While complaining about the dreaded detour, people often forget about the section of the C&O Canal NHP that lies between Feeder Dam 4 (Mile 84.6) and McMahon’s Mill (Mile 88.1). Hikers and bikers doing long stretches of the canal are forced to bypass this area because of the washed out section between miles 86.7 and 88.1. Here, the Potomac runs up against a cliff wall, which makes further travel impossible. Fortunately, this area is being repaired, and the towpath will once again be intact sometime during the Summer of 2012.
Until, then, the area between the dam and the cliff makes for a wonderful four-mile round trip hike. Like many other canal buffs, we’ve never really given much thought to this area, but it does have a lot to offer in regard to historical structures and its close proximity to the Potomac River.
The hiker has the choice of literally taking the high road or the low road (towpath) up to the guard lock for feeder dam 4. Surprisingly, the towpath is mowed and well-maintained, and the guard lock and inlet mark the spot where boats once left the canal and entered the river for approximately two miles.
Naturally, we had an ulterior motive and wanted to get a look at the work area for the Big Slackwater Project. We did manage to walk to walk within approximately .5 miles of the construction site, and we’re pleased to say that a lot of progress has been made. We’re looking forward to riding the entire length of the canal once again next summer, and this time–hopefully, no detour!