Paw Paw Tunnel

The mouth a Paw Paw Tunnel built into a rock wall.
Paw Paw Tunnel

Paul Graunke

Quick Facts
Oldtown, Maryland

Canoe/Kayak/Small Boat Launch, Parking - Auto, Picnic Table, Scenic View/Photo Spot, Toilet - Vault/Composting, Water - Drinking/Potable

The Paw Paw Tunnel is one of the most significant engineering features on the Canal. To save building six miles of canal along the river, the C&O Canal Company decided to construct a tunnel through a steep topographic ridge now called Tunnel Hill. When work began on the tunnel in 1836, the builders estimated the project would be completed within two years. The tunnel ultimately required 14 years to complete due to labor issues and violence, funding shortfalls, work stoppages, and the challenges of digging a 3,118-foot tunnel through the hard, loose shale. The tunnel opened in October 1850 with rockslides continuing to be a challenge throughout the tunnel’s history. 

Today, when you plan your visit to the Paw Paw Tunnel, bring a flashlight and discover the weep holes, rope burns, rub rails, as well as brass plates marking every 100-feet that bring the tunnel’s history to life. Following your travels through the tunnel, enjoy the two-mile long Tunnel Hill Trail where you can discover breathtaking views of the Paw Paw Bends.  


Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park, Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail

Last updated: November 4, 2022