Skip to Main Content

Maryland's National Register Properties

Photo credit: Jennifer Falkinburg, 09/9/2003
Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Park
Inventory No.: AL-I-B-086, F-2-11, M: 12-46, WA-VI-048
Other Name(s): C & O Canal
Date Listed: 10/15/1966
Location: Allegany County, Frederick County, Montgomery County, Washington County
Category: District
Period/Date of Construction: 1828-1924
Boundary Description: N. bank of Potomac R. from Georgetown,DC to Cumberland, MD.
Description: Built between 1828 and 1850, the canal ran 184.5 miles from Georgetown, D.C. to Cumberland, Maryland. During its active operation until 1924 it suffered periodic damage from floods, war, and other causes which, together with normal deterioration required the repair and replacement of many structural components. The canal primarily was used for hauling coal from western Maryland to the port of Georgetown in Washington, D.C. Hundreds of original structures, including locks, lockhouses, and aqueducts, serve as reminders of the canal's role as a transportation system during the Canal Era. The park was acquired by the National Park Service in 1938. Significance: The Chesapeake and Ohio Canal, today largely unwatered and overgrown and with most of its structural features in varying states of deterioration, is yet one of the most intact and impressive survivals of the American canal-building era. While recognizable segments of other early-19th century canals exist and while a few other canals of the period have been rebuilt for modern shipping, the C&O Canal is unique in that it remains virtually unbroken and without substantial modification affecting its original character for its entire length of some 185 miles. Such physical changes as have occurred since the canal ceased operation in 1924 have been largely dictated by nature: a softening of prism contours, extensive vegetation overgrowth, widespread decay and collapse of wood and stone structures. Beyond the restored and rewatered 22-mile portion from Georgetown to Violet's Lock, much of the canal now has the character of a ruin. Yet the fact that the entire towpath to Cumberland may still be traveled and the survival--in whole or in part--of most of the principal canal structures afford the many hikers and bicyclists who follow the route a fine opportunity to appreciate the magnitude of this historic engineering achievement.


Return to the National Register Search page