With its length of 184.5 miles, the C&O Canal is an absolute monster to explore. Candee and I have biked the entire length of the trail twice and done short trips and hikes that have covered the towpath several times over. Nevertheless, along the way, we have managed to miss virtually everything. With this in mind, I recently purchased Pocket Guide to the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park, by Gary M. Petrichick. This is a tiny book that will easily fit into the palm of your hand, and it is a list of all of the structures along the canal–with room on the opposite pages for personal notes. The picture above is a waste weir. There are several on the canal, and back in the day they were used to either re-direct excess water back into the Potomac or to drain the canal when repairs were necessary.
I purchased the book at the Williamsport Visitor Center, and we immediately took it out for a hike. It’s amazing what a new resource can do in regard to making an old hike new again. Likewise, I have recently learned that the C&O Canal Association has posted a list of access points along the canal on their website (www.candocanal.org). It is an interactive resource with links to Google Maps that also gives GPS coordinates for the access points. Also, there is a brief description of the available parking spaces. For example, there may be numerous spaces at Spring Gap or McCoys Ferry, but parking is very limited at the end of Mile Marker Lane or Pearre Station.
The possibilities for using multiple resources together are numerous. One can literally print a map to a desired parking point along the canal, pack up the car, and head out for a great hike or bike ride in either direction. Take along Petrichick’s booklet, and the days of walking or riding past hidden history are over. There are 184.5 miles of culverts, waste weirs, and other structures to be discovered.