Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park Travel Guide

  • End or the Beginning point of the C&O
    End or the Beginning point of the C&O
    by mtncorg
  • Above the east entry of the Paw Paw Tunnel
    Above the east entry of the Paw Paw...
    by mtncorg
  • Town Creek Aqueduct
    Town Creek Aqueduct
    by mtncorg

Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park Things to Do

  • The locks.

    One of the reasons why the Chesapeake and Ohio canal has become a historical park is because of all the old locks.They are scatterd along the canal and mostly restored nicely and has visitor info on display.

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  • PAW PAW TUNNEL TRAIL

    The best way to explore the Paw Paw Tunnel is to walk through it. To make your trip even more interesting, the Park Service has established a trail over the top of the tunnel, so you can make a loop out of it. The whole loop is a couple miles long and entails a gain of some 362 feet. You can pick up a brochure that explains the story behind the...

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  • The Towpath

    The Towpath is the wide, gravel path that parallels the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal from beginning to end. The towpath was originally used by donkeys and other animals to pull boats on the canal. Today it's a popular place where many residents of Washington DC enjoy strolling or biking. The towpath is level almost the entire way, making it easily...

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  • Great Falls Tavern and Visitor Center

    The Great Falls Tavern and Visitor Center is the main visitor center at the Great Falls section of the C&O Canal. The tavern used to be a stopping point for many coming up or down the canal; today it has exhibits on the history of the canal, and National Park rangers are around to help visitors out. The canal was built in the late 18th-early 19th...

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  • C&O Canal and Locks

    There are many, many locks along the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal, built to help boats pass rapids and waterfalls. One of the greatest concentration of locks is at the Great Falls section, where you'll find Locks 16, 17, 18, 19, and 20. As you can see, from spring through autumn, the canal is filled with water, and there are small waterfalls at each...

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  • WHITE'S FORD

    ccessed at mile 39.8 (mileage is upriver from Georgetown) on the C&O towpath through the Dickerson Conservation Area - administered by Montgomery County, Maryland - this is an old ford across the Potomac River used by Civil War armies to cross the Potomac. One well-known engraving from the time shows a couple of Federal sharpshooters firing away as...

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  • TOWN CREEK AQUEDUCT

    Located at Mile 162.3 of the C&O Canal, the town Creek aqueduct allowed C&O boats to gracefully cross over the top of Town Creek. The aqueduct is a single arch stone structure which crosses the creek just upstream from its confluence with the Potomac River. There are several other aqueducts which are bigger along the canal, but this one makes for a...

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  • PAW PAW TUNNEL

    This was the last and most difficult section of the C&O Canal to complete taking over fourteen year - 1836-1850. The tunnel is about ¾ mile long - 3118 feet - and is lined with some 6000000+ bricks. Built as a narrow one-way channel with a towpath on the south side for the mules, boats would occasionally meet inside going in different directions....

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  • CUMBERLAND VISITOR CENTER

    At Mile 184.5, after 74 locks, 7 dams, 11 aqueducts and the ¾ mile long Paw Paw Tunnel, you reach the end of the C&O Canal in Cumberland. The Visitor Center is located nearby in the old Cumberland train station - from which visitors can also ride on a restored steam engine line. Taking up the first floor of the old station, the center is filled...

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  • Mile 14 Great Falls Park (Virginia)

    There are 2 Great Falls Parks. In the C&O Canal National Parkway is the Great Falls Tavern on the Maryland side. On the Virginia side is Great Falls Park, a unit of the George Washington Memorial Parkway. Both are National Park Service units.On the Virginia side, the The Patowmack Canal 1785-1828 is the primary historic resource and the falls are...

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  • Mile 72 (Ferry Point), Shepardstown,...

    Ferry Hill gets it's name from the ferry landing at the bottom of the hill, which provided service between the north and south banks of the Potomac River. Streams flow into the Potomac from each side at this location and provide natural ramps from the river level to the bluff above. On the south bluffs, the community of Shepherdstown, West Virginia...

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  • Mile 108 (Four Locks)

    Located on a great horseshoe of the Potomac River, the canal builders found that they could reduce the canal from 5 miles going around the bend to less than 2 miles by building directly across the narrows. Here locks #47, #48, #49, and #50 lifted the canalboats in quick succession to the height of the river on the other side of the bend.

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  • Olmsted Island

    Past the Fish Ladder, the trail to the Great Falls Overlook reaches Olmsted and Rocky Islands. These islands are unique ecosystems; during the Potomac River's occasional floods, these islands are completel inundated and various sediments are dumped on the island. As a result, the island's habitat differs somewhat from the habitat of its...

