Do you have any pictures of the C&O Canal you'd like to add to the site?  Interesting stories?  Historical facts?  Am I missing your favorite link?  Email them to rick@mcmullans.org for consideration.  Or just e-mail me to say hi.

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Title: Canal History Near Frederick/Point of Rocks
From: Bob Southee
Date: May 8, 2003

Over the years I have become interested in several subjects related to the Potomac, some of them prior to building of the Canal. I will describe them briefly and see if any of them interest you:

CONOY INDIANS. In the early 1700s the Piscataway Indians were forced to move from their traditional home in Maryland with its principal village across the Potomac from where Mount Vernon is today. After relocating in the Bull Run, VA, area they eventually moved to an island in the Potomac downstream from today's Rt.15 Bridge at Point of Rocks. The place was once known as Conoy Island, but is called Heaters Island today. The Indians farmed and actually had a town there. Eventually the Piscataway made an arrangement with the Iroquois (who called them the "Conoy"), and moved north into Pennsylvania and beyond into New York State.

NOLANDS FERRY. This ferry was part of the main inland North-South Route. Martha Washington used it to visit Gen. Washington at Valley Forge, and Gen. Anthony Wayne took his troops across it on their way to reinforce Lafayette in prior to the Battle of Yorktown. The road to Frederick was the Buckeystown Pike. After the Point of Rocks Bridge caused the demise of the Ferry, the main road from the Bridge turned south down what is now Rt. 28, then turned left onto Buckeystown Road. When U.S. roads got numbers in the 1920s that became Rt.15, and stayed that way until the present road was built in the 1940s.

LICKSVILLE. The town by Nolands Ferry was last called "Licksville." It history is obscure, but one dark fact is that prior to the Civil War it was the site of the largest slave auctions in Maryland. I have mid-20th century maps that still show Licksville on Rt. 28 by the Buckeystown Pike.

TUSCARORA INDIANS. The Tuscarora Indians were originally from North Carolina, but were forced to move by the influx of European settlers. After residing at the mouth of the Monacacy River for a number of years, they made an arrangement with the Oneida Nation of the Iroquois which sponsored them into that Confederacy in New York State. There is a Tuscarora Post Office on Rt. 28 in the Indian Flats area. Some descendants of the survivors of the Tuscarora reside today at Brantsford, Ontario, Canada.

URBANA, MD. In 1844 a large building was moved to where Urbana, Maryland, is today and opened as a girls' school. Incredibly, it was moved from Urbanna, Virginia, near the mouth of the Rappahannock River. How it got there, no one knows. It was originally built, in Virginia, in the mid-1700s. Known today as "Landon House," it is still there, in Urbana, MD. Speculation would indicate that the building was moved in sections by ship and canal barge, but after considerable research, no record has been found of such a cargo. It is truly a mystery.

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Title:  Fulton's Lock at Point-of-Rocks
From: Gary Pyles
Date: Nov 26,2002

I enjoyed your site and made a lot of use of the maps and general information and photos while hiking the stretch of the canal from Point-of-Rocks to Shepherdstown recently. My grandfather, William Henry Fulton, who died in 1933, was the last lock-tender at lock 28 at Point-of-Rocks, Maryland. He and his wife Emma Oden Fulton raised 10 children including my mother Lula Fulton Pyles in that lockhouse. I thought you might like to know that the lock there has always know as "Fultons lock" since he became the lock tender and is still known in the area as that. Also Lettie Shores of that area, mentioned in your site, died a while back and of course the park service lost no time in razing the house. Lettie was my second cousin, her mother being the sister of Emma Oden Fulton. She is buried in St. Paul's cemetery near there.

If you are interested in genealogical research along the C&O, you can subscribe to the mailing list by sending an email with the single word "subscribe" to CANDOCANAL-L-request@rootsweb.com.  It's also a good way to contact Gary.

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Title:  Three Day Bicycle Ride
From: Craig Law
Date: August 2, 2002

Just wanted to drop you a note to say what a great website you have for the C & O Canal. I am not sure if any of my pictures will be of quality to earn a spot on your website, (will work on scanning a couple) but my three day trek (60+ miles a day...ugh no training ahead of time) made my hands a bit shaky no matter how hard I tried. Made the whole trip and it only took me two weeks to be able to walk again. :)

I guess I'll have to do it again since I missed so much of the trail while trying to chew threw the miles! When I went in July I had a dry trail but starting in 70+ degree air and ending near 100 was a challenge.

