Special Use Permits
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:
To protect the resources and preserve the purpose of the park, permits are also necessary for the following activities:
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
Obtain a permit from the National Capital Area Office.
Commercial Use Authorization (CUA)
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.
Commercial Filming & Photography
Effective October 28, 2022, the National Park Service rescinded interim guidance that was in place during litigation regarding commercial filming and has returned to longstanding laws and regulations governing commercial filming in parks. Questions and answers about filming and photography are provided below.
When do I need a commercial filming permit?
Under federal law, all commercial filming that occurs within a unit of the National Park System requires a permit.
Federal law requires a permit for all commercial filming, no matter the size of the crew or the type of equipment. This includes individuals or small groups that don’t use much equipment, but generate revenue by posting footage on websites, such as YouTube and TikTok. The primary focus of the NPS, however, is on commercial filming that has the potential to impact park resources and visitors beyond what occurs from normal visitor use of park areas. Examples of this type of filming are productions that use substantial equipment such as sets and lighting, productions with crews that exceed 5 people, and filming in closed areas, wilderness areas, or in locations that would create conflicts with other visitors or harm sensitive resources.
All filmers, no matter the size, must comply with all rules that apply in park areas, just like other visitors.
Learn more about Commercial Filming & Still Photography.
When do I need a still photography permit?
A “model” means a person or object that serves as the subject for still photography for the purpose of promoting the sale or use of a product or service. Models include, but are not limited to, individuals, animals, or inanimate objects, such as vehicles, boats, articles of clothing, and food and beverage products. Portrait subjects, such as wedding parties and high school graduates, are not considered models.
Filming and Photography Fees
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.
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.
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.
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.
Last updated: November 16, 2022