The Chesapeake and Ohio Canal was created to provide a link between the Potomac River and the lands beyond the Appalachian Mountains, in the days when travel by water was faster than travel by land. In time, the canal was superseded by the railroad, canal towns that were not also on rail lines became somewhat frozen in time, and many have changed very little since that day.
The Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park, 205 W. Potomac St., Williamsport, MD, preserve the world in ways that most have forgotten. A visit there is a step back in history, and a step into a quieter world.
Williamsport began in 1740 at the confluence of the Conococheague Creek and the Potomac River. George Washington suggested Williamsport as a site for the nation’s capital. However the Potomac was not navigable for larger ships, therefore the idea was not pursued further.
The Visitor Center is open seasonally, March-November. Wednesday through Sunday, 9:00 am – 4:30 pm. The museum and gift shop have displays about the locks and films about the Canal. This is an NPS passport site.
Things To Do
People visit the park to take advantage of the free walking tours. In addition, there’s a free bike loan program, lock demonstrations, Lockhouse 44, and fishing in the canal (with a fishing license). Lastly, there’s access the boat dock into the Potomac River, cool right? Pets on leashes are welcome, and the trees overhead make the walk cool on warm days.
Because it was a towpath, the trail provides an easy walk along the Potomac River, with views of the remnants of the canal. It is ideal for walking, running, cycling and taking in the wildlife. Bald eagles are often seen on this stretch of the river!
A visit to Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park would not be complete without experiencing life on the canal during a replica canal launch boat program at Williamsport. This free one-hour program includes riding the Canal from the historic Cushwa Basin to Lock 44 and back to the Cushwa Warehouse. Memorial Day Weekend through Labor Day Weekend; call the visitor center for exact tour times. Day-of reservations are accepted only for larger groups.
Hungry? Visit Tony’s for authentic and delicious Italian food. Staying overnight? Elmwood Farm provides a lovely place to rest and relax. While you are visiting the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park, consider also visiting Fort Frederick, 12 miles north.