Something that I didn't see a lot of on your discussion list was wildlife sighting (other than the coral snake [cool!]). Mine included a black bear in the brush....dozens of deer including a 10+ point buck so big I thought he was an Elk who challenged me for the towpath near Big Pool, hundreds of bunnies (always in early am), chipmunks, one rattlesnake, turtles, beavers, woodchucks, and the worlds population of GBH (great blue heron), goldfinches and pileated woodpeckers are safely stashed in the canal park.

Even though there is a tremendous drought, the Paw Paw Tunnel had water pouring from the ceiling in several places. I can't imagine it is structurally sound anymore and predict it'll cave in within a couple years.

One note on your site. The kayak course on the feeder canal at lock 5 is known as the "Bethesda Center of Excellence" and is host to the training location of almost every Olympic whitewater slalom paddler of the USA." The national team trains there regularly and it is more often than not where beginning paddlers take up the sport. I was on the US kayaking team for 10 years, so I know the history if you want more.

In fact at mile 140, I met a guy (I was southbound, he northbound with his daughter) that I had competed against paddling 15 years ago. It was one of maybe 25 people going the other way and I was amazed at how few people were taking advantage of the dry trail (and how small a world it is).

Your site will give me great stuff to share with those who wanted to know what I did...so once again thanks!

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Title:  Snakes on the Canal
From: OneTwoKnow (e-mail handle)
Date: June 16, 2002

For many years in my youth and young adulthood, I collect many amphibians and reptiles. Unfortunately, I've never been able to come across a Corn Snake (Elaphe guttata guttata). Three years ago I started biking the C&O Canal, doing just 8 to 15 mile segments, circling back making it a 16 to 30 mile rides. Last fall (2001), I was riding my bike on the C&O just a couple of miles west of the PAW PAW Tunnel and I came across a young adult Corn Snake. It was about 30 inches long. I got off my bike to confirm my identification. Picked it up to examine it's underbelly and the pattern around the head/neck. The specimen was fairly bright, probably because it was a young adult. They get quite a bit dark as they mature in the North and bright as you go south (Georgia, Florida). What a treat. I scooted it off into the woods after I admired it for a few minutes. I will always fondly remember PAW PAW for that Corn Snake.  Incidentally, in my entire 3 yrs of riding on the C&O Canal (Georgetown to Cumberland), I usually come across 3 species: The Black Rat Snake, The Water Snake and the Garter Snake.

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Title:  Boatman's Bean Soup
From: Glenn C. Benson
Date: May 27, 2002

Boatman's Bean Soup


bullet16oz of Navy Beans or Great Northern bullet1 onion (diced) bullet2 Irish potatoes (diced) bullet1 1/2 quarts water bullet1 ham bone bullet1 pint tomatoes


Wash the beans. Soak the beans over night and drain off the water. Add all the ingredients (except the tomatoes) to 1 1/2 quarts water.  Cook until the potatoes are done. Add the tomatoes and cook for another 1/2 hour.


Two people will get tried of eating beans before they are gone.


Over night and about two hours.

I reckon eating is important to me. This is a bit of history you can taste.  Recipes and flower seeds from an earlier time can bring history to life.  I enjoy both.  A recipe dating back to the days of the C & O Canal. Around the early 1900's.  The canal folks fixed their beans in this manner.

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Title:  The Conococheage Aqueduct
From: Abner Kaplan
Date: May 12, 2002

I am a native of Williamsport where I lived for many years, a number of them when the canal was in operation.  Every summer for seven or eight years of my young life the canal was an integral part of my existence. In those early days my experience took me from the waste weir, about a half mile below Lock 44 westward to what was known as Turtle Pond, a short distance above the aqueduct that spans the Conocheague Creek.

All of these locations were great places for swimming, including Cushwa basin and the culvert below Lock 44.  Canoeing flourished and fishing, camping and overnight hikes were regular occurrences. The towpath protected by overhanging trees provided an ideal walkway for Sunday afternoon strollers.

