Lock 68

Lockhouse 68

Lockhouse 68

Lock 68 is often referred to as Crabtree’s Lock, based upon the name of the last lock tender.  It’s located at mile 164.82, which is about 2.5 miles upstream from the access road into the Town Creek Aqueduct.  The lock is a unique spot for a number of reasons: it is also the site of the Potomac Forks hiker/biker campsite; the canal is watered here and is actually popular with local fishermen (Battie Mixon’s fishing hole); and the two branches of the Potomac meet approximately 200 yards downstream, as the South Branch can be seen merging with the North Branch while passing beneath a railroad trestle.  The actual time of  our hike was in late February as the last vestiges of 15″ of snow continued to re-freeze and thaw until the towpath became a sometimes icy, sometimes muddy mess.

Lock 68

Lock 68

The highlight of the day was seeing six very brave deer run across the “iffy” ice on the canal near mile marker 164.  There were several spots where small streams entered the canal, and the slightly warmer water melted large sections that had previously been frozen.  The area also had plenty of beaver sign, including a small dam just below the towpath in a large field.  Indeed, the theme for the day seemed to be “water, water everywhere.”

On the subject of water, the confluence of the North and South Branches is of particular interest.  The sources of the Potomac begin at the Fairfax Stone in West Virginia (North Branch) and in the mountains of Highland County Virginia (South Branch).  Many of the locals refer to the North Branch as “the Potomac” above their confluence, but others give the South Branch equal billing.  Which branch is biggest depends mainly on what area has received the most rain at any given time.  When the border was originally surveyed, it was decided that it should run along the main stem of the Potomac, and at the time the North Branch was flooding.  Had it been the other way around, present day Maryland, West Virginia, and perhaps even Virginia would look completely different on a map.  As a native West Virginian, I’m one of those people who gives the South Branch its due and insist that the “real” Potomac starts a couple of hundred yards below Lockhouse 68.  Feel free to agree or disagree.  I would love to add any comments on the subject.

Looking across at the South Branch.  The blasted sun was NOT cooperating!

Looking across at the South Branch. The blasted sun was NOT cooperating!

 

Be Sociable, Share!

16 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Jamie on March 6, 2014 at 8:59 pm

    Nice shots of the lock and lockhouse. I even like the South Branch shot with the “comet tail”! Perhaps it is a message from the heavens blessing the confluence of the branches as they form the Potomac?

    Here’s a question for you (and others) who have familiarity with the western reaches of the C&O. Is there a place between Town Creek and Evitts Creek aqueducts where the spring colors are particularly vibrant? I hope to hike a portion of that stretch this spring and if one area stands out above the others, I would like to know about it. Thank you.

    Reply

  2. Posted by LevelWalker on March 7, 2014 at 10:11 am

    Have you done from Lock 75 through Evitts Creek yet? It’s not the most scenic place on the western end, but there are some open fields and decent views of the mountains across the way. There is also a neat little graveyard maintained by the Cumberland Historical Society that’s just off of the towpath.

    I also like the area just above Oldtown. There’s a really scenic spot where a large pond is formed on the canal, and the Alum Hill Deep Cut is great for birdwatching. As wildflowers go, they seem to be everywhere, but certain flowers seem to dominate sections of the towpath at given times. We’ve seen them disappear in one area and then show up in patches again–usually upstream from where we’ve seen them before.

    I’ll have to go back through some old posts concerning wildflowers. We managed to sneak up on a few of them last year–even with my lack of photography skills. The Trout Lily and Larger Blue Flag, etc. were very nice.

    Reply

  3. Posted by LevelWalker on March 7, 2014 at 10:17 am

    Jamie,

    It looks like we started seeing Dutchman’s Breeches around mid-April last year and saw Day Lillies along the towpath well into June. It’s hard to tell where they’ll pop up. I think most of our wildflower posts were done somewhere between Pearre and Little Orleans, but by April there should be plenty to see all along the canal. We were fortunate to catch Dutchman’s Breeches. If I remember correctly, they were gone in a couple of weeks.

    Reply

  4. Posted by Jamie on March 7, 2014 at 10:14 pm

    Tom,

    No, I haven’t hiked anything between Town Creek and Evitts Creek — ever. Outside of passing over the canal at Oldtown once and a brief rest stop at Spring Gap another time, this section will be entirely new to me, which is exciting in and of itself. I anticipate doing it in four different hikes — of which one or two will be done on my spring overnighter.

    Thanks for the good information. Last year in April, the bluebells were prevalent on the hike from Paw Paw to Town Creek.

    I probably only have one weekend when I can visit in the mid April-mid May window this year and I can only hope it will be half as spectacular as my overnighter last year.

    Reply

  5. Posted by LevelWalker on March 7, 2014 at 11:53 pm

    I think you will enjoy the area for the most part. I’m not that turned off by the railroad yard or Rt. 51, but it’s probably not as secluded as Pearre to Paw Paw. I really liked Lockhouses 68, 72, and 75. I think 72 is supposed to have a large spring behind it. Hahn can probably lead you right to the spot. This walk from Town Creek to 68 was nice. In the Spring, expect to see fishermen.

