Mile 13.85 - This is the view of the Mather Gorge. A nearby plaque reads:
A Geological Barrier - Canal engineers encountered many barriers, but perhaps what was most perplexing was navigating around the Great Falls of the Potomac.
At Widewater, the canal builders used a river channel abandoned thousands of years ago by the Potomac when it cut its present gorge. At this bend, just above WideWater, the engineers found a steep cliff where the old channel ended, and had to build an enormous buttressed wall to cradle the canal and towpath about 70 feet above the present river level.
From the bottom of the gorge, you can see the buttressed wall and the wooden handrail that marks the towpath.
Snow covered rocks at the bottom of the gorge. If you decide to try the Billy Goat Trail, it's not too affected by ice and snow as much of it is sheltered. The only exception is one place where you have to climb up an icy stone wall. Still, I see families with very young kids hike it even on days like this.
There is a path from the canal that leads to this popular kayak launching point. Kayaks usually start from the parking lot across from Old Angler's Inn. From there, you can paddle up the canal to just past the gorge and then carry you kayak down here to pick up the Potomac. From here, it's a short and exciting trip back to Old Angler's Inn.