Point of Rocks (POR) has been an important crossroads of travel since American Indians established routes through the region. Though quieter these days, the area was bustling with commerce between the 1830s and 1930s. During the Civil War, POR found itself in the middle of a battleground, and the village today is a staging point to explore this history.
You can park at the commuter train station (3800 Clay Street) or at the National Park Service parking area by the Potomac River off of Commerce Street. Before heading out on the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal Towpath, snap some photos of the elaborate train station (MARC Train parking lot on Clay Street), built in 1875 by the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad (B&O)–the charming Victorian station is on the National Register of Historic Places.
Check the website for details on available services and POR events scheduled throughout the year.
During the Civil War, troops from both sides frequently crossed the River and the Towpath. Troops traded volleys across the water, skirmished in and near POR, and Confederates attacked canal boats and trains, destroyed locks, and raided supply stores.
Both the C&O Canal Company and the B&O Railroad reached Point of Rocks by 1832. From POR, head east or west along the Towpath to explore important sites associated with the railroad and canal.
West on the C&O from POR
Miles represent Towpath mileage.
Mile 48.2 Point of Rocks
Just west of the US Highway 15 underpass is Point of Rocks tunnel, first blasted in 1868. Both the C&O and B&O fought in court for primary access to this “point of rocks.” The C&O won but the two companies compromised, sharing the narrow passage from here to Harpers Ferry.
In 1902 the tunnel was enlarged, and brick facing on both entrances added an artistic touch.
Mile 48.9 Lockhouse 28
In 1862 during the Antietam Campaign, the bridge across Lock 28 was destroyed. Confederate Colonel John S. Mosby and his Rangers also crossed the River here on July 4, 1864, on one of their many “Calico Raids,” during which Rebels raided stores and looted canal boats.
Mile 50.9 Lockhouse 29 (Lander)
Lockhouse 29 is now a living history museum from the 1920s time period. You can see the inside on Saturdays during summer (11 am–2 pm). Contact the Lander Community Association at Catoctinkey@gmail.com.
Mile 51.5 Catoctin Aqueduct
Mile 55 Brunswick
East on the C&O from POR
Miles represent towpath mileage.
Mile 48.2 Point of Rocks
Mile 44.6 Nolands Ferry
In September 1862, Confederate General A.P. Hill’s troops crossed during the Antietam Campaign. Two years later, Mosby’s Raiders tried to cross, but the 8th Illinois Cavalry held them back.
Mile 43 Nolands Ferry Archaeological Site
Boaters may find traces of some of the best preserved fish weirs in the lower Potomac. Native Americans and colonists built the V-shaped weirs from rock to channel fish into sluices or pens, where they could be caught in net baskets, speared, or caught with hook and line.
Mile 42.6 Indian Flats Campground
Mile 42.2 Monocacy Aqueduct
During the 1862 Antietam Campaign, lock tender Thomas Walker persuaded Confederate General Hill from blowing up the Monocacy Aqueduct. Walker recommended that Hill drain the canal as a substitute to destroying the aqueduct by boring through the towpath bank. Hill chose instead to damaged Lock 27, and Walker was fired even though he saved surely one of the canal’s most impressive aqueducts. With support from locals, however, Walker got his job back.
Mile 41.5 Lock 27 at Spinks Ferry
Turn around and head back to Point of Rocks.
Region: C&O Canal Towpath
Last updated: August 14, 2018