Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park

Overview

The C&O Canal follows the route of the Potomac River for 184.5 miles from Washington, D.C. to Cumberland, MD. The canal operated from 1828-1924 as a transportation route, primarily hauling coal from western Maryland to the port of Georgetown in Washington, D.C. Hundreds of original structures, including locks, lockhouses, and aqueducts, serve as reminders of the canal's role as a transportation system during the Canal Era. In addition, the canal's towpath provides a nearly level, continuous trail through the spectacular scenery of the Potomac River Valley. Every year millions of visitors come to hike or bike the C&O Canal in order to enjoy the natural, cultural, and recreational opportunities available.

The abandoned canal was purchased in 1938 by the United States Government and placed under the care of the National Park Service, which planned to restore it as a recreation area. Although the bottom 22 miles of the canal were repaired and rewatered, the project was halted when the United States entered World War II and resources were needed elsewhere. After the war, Congress expressed interest in developing the canal and towpath as a parkway. However, the idea of turning the canal over to automobiles was opposed by some, including United States Supreme Court Associate Justice William O. Douglas. In March 1954, Douglas led an eight-day hike of the towpath from Cumberland to D.C. Although 58 people participated in one part of the hike or another, only nine men, including Douglas, hiked the full 182 miles. Popular response to and press coverage of the hike turned the tide against the parkway idea and, on January 8, 1971, the canal was designated a National Historical Park.

Map

Seasonality / Weather

The park is open during daylight hours. Some of the park's six visitor centers operate on a seasonal schedule. Contact one of the visitor centers for current hours of operation.
* Georgetown: 202-653-5190
* Great Falls Tavern: 301-767-3714
* Brunswick: 301-834-7100
* Williamsport: 301-582-0813
* Hancock: 301-678-5463
* Cumberland: 301-722-8226

Directions

Driving: 

Car - Various sections of the canal can be reached via Routes I-495, I-70, and I-68. Please see a park map or contact a visitor center for specific directions.

Public Transport: 

Amtrak's Capital Limited services the following points along the canal-Washington, D.C., Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, and Cumberland, Maryland