DescriptionThe Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park follows the Maryland shore of the Potomac River from Georgetown in Washington, D.C., to Cumberland. Construction on the 184.5-mile canal began in 1828, and the canal operated 1850-1924.
Along the canal are 74 lift locks, 11 aqueducts, a 3,118-foot tunnel and a number of historic lock houses. About 15 miles northwest of Washington, D.C., the Great Falls of the Potomac makes a thundering descent in a series of picturesque falls and rapids. This portion of the park, accessible via exit 41 off I-495 (Capital Beltway), is at the Great Falls Tavern Visitor Center at 11710 MacArthur Blvd.
Most of the area is not served by public transportation, but the Foggy Bottom-GWU Metro stop can be used for the Georgetown section. Motorized vehicles are not permitted on the towpath. Visitors can view the falls from Olmsted Island Bridge near the visitor center on the Maryland side as well as from scenic overlooks on the Virginia side.
General InformationThe Monocacy Aqueduct near Dickerson and the Paw Paw Tunnel near Paw Paw, W.Va., are major attractions. Between Georgetown and Seneca the canal has been refilled with water. A 184-mile towpath parallels the Potomac River; camping and picnic facilities are available. Hikers, bicyclists and canoeists list Great Falls as a favorite spot.
Note: The hike on the Billy Goat Trail, Section A, is strenuous over difficult and dangerous terrain. Visitors in less than optimal health, carrying small children or those who are not experienced and properly outfitted should consider trail hiking options carefully. Alcoholic beverages are not permitted in the park.
Maps and additional information are available at the park's visitor centers in Brunswick, Cumberland, Great Falls, Hancock, Sharpsburg and Williamsport, Md. An audio tour by cellphone also is available.
Brunswick Visitor Center Thurs.-Fri. 10-2, Sat. 10-4 and Sun. 1-4; phone (301) 834-7100. Cumberland Visitor Center daily 9-5, Apr. 1-late Dec.; Tues.-Sat. 9-5, Sun.-Mon. 10-4, rest of year; phone (301) 722-8226. Ferry Hill Visitor Center and Hancock Visitor Center Fri.-Sun. 10-3, Memorial Day-Labor Day; phone (301) 582-0813. Great Falls Tavern Visitor Center Wed.-Sun. 9-4:30; phone (301) 767-3714. Williamsport Visitor Center Wed.-Sun. 9-4:30, Mar.-Nov.; phone (301) 582-0813. All visitor centers are closed Jan. 1, Thanksgiving and Christmas.
ADMISSIONADMISSION to the Great Falls area of the park is $10 per private vehicle or $5 per person (ages 16+) arriving on foot or by bicycle. Admission charged only at Great Falls.
PETSPETS must be restricted at all times, either in vehicles or by leash, and are not permitted in public buildings.
ADDRESSADDRESS inquiries to the Superintendent, Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park, 1850 Dual Hwy., Suite 100, Hagerstown, MD 21740; phone (301) 739-4200.
Points of Interest
Things to SeeC&O Canal Boat Trips