Ker-plunk! (Towpath under water above McMahon’s Mill)

Flood Damage




The area received a hard rain a few days ago that also melted the last of the remaining snow.  The  local streams are still running high, so when we headed upstream from McMahon’s Mill, we weren’t terribly surprised to see a long stretch of debris lying on the towpath.

After all, the section above Dam 4 is prone to flooding–even beyond the new towpath created at Big Slackwater.  In fact, for much of the next half-mile above the mill, the towpath is squeezed in between cliffs and the river, and the old canal bed doesn’t re-appear until mile 89.1 (at Lock 41).


What? Huh? Where's the Towpath?



We trudged through logs and smaller branches deposited by the river for a couple of hundred feet before reaching a right turn at the base of a cliff.  Suddenly, the unthinkable happened–the towpath disappeared beneath the surging waters of the Potomac River.

This is merely high water, and the trail is susceptible here, so this isn’t anything more than one of the many minor setbacks that the NPS will surely encounter again this year.  Nevertheless, nobody has taken down any of the detour signs along Delinger or Dam 4 roads, and when the river is up, the towpath above the dam will need to be bypassed.



More Monocacy

Hanging stone

A while back, Candee and I took a hike in the vicinity of the Monocacy Aqueduct, and we found a number of interesting things that I failed to mention in the previous post.  This picture isn’t of the greatest quality, but it does show an odd anomaly underneath the first arch (heading upstream on the canal) of the Monocacy Aqueduct.  The  “hanging stone” near the center of the picture has been “as-shown” for at least twenty years, but it’s not deemed as a threat to park visitors.  Just consider it an interesting conversation piece along the way.

Cellar and chimney

The above picture is of an old foundation at mile 41,8.  The cellar and chimney are still in relatively decent condition, but the site appears to be forgotten in the annals of history–merely mentioned as “foundation and wall parts on the river-side of the canal” in Gary Petrichick’s  Pocket Guide to the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park.  Other books that I have fail to mention it altogether, so it’s difficult to say whether or not the building that occupied this site had any bearing on the canal.

Nearby, at mile 41,97, the Little Monocacy Culvert (#69) is a shining example of the craftsmanship that went into the building of the canal.  The water from the creek passes through the culvert into a deep, blue pool on the river-side of the canal, making for one of the many highlights in this section of the park.

Little Monocacy Culvert

Ice, Ice Baby

Icicles at the Paw Paw Tunnel

Like many middle-aged men, I have a thing for really bad rap songs and icicles.  Many years after the fact, I still remember far too many lines from Vanilla Ice’s signature hit, and–with all due respect to Mr. Ton-Loc–I think Funky Cold Medina is a drink best served on the rocks.  With this in mind, the recent cold weather and snow has left a trail of hanging ice along the western end of the C&O Canal.  The Paw Paw Tunnel, unfortunately, is closed to hikers for the time being because of a rock slide near Mile Marker 155, but it looked great from a distance today.

Ice along the C&O Canal towpath

Town Creek Aqueduct

Town Creek Aqueduct

Heading upstream from Georgetown, Town Creek Aqueduct is the tenth of the eleven C&O Canal aqueducts.  It’s location is at mile 162.3, and it is easily accessible from Maryland Rt. 51–almost halfway between Oldtown and Paw Paw, WV.  The canal is watered immediately upstream from the aqueduct, and it is not unusual to see people fishing there.  Like many of the other aqueducts, the upstream wall is missing, but it remains as one of the most beautiful structures along the canal.

The icy waters of Town Creek entering the Potomac River

Personally, the Town Creek Aqueduct is one of the few structures that I can still remember seeing for the first time.  Many years ago, I was on one of my first rides after buying my bike, and Candee and I were sitting on the aqueduct while a dozen wild turkeys crossed the towpath in single file just below the watered section of the canal.  Initially, I thought the site was more remote than it actually is, but it remains one of my favorite spots on the canal.  I encourage everybody to park along this access point and walk across Rt. 51 into Green Ridge State Forest.  The Log Roll Trail is directly across from the road into the aqueduct, and it is one of the many interesting trails in the forest.

From the back

A Little Help From Some Friends

Concrete waste weir (98.92)

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.

Underneath I-81 (98.5)

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 (  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.

Railroad bridge abutment (97.44) with Conrail trestle (97.54) in the background

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.

Culvert 127 (97.85)