Towpath Resurfacing Project

Newly resurfaced towpath at the Monocacy Aqueduct (MM 42.2)
Newly resurfaced towpath at the Monocacy Aqueduct (MM 42.2)

NPS Photo

You might see some areas of towpath being resurfaced...What's going on?

In short, the park is working to resurface the towpath in phases over the next five-to-ten years. In 2016, the C&O Canal National Historical Park partnered with the Allegheny Trail Alliance (ATA) to assess the condition of the park's 184.5 miles of towpath. Founded in 1995, the ATA is charged with maintaining the Great Allegheny Passage, a 150 mile rail-trail that stretches from Pittsburgh, Pennslyvania to Cumberland, Maryland.

Through this assessment, the park was able to develop a comprehensive, mile-by-mile review of towpath conditions, including drainage issues, grass strips, potholes, roots, and other obstructions. This review helped to identify some of the worst sections of towpath and prioritize resurfacing efforts.

Where is work currently taking place?

The most recent phase of resurfacing stretches from Ferry Hill (Mile 72.5) to Big Slackwater (Mile 86.7). This phase of work begin in October 2021. When work is active, visitors may see temporary horseback riding restrictions. Please read more on our Horseback Riding page.

Visitors will now be able to enjoy around 50 miles of resurfaced towpath between Violette's Lock (Mile 22.12) and Ferry Hill (Mile 72.5).

Why are we doing this work?

Due to the proximity to the Potomac River and the constant threat of floods and washouts, the park wanted to develop methods of resurfacing that are historic, durable, and long lasting.

The goal of the resurfacing project is threefold:

  1. To maintain the historic integrity and character of the towpath
  2. To maintain the durability of the towpath during high water and flood events
  3. To provide a smooth, level surface for hikers, bikers, and visitors who utilize the towpath on a daily basis

The resurfacing techniques are not catered to one particular usage group, such as runners or bicyclists. Rather, the park is piloting a new resurfacing model to make the towpath as durable as possible for all park users.

What are the resurfaced layers made of?

The towpath is NOT being paved. The base layer of the new towpath surface is crush and run gravel, also known as CR-6. The top layer is stone dust, also known as AASHTO-10. The crush and run layer creates an adequate drainage system, so that heavy rainfall can easily drain off the towpath. The stone dust layer at the top adds a nice, smooth surface.

What is the process for resurfacing the towpath?

  1. Use skid steers to remove the grass strip from the center of towpath (if necessary)
  2. Grade the edges of the towpath so water can run off smoothly
  3. Lay down two inches of CR-6 and roll with a roller
  4. Lay down 2 inches of AASHTO-10 and roll with a roller
  5. Seed and straw the edges of the towpath and any other areas that were disturbed by the work

What sections of towpath can I expect to be resurfaced?

Towpath resurfacing is taking place in phases over the next several years:

  1. Phase One: Edwards Ferry (Mile 30) to Whites Ferry (Mile 35) and Brunswick (Mile 54) to Ferry Hill (Mile 72.5) COMPLETE
  2. Phase Two: Whites Ferry (Mile 35) to Brunswick (Mile 54) COMPLETE
  3. Phase Three: Violette’s Lock (Mile 22.12) to Edwards Ferry (Mile 30) COMPLETE
  4. Phase Four: Ferry Hill (Mile 72.5) to Big Slackwater (Mile 86.7) IN PROGRESS
  5. Phase Five: Spring Gap (Mile 173) to Cumberland (Mile 184.5)
  6. Phase Six: TBD

Where does funding for this project come from?

Funding for the project comes from a variety of sources, including the National Park Service and grants from the State of Maryland. To date, $4.5 million dollars has been spent rehabbing these sections.

Still have questions?

Send us an email or give us a call during regular business hours at 301-739-4200, option 0.
A photo of a dirt path surrounded by grass running beneath a metal bridge. A photo of a dirt path surrounded by grass running beneath a metal bridge.

Left image
Before: The towpath at Whites Ferry (mile 35.5) before resurfacing efforts. -
Credit: NPS Photo

Right image
After: The towpath at Whites Ferry (mile 35.5) after resurfacing efforts. -
Credit: NPS Photo

Last updated: October 19, 2021

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142 W. Potomac St.
Williamsport , MD 21795



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