Natural Resource Condition Assessments for Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park

The Natural Resource Condition Assessment (NRCA) Program provides framework, funding, and publishing support to parks to aid in the synthesis and documentation of natural resource conditions. Condition assessment reports are a tool to describe selected park resources, and record a snapshot of their current condition, identify trends, and identify potential or current threats and stressors. Understanding the condition and trend of natural resources is key for parks and NPS planners to appropriately prioritize and allocate stewardship resources.

A boat with green and white decoration passes over a watered bridge.
First ride through the aqueduct.

NPS photo by Stephanie Spencer.

The Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park preserves the colorful age of canals and America's transportation history. In its early days, the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal was a vital communication channel for communities and businesses along the Potomac River, as coal, lumber, grains, and other agricultural products were transported through the canal to market.

Today, each year millions of visitors hike or bike along the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal to enjoy the natural, cultural and recreational alternatives available. The park follows the northern side of the Potomac River for 297 km (184.5 mi) from Georgetown in Washington, D.C. to Cumberland, MD. Along the span of the park, numerous geologic formations are exposed that support diverse native plant communities. The park is home to several populations of state and nationally rare, threatened, or endangered species of plants and animals and outstanding examples of unusual and imperiled natural communities.

Traditional NRCA Report: 2014

In an effort to better understand the natural resources and processes found within this park, a Natural Resource Condition Assessment was conducted and published in 2014. National Park Service representatives and the University of Maryland collaborated to determine the primary needs of the park, and chose four resource topics and their respective indicators to evaluate:

- Air quality

- Water resources

- Biological integrity

- Landscape dynamics

Overall, the natural resources in the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Site were in moderate condition. The assessment found that air quality had a condition of significant concern, biological integrity and landscape dynamics had conditions of moderate concern, and water resources were in good condition. The resources in this park are threatened by surrounding land use, regionally poor air quality, overpopulation of deer, and the presence of the emerald ash borer and white nose syndrome. Resource managers and park staff will continue to record and manage these important resources.

For other reports and natural resource datasets visit the NPS Data Store.

Source: Data Store Collection 7765 (results presented are a subset). To search for additional information, visit the Data Store.

Last updated: June 28, 2022


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