Dam 4 Cave

Dam 4 Cave from the towpath

Dam 4 Cave from the towpath

Dam 4 Cave is located at mile 83.3 on the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal.  It’s so named because of its close vicinity to the dam, and it’s an easy walk of 1.1 miles from the NPS parking lot.  The cave is at canal level, and that is an interesting feature considering that when the C&O was watered (at 6′ deep), much of the cave was below the waterline.  I would estimate that roughly two-thirds of the opening was hidden while the canal was in operation.

Interesting formation in the Conococheague limestone

Interesting formation in the Conococheague limestone

The cave is roughly 200′ deep, and a small stream flows through much of the lower end.  The earth and rock is damp, and walking along the floor is–for the most part–difficult.  Nevertheless, there is plenty of room to move around, and, in my opinion, it is one of the more impressive and accessible caves in the miles of limestone cliffs running along the berm side of the canal.

Another impressive formation

Another impressive formation

Like most caves, Dam 4 Cave is damp, and water droplets containing dissolved limestone are visible along the sides of the ceiling.  Although the process is slow, the inside of the cave is in a constant state of flux, and the result is a beautiful array of cave formations.  The choice of exploring this section of the towpath was a last second decision, and I really wish that I had brought a flashlight along.  We did make it a bit past the first right-hand turn, which is approximately halfway.  I would say that Dam 4 Cave is one of the most unique exploration opportunities along the canal, and I plan to come back at a later date with a flashlight–and a better knowledge of geology.  Oh, yeah, there’s also the idea of not running haphazardly into a hibernating bear.  Maybe next summer…

Through the keyhole, looking toward the Potomac and towpath

Through the keyhole, looking toward the Potomac and towpath

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