C&O Canal Trail by Sue
A packet boat docked before a lock on the historic Chesapeake and Ohio Canal.
The Erie Canal, which stretched from Albany to
Buffalo, was an immediate economic success. It allowed farm produce to flow
east from farms to the population centers in Albany and NYC, and pioneers to
head west in search of a better life in a wild new land. Other communities
were jealous and a canal building boom ensued.
One of these projects was the building of the
Chesapeake and Ohio Canal, started in 1828 with the intent of running from
Washington DC to Pittsburgh, PA. It originally was to connect the Chesapeake
Bay with the Ohio River � a 460-mile-long canal. Construction was
estimated at 10 years and $3 million. But,
money problems, labor difficulties, disease epidemics, and competition with
a parallel railroad caused delays. The canal construction was finally
stopped in 1850 at Cumberland, MD. After 22 years, it covered only 185
miles, and had cost $13 million. The canal was obsolete by this time and a
financial disaster. Nonetheless, it operated for 74 year before being shut
down in 1924.
Today the towpath of the C&O Canal has been
preserved as a bicycle path. Grass camping areas have been added
approximately every 5 miles with outhouses, water pumps and picnic tables.
The locks, lock tender houses, and aqueducts remain as part of the
historical record. The towpath arches northwest on a narrow strip of land
between the wild Potomac River and the C&O Canal providing an ever
changing scenic vista. It even passes through the 3,118-foot-long Paw Paw
Tunnel � a man-made channel dug through the solid rock to bypass an S
curve along the Potomac River.
Full trail map c&omap.pdf
Helpful web sites on the C&O Canal Trail
The canal towpath makes an easy and scenic bike trail.