Exploring Great Falls

Great Falls of the Potomac

I can’t imagine the awe that early explorers felt when they first viewed the Great Falls of the Potomac.  However, I know what I expected to see the first time I left Martinsburg, WV and traveled down I-70 and I-270 in heavy traffic to within 10 miles of the DC line.  Not much!  Honestly, the idea of something this beautiful on such a large river–all within a few minutes of the nation’s capital–still blows me away.

On the Maryland side of the river

There’s a saying–You can take a boy out of the country, but you can’t take the country out of the boy.  I can relate.  I prefer the western end of the C&O Canal, but the area around mile marker 14 contains some of the most remarkable scenery in the park.  Nevertheless, this combination of beauty and a metropolitan area translates into large crowds.  Serious hikers and bikers should expect delays in the Great Falls area.  I’ve seen groups of people walking side-by-side across the entirety of the towpath, but who can blame them?  This part of the C&O is a great place to spend the day.

The Charles F. Mercer

Generally, boat rides on the Charles F. Mercer are available from Wednesday-through-Sunday, but we were surprised to see the pride of the canal up on blocks.  On a positive note, though, this was the perfect opportunity for a top-to-bottom view of the boat.  With The Georgetown out of commission, the Mercer is a popular tourist attraction.  Hopefully, it’s either being painted or made ship-shape for future canal enthusiasts.

Downstream view of Great Falls Tavern

The Great Falls Tavern Visitor Center is another of the many highlights of this section of the canal.  It was originally built as a hotel in 1831–just three years after ground was broken on the C&O.  Today, this wonderful structure contains canal exhibits and lots of interesting souvenirs.  I couldn’t leave without getting a pack of note cards and a refrigerator magnet.  In all, seeing Great Falls again made for a really nice trip, but I’m guessing that my next C&O Canal excursion will be somewhere in the wilds west of Hancock.  Until then, here’s a parting shot of the tavern from a different angle.

Great Falls Tavern

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3 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Steph on August 13, 2012 at 2:08 pm

    Your photos are AMAZING!

    Reply

  2. OMGoodness these are beautiful. I think I can almost relate to your comments about the beauty as this past weekend I saw sites I’d never know were there unless we drove by them. I’ll have pictures posted soon.

    Reply

  3. Posted by LevelWalker on August 20, 2012 at 9:42 pm

    Melissa,

    Thanks for your comment. It’s a neat place if the traffic doesn’t drive you crazy. I’ll look forward to checking out the pictures. I hear you checked out the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and Lake Superior. Cool stuff!!

    Reply

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