    Reply

  6. Posted by John W. Slough on April 1, 2014 at 4:00 pm

    This article brings back memories of the times that I spent at lockhouse 68 during the summers of 1952 through 1959. I can still remember falling to sleep each night to the water falling over the concrete dam at the west end of the lock. I would fish the canal from Oldtown to Town Creek, and also the Potomac and the South Branch. The large sunfish under the B & O rail road bridge provided many tastie meals, when fried up in a cast iron skillet on the coal stove in the lock house. My family were regular vistors to the residents (my mother’s cousin) of the lock house at that time and they invited me to stay there, a good part of each summer during my childhood. I even help to raise turkey’s and a goose which became my companion when fishing, mostly due to me feeding it with small sunfish I would catch out of the lock.

    One particular incident which i still remember, happened on a warm spring day, in March of 1954, when a large contingent of hikers were approaching from Oldtown. While I was sitting on the stone stup in front of the house they approached, the leader (which later I would find out was Justice Douglas) sat down beside me and asked me questions and if we had any fresh water. I immediately grabbed the water bucket and ran to well and pumped a fresh bucket, which all seemed to enjoy. They started to get underway again when Justice Douglas quickly came to me to shake my hand, and at the same time, my goose, being protective, bit Justice Douglas on the lower leg, leaving quite a mark. After his recovery, the group continued their hike to Washington.

    Reply

    • Posted by Jamie on April 4, 2014 at 4:10 pm

      Those are fine recollections — and a great story about the goose! For those of us who enjoy the canal as it is today, we are almost in awe of those who actually lived upon it. Thank you for sharing.

      Reply

      • Posted by LevelWalker on April 4, 2014 at 4:24 pm

        Jamie,

        We’ve had a lot of great comments over the years, many of which are yours, and Mr. Slough’s recollection was certainly interesting, humorous, etc. I hope he gets the opportunity to tell it to somebody who can save it for posterity.

        Reply

  7. Posted by LevelWalker on April 1, 2014 at 4:08 pm

    Wow! That’s national park history. Thanks for a great share. I wish I could have been there!

    Reply

  8. Posted by LevelWalker on April 1, 2014 at 5:21 pm

    Mr. Slough,

    Pardon the brevity of my return comment. I was still at work. I was wondering if you’ve ever spoken to a canal historian. That’s a great post-operational piece of canal lore. I bet there are lots of people who would love to hear about your experiences and meeting Justice Douglas.

    Reply

    • Posted by BikerChick on April 1, 2014 at 8:29 pm

      What a great memory of the C&O Canal, and as Tom mentioned, a historic event! Thanks for sharing!

      Reply

  9. Posted by JOHN FLYNN on May 27, 2014 at 4:45 pm

    I WAS WONDERING IF THE CANAL IS SUCH A GOOD HISTORIC PLACE, WHY ARE THEY LEAVING IT DRY UP AT OLDTOWN MD. THEY STOCK IT WITH FISH AND ALSO AGAIN FOR THE BATTIE MIXING FISHING RODEO AND AFTER THAT IT WILL HAVE SO MUCH SEAWEED IN IT YOU WILL NOT BE ABLE TO FISH PLEASE TRY TO GET THIS CLEAN TO KEEP ARE YOUNG KIDS AND GRANDKIDS FISHING.. THANK YOU JOHN FLYNN

    Reply

    • Posted by LevelWalker on May 29, 2014 at 11:55 am

      That’s an interesting point. I was between 70 and 71 last summer and catfish were belly-up in the water. I don’t have any suggestions other than maybe changing the PH with crushed limestone.

      Reply

  10. Posted by Gene Eldon Long on November 14, 2015 at 1:15 pm

    I lived in Lock House 68 from 1933 to 1952. My parents lived there for approx. 40 years. They moved out to a house in Paw Paw to avoid the winters. They were both getting older and carrying coal from the North side of the iron bridge. They also had to carry water, by the bucket, from the well which was located on the north side of the Canal. The toilet was located outside and the house had no electricity
    until after June of 195.

    Of the six children who were raised there, four have passed. My sister, Wanda and me are all that are left. Wanda is 88 years old and i am 82. I could tell you stories about this part of my life for hours but instead I plan, this winter, to Write the story of my youth at Lock House 68 this or early next year.

    Reply

    • Posted by Jamie on November 16, 2015 at 7:30 pm

      Mr. Long,

      Once you have written your memoirs, here is one person who would very much enjoy reading it. Please let us know when they are finished and how we may obtain a copy. Thank you!

      Reply

  11. Posted by LevelWalker on November 17, 2015 at 7:28 pm

    We’ve chanced upon a couple of excellent comments on Lockhouse 68 over the past couple of years. Mr. Long, when you finish your story, I would like to hear from you as well! We don’t get a great deal of traffic on this site, but I would be happy to give your piece a writeup and whatever small push that I can. I know for a fact that Jamie and I are both interested in the “lost years” of the C&O between 1924 and the early seventies. Thanks for the fantastic comment!

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>