Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park

Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park preserves a legacy of American industry, commerce, and transportation. The man-made channel was built to connect the Ohio River to the Chesapeake Bay and travels 184.5 miles from Cumberland, Maryland to the Potomac River in Washington, D.C.

Canal boats, pulled by mules, traveled the canal loaded with coal, lumber, grain, and other agricultural products.  When built, the canal had 74 lift locks and carried boats through an elevation shift of 605 feet from Cumberland to Georgetown. Along the canal are historic structures that include lockhouses, aqueducts, and pumphouses. These structures remind visitors of the 19th century canal era that the park preserves.

Popular recreational activities in the park include hiking, biking, kayaking, and fishing.

—Caroline Griffith

If You Go

Transport yourself back in time to the canal era on a living history canal boat ride. Sit in a historic canal pulled by mules and travel slowly down the canal as you listen to rangers in historic costume tell you all about the canal history. Please contact the park directly to learn more.



This historic place faces many modern threats. Flooding (though beneficial and even necessary to the existence of some plant species and habitats), invasive exotic species, rapid development of adjacent lands, utility rights of way, lack of funding, and staffing shortfalls all contribute to the decline in park resources. And because of a lack of staff and money, the park is not able to fully educate visitors about the park’s history and biological importance.

Millions of dollars are needed to repair and restore the 1,365 historic structures that make up the heart of C&O Canal's cultural legacy, as well as adequately preserve and manage the array of rare species and natural communities found within the park’s boundaries.

(Source: The Center for State of the Parks Park Assessment, 2004)







Amy A

March 20, 2014

I spend many walking hours on the C&O Canal weekly. Viewing and photography wildlife along the way. The path way is full of flowers in the spring. Great for bird watchers.

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