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  • Great Falls, Virginia

    The most spectacular views of the Great Falls of the Potomac are from the Virginia side, which is only a short drive from both Washington DC and the C&O Canal. The cost of entering this park is $5. Once inside, you can take a short walk to the falls; stop at the visitor center; or hike on some of the park's 15 miles of trails. Otherwise you can...

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  • The Fish Ladder

    The Fish Ladder is one of the most interesting and beautiful areas in the C&O Canal Great Falls area. To get there, start from the tavern and walk south along the towpath, and you will soon see a side trail for the Great Falls Overlook/Olmsted Island Bridges. Turn right and take that trail, and immediately you will reach the trail across the Fish...

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  • LOCK 33

    Waterpower from the Potomac was provided to the Armory and Musket Factory at Harpers Ferry - now in West Virginia - by a dam just upstream. Water from the dam also provide water to this section of the C&O Canal. Three river locks allowed communication between the Potomac and the Canal over the length of the 185 mile length of canal. Harpers Ferry...

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  • MONOCACY AQUEDUCT

    To allow canal boats to cross streams and rivers that entered into the Potomac River, it was necessary to build aqueducts - 11 were built. The largest and most famous was the aqueduct that crossed over the Monocacy River. Built between 1829 and 1833, the aqueduct is 438 feet long. Confederate soldiers tried to destroy the aqueduct during Lee's...

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  • TOW/BICYCLE PATH

    Mules cover only small portions of the 185 miles of the Canal anymore and those areas for the benefit of local tourists as opposed to the original purpose of moving heavy amounts of cargo up and down the Canal. Today the old towpath is the province of the mountain bike. The C&O seems to be a minor bauble in the crown of the local bicyclist -...

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Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park Restaurants

  • by mfcling Written Jun 3, 2006

    The food at this location is excellent! The ambience of the historic town make this a great place to visit!

    Favorite Dish: I have tried many sandwiches and find them all to be great. However, my husband states that he has tasted no better Shrimp Salad sandwich. The Shrimp salad sandwich is better eaten with a fork as the whole shrimp make it a difficult sandwich to eat!

    Related to:
    • Historical Travel
    • Cycling
    • Hiking and Walking

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Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park Shopping

  • cachaseiro's Profile Photo

    by cachaseiro Updated May 23, 2012

    4 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    The C&O bikeshop in Hancock is one of the best stocked bike shops along the canal and the guy who runs it is a very friendly and helpful guy.
    I strongly suggest you stop by there if cycling the canal.
    He also has space for campers behind his shop, so stopping there for a night is good.

    What to buy: Anything you need for your bike.

    The C&O biks shop.
    Related to:
    • Road Trip
    • Cycling

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Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park Off The Beaten Path

  • Antietam National Battlefield (Mile...

    Located in Sharpsburg, near Mile 75, is Antietam National Battlefield, the bloodiest single day of the American Civil War. Please visit my Antietam NB page for things to do.

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  • Inside the Paw Paw Tunnel

    At the center of the tunnel, if is very dark. You can barely see the lights at the exits..... Bring a flashlight

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  • Pawpaw Tunnel

    This canal tunnel is located across the Potomac river from PawPaw, West Virginia. It was cut through over 4,600 feet of mountain. Because of the winding river, it reduced the length of the total canal by over 3 miles.

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Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park Sports & Outdoors

  • cachaseiro's Profile Photo

    by cachaseiro Updated May 23, 2012

    4.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    Cycling the Chesapeake and Ohio canal is the perfect way to see the place.
    the biketrail is fine even if it's not paved and you have good facilities along the way for bikers.
    There are several places along the route where you can camp and bikestores in most of the towns you pass as the trail sees quite a lot of bikers.

    Equipment: A bike with good tyres is preferable.
    A racing bike is not the best as the trail is mostly not paved, but you don't need a very heavy one either as the trail is well maintained.

    My bike next to the canal. My bike next to the Potomac river.
    Related to:
    • Road Trip
    • Cycling

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Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park Favorites

  • Smalltown America.

    Being a non US citizen i found it very facinating to bike through a lot of the small towns that you find along the canal.The US mail boxes outside the houses and the flags hanging from the poches is as small town America as it gets in my eyes.

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  • How far have we made it?

    Along the biketrail you have mile stones all the way so you can see how far you have made it and Check how far away the next town or campsite is.A very practical thing indeed.

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  • Tunnels.

    Along the canal you have several tunnels.They generally have a good bikepath running through them and if they are long then they are lit aswell.In some parts of the world tunnels are a bikers nightmare because of the traffic, but here they are pure pleasure as you have no cars in them.

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