Archive for the ‘Aqueducts’ Category

Watering Williamsport

This is news to me!

This is news to me!

During a short walk upstream fro Williamsport, I noticed all of the stones is the canal prism, but I didn’t think much about it.  However, this sign made me stop and ponder the possibilities: what exactly is “the design of the Conococheague Aqueduct?”  I’ve heard stories for a couple of years about watering the aqueduct, but the missing upstream wall is a major problem. That’s when the light bulb came on: hence, the large, squared stones in the prism.  Sometimes it takes me a little while to grasp a concept…

Stones in the canal prism!

Stones in the canal prism!

Actually, the project is a combined effort between the Town of Williamsport and the National Park Service.  Williamsport is already one of the most visited spots along the canal, but adding a mule drawn boat that goes over a creek, underneath a railroad bridge, and through a lock would be a tremendous boon for both the town and the park.  Such an upgrade would bring in an estimated 100,000 additional visitors, who would spend $1,8 million.  Spread that over a year, and you’re looking at 274 more people a day, and they would spend about $4900 Per Diem.  That’s a lot of Desert Rose sandwiches, Tony’s pizzas, and souvenirs at the visitor center, etc.  Needless to say, the “wow factor” would be as important as the revenue.  The project is slated to be finished in the summer of 2016, and I can guarantee that if the NPS and Williamsport build it, people will come.

Getting the aqueduct's "good" side

Getting the aqueduct’s “good” side

Evitts Creek Aqueduct

Evitts Creek Aqueduct

Evitts Creek Aqueduct

Evitts Creek Aqueduct is located at mile 180.66, and it’s the last of the eleven aqueducts heading upstream from Georgetown to Cumberland.  It was completed around 1840, and its 70′ span is the smallest of these structures along the  C&O Canal.  The aqueduct was stabilized by the National Park Service in 1979 and 1983 (hence the supports), and the view from the top offers a great look at Evitts Creek emptying into the North Branch of the Potomac River.

Evitts Creek and nearby Evitts Mountain are named after one of Allegany County’s earliest settlers.  It’s said that he went to this (then) remote area to “contemplate his bachelorhood.”  I didn’t find out anything about his marital status later in life, but I imagine any man with a mountain and creek named after him had to be a pretty good catch.  I know if I were to get into online dating, etc. and had a creek and mountain named after me, I would put it in bold type and caps in the first sentence of my introduction.  I’m rambling, aren’t I?

Evitts Creek Aqueduct from creekside.  Note the tree.  We've had lots of heavy winds and blowdowns in the area this summer

Evitts Creek Aqueduct from creekside. Note the tree. We’ve had lots of heavy winds and blowdowns in the area this summer

Anyway, the creek itself is 30.2 miles long and begins its journey to the North Branch in Bedford County, Pennsylvania.  It’s important to the people of Cumberland  because it feeds 268-acre Lake Koon and 141-acre Lake Gordon, and the two reservoirs supply water to the city.  The creek is stocked with trout in both Pennsylvania and Maryland and is noted for the quality of its water.  As a thru-hiker or rider heading downstream from Cumberland, Evitts Creek is the first of many streams that play an important role in history and everyday life.  We’ve seen where they all go into the river, but there are lots of great stories upstream from all eleven aqueducts!

Evitts Creek Aqueduct--topside view

Evitts Creek Aqueduct–topside view

Painting the Town…Brown

Town Creek Aqueduct handrail

Town Creek Aqueduct handrail

About a year ago, Candee and I were fortunate enough to be appointed Canal Stewards at the Town Creek Aqueduct.  It was different than our usual level walking assignment in that the steward program focuses on a specific site and requires a bit more attention to detail.  Being from Martinsburg, WV, it’s difficult to give this magnificent structure the time that it deserves, so painting the handrail over the July 4th weekend was the perfect opportunity to make things a little bit better along the towpath.

