The Chesapeake & Ohio Canal (C & O Canal) is a national historic park that has an interesting history dating back to the 18th century. It runs 184.5 miles along the north bank of the Potomac River, starting in Georgetown and ending in Cumberland, Maryland. The National Park Service offers canal boat rides and interpretative ranger programs during the spring, summer and fall.
Recreation Along the C & O Canal
Hiking – One of the region’s best places to enjoy nature, the C & O Canal National Park offers great scenery and easy terrain on most of its hiking trails. For a more challenging hike, check out the Billy Goat Trail.
Biking – The entire 184 miles of the Towpath between Georgetown and Cumberland, MD can be biked. The first 20 miles is the most heavily used. The Capital Crescent Trail provides a paved surface running parallel to the Towpath from Georgetown to Bethesda. Bike rentals are available on the trail at Fletchers Boat House (mile 3.1).
Fishing – A fishing license is required for persons ages 16-65.
Boating and Kayaking – Canoeing and kayaking are popular in the sections from Georgetown to Violettes Lock (mile 22). Canoes can be rented at Swains Lock and Fletchers Cove. Motorized boats are prohibited.
Horseback Riding – Horses can be ridden on approximately 160 miles of the 184.5 miles of towpath. They are not allowed between Georgetown (mile 0) and Swains Lock (mile 16.6) or from Offutt Street (mile 181.8) to the Cumberland (mile 184.5). Trail riders are responsible for hauling manure away.
Tips: Visitor Center Georgetown – 1057 Thomas Jefferson St., NW, Washington, DC (202) 653-5190. The visitor center is accessible from 30th Street. Mule-drawn canal boat rides are offered during the warmer months of the year.
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