The C&O Canal opened for business in 1831. Connecting to the Potomac River in Georgetown, it eventually extended 185 miles west to terminate in Cumberland Maryland by 1850. Operating in competition with the nearby B&O Railroad that also connected to Cumberland, the Canal was acquired by the railroad after 1889 and continued to be used to transport coal and other bulk items into the 1920s. During the Great Depression, the railroad transferred the entire canal property to the United States as part of a loan. The Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historic Park was established in January of 1971.
The National Park, the C&O Canal Trust (the non-profit partner of the park), and the Canal Towns Partnership representing the ten nearby towns along its western path (Poolesville, Point of Rocks, Brunswick, Sharpsburg, Williamsport, Hancock and Cumberland in Maryland, Harpers Ferry, Bolivar and Shepherdstown in West Virginia) are organizing various events and activities to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the park in 2021. Planned activities include a beer trail along the many breweries close to the park, themed event-days across the nearby canal towns, and events tailored for kids (event details will be published on the Canal Towns website when the schedule is finalized)
The towpath between Edward Ferry, MD (mile 30) and Shepherdstown (mile 73) has recently been resurfaced with a natural stone mixture designed to provide a smooth surface suitable for hiking, biking and horse riding.
The B&O Railroad first crossed paths with the C&O Canal on the 1839 bridge across the Potomac River to Harpers Ferry (Virginia). The 1894 bridge roughly follows the original bridge and a pedestrian path built onto the 1931 bridge provides easy access between the C&O park and Harpers Ferry, WV.
The Rumsey Bridge offers a view of the Norfolk and Southern Railroad bridge across the Potomac River and provides a pedestrian and bike-friendly connection between the C&O Canal and Shepherdstown, WV.
Dam 4 on the Potomac River was built to provide water for the section of the canal downstream to Harpers Ferry. The dam was rebuilt as a hydro-electric dam with the power generation station in 1914. Modified again in 1994, Dam 4 has been a functional component of the nation’s infrastructure for almost two centuries.
The Bavarian Inn, overlooking the Potomac River and C&O Canal at Shepherdstown, is a convenient stop for visitors with extensive outdoor patio seating (now open year-round with heaters and firepits).
C&O Canal Trust Photo Contest
The C&O Canal Trust invites you to submit photos you take along the canal (or in the nearby towns) for its monthly contest. Entries are posted on the Trust’s Facebook page and voting for the contest winners is by “Likes.” Each month’s winner will be the cover photo on the Trust’s Facebook page and will appear in its print and email newsletters. For details visit the Canal Trust’s website.By Staff Contributor