Another view

Another view

Painting the rail was an all-day affair, so I did get to meet several people who showed an interest in the aqueduct.  It is in better condition than most smaller aqueducts on the western end of the canal (Fifteen Mile Creek being a possible exception), but in the words of Thomas Hahn, “Much of the aqueduct was rebuilt in 1977 and is now in stabilized condition, though the appearance is lacking in authenticity and somewhat in sensitivity.”  I’m inclined to disagree with Hahn’s criticism, but I suppose that’s up for debate.  One truly authentic feature of this aqueduct, and many others, are the weeds and shrubbery that inhabit the mortar of both the upstream and downstream walls.  Mother Nature is definitely a tough opponent! Fortunately, however, this single arch structure–at least during my observations–hasn’t had the added strain of flood debris that plagues the aqueducts across Conococheague and Seneca Creeks.

I feel very fortunate to have such a great national park in close proximity.  However, the 184.5 miles of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal is both a blessing and a curse–albeit a small one. It is kind of difficult for the professional staff to keep up with everything that can possibly go wrong between Cumberland and Georgetown!  During a recent storm, 200+ trees blew down along the towpath, and the maintenance crew had a tough task ahead of them.  With this in mind, volunteers play a major role in keeping the C&O up and running, and I had a great time making a small contribution to the well-being of the park.  Let’s just hope my paint job holds up for a few years!

Hmmm...it looks good from here!

Hmmm…it looks good from here!

Antietam Aqueduct (69.4)

Antietam Creek Aqueduct

Antietam Creek Aqueduct

Heading upstream from Georgetown, the Antietam Creek Aqueduct is the fourth of the C&O Canal’s eleven aqueducts.  It is a 140′, three span structure that was completed in 1834, and for being 179 years old, it is in remarkably good condition.  A side-by-side comparison between this aqueduct and the one over Conococheague Creek is pretty remarkable.  Both streams are among the Potomac’s largest tributaries on the Maryland side between Cumberland and Georgetown, and both aqueducts have three arches.  However, the Conococheague is backed up from the Potomac, while the Antietam is free-flowing and shallow, and there isn’t nearly as much debris to contend with.  Likewise, flooding doesn’t appear to be as big of an issue as it is in Williamsport.

This aqueduct has an upstream wall!

This aqueduct has an upstream wall!

Considering that the Catoctin Creek Aqueduct has been rebuilt and Monocacy has underwent extensive repairs, the Antietam Aqueduct has survived the ravages of nature–perhaps–better than any of the larger structures on the C&O Canal.  Seneca Creek is missing an arch, and (to the best of my recollection) all of the single-arch aqueducts on the northern (or western, depending on who you ask) end of the canal are missing their upstream walls.  Why the Antietam Aqueduct has endured so well is beyond me, but it appears that the lay of the land might have something to do with it.  Likewise, a lot of credit has to be given to the stone masons and laborers who built this magnificent aqueduct.  It really is something to see!

When was this thing built again?  Oh, yeah, 1834!

When was this thing built again? Oh, yeah, 1834!

Seneca Creek Aqueduct

Seneca Creek Aqueduct

Seneca Creek Aqueduct

The Seneca Creek Aqueduct is located at mile 22.8 of the C&O Canal, and it is noteworthy for a number of reasons. For starters, it is the first of the eleven aqueducts as one heads upstream from Georgetown toward Cumberland, Md. Also, the aqueduct is one of the few that sits beside a lock (Riley’ s Lock, number 24). The only other one I can think of is at Tonoloway Creek–feel free to correct me if I’m wrong. Finally, this aqueduct is missing the upstream arch, as one heads up the Canal. The arch has been replaced by a footbridge that connects it to the remaining arches.

The Seneca Creek Aqueduct is also a popular destination for boaters. It’s not uncommon to see power boats traveling under the arches, nor is it strange to see kayakers practicing Eskimo rolls where the creek meets the Potomac River.

Upstream view of Seneca Creek Aqueduct Upstream view of Seneca Creek Aqueduct