The Hancock Visitor Center is located in the old Bowles House, and since the center’s relocation from the ugly block building on the main drag, it has been hailed as the “new” visitor center. However, the fact is that there is nothing new about it. The house was built in the 1780s and is much older than the canal itself. In fact, in the 1830s the residents of the house sold goods to the boat captain and aided in their passage through nearby Lock 52 and the Tonoloway Creek Aqueduct.
The view from the footbridge over the lock reveals a rare scene. Notice that the grass is lush, green, and mowed, and the canal isn’t filled with trees of all shapes and sizes. In fact, this is one of the better-manicured stretches of the western end of the park, which is fitting because the visitor center is nothing short of a showcase.
However, beauty is often in the eye of the beholder, and Candee and I both love this picture. I’m not sure about the age of the outhouse, and I wasn’t about to get close enough to find out. Perhaps the NPS uses this as a site for Port-a-John Appreciation 101. I know I won’t be complaining about the facilities at the hiker/biker campsites for a long time!
In all, the Hancock Visitor Center is a great place to stop on the C&O Canal. It‘s open from Memorial Day until late October and has a wide variety of books and souvenirs for park visitors of all ages. Likewise, it sits between the towpath and the nearby Western Maryland Rail Trail, which allows bikers to enjoy both the C&O and its sister trail. I’ve always said that Hancock is a great place to ride a bike, and a trip to the Bowles House only makes it better.