The C&O Canal aqueducts are “water bridges” that carried canal boats over the creeks and rivers that flow into the Potomac River. Built in 1832, the Catoctin Aqueduct is the fourth of eleven such “works of art” on the canal.
The Catoctin Creek Aqueduct was known as the "Crooked Aqueduct" because canal boats had to make a sharp turn to cross it. From its original creation, the Catoctin Creek Aqueduct's structural integrity was questionable. The elliptical arch in the center was not as structurally sound as the semicircle arches on either side. The aqueduct began sagging in the early 1900s. It leaked and was prone to flooding. In 1973, two years after Congress established the C&O Canal National Historical Park, it collapsed, leaving only a small piece standing.
The Park Service gathered up the aqueduct’s stones and buried them with the hopes that someday the aqueduct would be restored. Nearly 35 years later, a restoration project gained enough funding to rebuild. The four hundred and fifty-nine stones where uncovered and the engineering crew began to fit the blocks together like a giant 3-demensional puzzle. Each stone was measured, and the crew used those measurements to create foam stones. Historic photos were then used to identify where individual stones were positioned. Missing stones or those in poor condition were replaced. In a little over a year, construction was complete. Today, new viewing areas and waysides allow visitors to learn about the structure and the efforts to rebuild it.
Last updated: May 13, 2021