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C&O Canal Review
George Washington was one of the first to advance the idea of a canal linking the Potomac with the Ohio River across the Appalachians. Work started on the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal in 1828, and when it opened in 1850 its 74 locks linked Georgetown with Cumberland, Maryland, 184.5 mi to the northwest (still short of its intended destination). Lumber, coal, iron, wheat, and flour moved up and down the canal, but it was never as successful as its planners had hoped it would be. Many of the bridges spanning the canal in Georgetown were too low to allow anything other than fully loaded barges to pass underneath, and competition from the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad eventually spelled an end to profitability. Today the canal is part of the National Park System; walkers follow the towpath once used by mules, while canoeists paddle the canal's calm waters.
You can glide into history aboard a mule-drawn canal boat ride. The National Park service provides the hour-long rides from about mid-April through late October; tickets cost $5 and are available across the canal from the visitor center, next to the Foundry Building. The schedule varies by season, with limited rides in spring and fall. In summer the boats run at least twice a day from Wednesday through Sunday. Call the visitor center for the exact schedule on the day of your visit. Canal-boat rides also depart from the Great Falls Tavern visitor center in Maryland.
- Address: Georgetown Canal Visitor Center, 1057 Thomas Jefferson St. NW, Georgetown, Washington, DC, 20007 | Map It
- Phone: 202/653-5190
- Hours: Visitor center: Apr.--Oct., Wed.--Sun. 9--4:30; Nov.--Mar., weekends 10--4, staffing permitting
- Website: www.nps.gov/choh
- Location: Washington, D.C.
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