuance is done in accordance with 54 USC 103104 and National Park Service policies for special park uses. 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 - $200.00 plus location fee
Commercial Filming & Photography
When do I need a permit?
Photography does not require a permit if it involves only hand-carried equipment (tripod, interchangeable lenses, flash), and does not involve product or service advertisement, or use of models, props or sets. Normally this type of photography involves less than ten people and is completed in less than four hours in areas of the park where the public normally goes and does not interfere with other visitors.
A photography permit is required when:
- A product or service advertisement is involved
- Models, props, or sets are involved
- The project has the potential to disrupt other park activities or visitors (more than ten people, or longer than four hours in areas normally available to the public, or more than just hand carried equipment)
- The project requires access to an area normally closed to general public use, or access into an area outside of normal public use hours, or carries with a potential risk to park resources.
In addition 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.
- 2-10 people $150/day
- 11-30 people $250/day
- 31-49 people $500/day
- 50 people or more $750/day
- 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.
Commercial Filming & Photography Application
If you are uncertain whether your project requires a permit or not, contact the Permits Office (301-745-5815) for additional information. If you already know that your project does not require a permit, you can call the office to check the schedule and avoid conflicts with other activities
Paying Permit Application Fees Online by Credit Card
Permit fees, including permit monitoring and film location fees, can now be paid by credit card. (Check or money orders are still accepted.) Paying by credit card offers the advantage of convenience and speed, and also makes it simpler to complete a reimbursement should one be necessary.
- Contact C&O Canal Permits Office
- Access Pay.gov website
- At the top of the page in the search box enter "canal" and click on the search function.
- Choose from one of the three application forms, (1) C&O Canal Commercial Filming, (2) C&O Canal Commercial Use Authorization, or (3) C&O Canal Special Use Permits.
- Enter information in the corresponding data fields.To enter the required information in the first block, you will first need to obtain that information from the Park Permits Office.The information format for this data field will be two numbers followed by a period, and then followed by three more numbers.An example of the data field format is:"12.345".
- The rest of the data fields to be completed are self-explanatory.Once you have entered all the information in the data fields, click on the appropriate fee type(s) which appear near the bottom of the page.
- At the bottom of the page will show the total amount due.Once you have entered information in all required data fields, click the gray "Continue" box. You will then be taken to a second page and asked to enter your credit card payment information.
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.