"Chesapeake and Ohio Canal - Georgetown" Top 5 Page for this destination C &O Canal / Potomac River Tip by Ewingjr98
C &O Canal / Potomac River, Washington D.C.: 19 reviews and 43 photos
The C&O Canal is a 184.5 mile transportation route that was built from 1828 to 1850; the plans for the final 180 miles of canal to the Ohio River were abandoned due to the growth of railroads. It runs along the northern edge of the Potomac River from its starting point in Georgetown to Cumberland, Maryland. It operated until 1924, and was essential for nearby communities to ship coal, lumber, and crops to market. The canal had 74 locks to raise ships 605 feet from DC into the Appalachians.
While much of the canal has been drained and overgrown, the towpaths along its entire length are still in use. In 1938 the US government took over the canal in hopes of converting it to a park, but plans were delayed until it was finally declared a national park in 1971. Today the park contains 20,000 acres and some three million visitors bike and walk on the old towpath. Some sections of the canal have been restored and visitors can ride park service boats through the locks with a park ranger "skipper" on board.
The only two parts of the canal I have visited are around Mile 0 in Georgetown and the area of Miles 58-60 at Harpers Ferry, West Virginia. The Georgetown section is very quiet in the fall, despite bustling M Street just a block away; the only people I saw on this section of trail were a few joggers and some office workers on their lunch break. When I visited the Harpers Ferry section several years ago it was busy with lots of bicyclists.
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