Ice skating also was a popular activity as freezing was facilitated by the fact that about only three feet of water remained after boating season ended. Cushwa's Basin. with its broad expanse was the focal point.

For sheer drama there was the time in the Spring of 1920 when 0n an early morning, the berm side of the aqueduct gave way hurling the huge limestone blocks into the Conococheague Creek below. A boat owned by Frank Myers, as the only occupant, was entering the structure at the precise moment.  Mr. Myers had the agility and presence of mind to leap to the towpath, cut the tow line and save the mules from being dragged to an almost certain death below.

The resulting cascading waterfall, a miniature Niagara, attracted onlookers from miles around. People from Hagerstown jammed all available street cars to witness this spectacular event.  The huge stone blocks filled a large portion of the creek below. The boat remained embedded in the creek for a number of years, providing an inviting spot for diving and fishing.

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Title: Western Maryland Railroad Tunnels north of Hancock
From: Jeremy Cooper
Date: June 15, 2001

The tunnels at Indigo and Stickpile had a fence to keep people out, but when I visited them last Sunday the fences had been knocked down. They are both safe. Indigo Tunnel, (1 mile east of Little Orleans) can be used as a short cut. I used it about everytime I go by there. I rode my bike through it Sunday and I had to use the light on my camera to see the floor as I rode through it. There was a little water at the west end but nothing deep and I rode through it very easily. Its a nice COOL shortcut, but bring a flashlight.

I've used the RR trail from Little Orleans to the 1st WM bridge all the time. It cuts off a mile and a half I think. I've never rode that part of the canal because of this short cut. The shortcut is only a half mile if that. I've met other people doing the same thing. I took some photos here and I'll post them on my website at Little Orleans when I get them developed.

Stickpile Tunnel is in great shape too. The fence has been knocked down just as the one at Indigo. I walked through this one Sunday and it seemed safe. It would really be a nice shortcut but, there is no way to get down to the canal from the 3rd WMRR bridge. The canal has water in it here, but if you could find a way to cross the canal the shortcut would take miles off your hike.

The other tunnel, Kessler Tunnel just east of the 2 bridges at Paw Paw has a lot of water standing in it. I haven't walked into this one because of the water. I have a VHS video of a train coming out of this tunnel. In the video there is a water fall coming off the top of the tunnel portal here and the train hits the water as it exits. Have you seen the WMRR 5th bridge? It can be seen if you've ever hiked the Paw Paw Tunnel Hill Trail. The bridge can be seen from the side of the mountain on the Paw Paw side of the tunnel. I've hiked to this bridge but I had to cross the WMRR 6th bridge at Paw Paw to reach it. Now there are barricades up to keep people off all the bridges. I have gotten around them but it is very dangerous and I wouldn't advise it.

If you get back down to the canal at Little Orleans I do advise you to check out Indigo Tunnel. Even if you don't hike through it, you can still cool off from the 50 degree air coming out of it. When I rode the towpath around it Sunday I felt cold air down on the towpath at the east end since the tunnel portal is so close. There's a trail up the bank here, and it looked as if someone had rode a horse through the tunnel from the tracks left on the ground.

Comments: If you want to know and see more about the Western Maryland Railroad, visit Jeremy's website.  Visit here if you're mainly interest in the parts that run along the canal North of Hancock.  Remember it starts at Big Pool near Fort Frederick (mile 112).

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Title: New Book: Discovering the C & O Canal
From: Mark Sabatke
Date: May 25, 2001

I am writing and producing a pictorial guide to the C&O Canal. The anticipated publication date is Christmas 2002.

Update May/2003:  It's Out!  You can get it from Mark's web site by clinking on the above graphic.

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Title: Autobiography
From: Thomas Swiftwater Hahn
Date: May 25, 2001

At your request for use in your web site, the C&O Canal Virtual Tour, herewith a few words about the writing of the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal Towpath Guide.

I grew up in Topeka, Kansas, far from the ocean and far from any canal. Our nearest piece of water was the innavigable Kansas River. The closest I was to being in or on the water was running a trot line in Wakarusa Creek. I doubt that I ever gave a single thought to the use of canals or anything to do with them.

When I first went to Washington, DC in the navy, in 1948, I went on nature walks, as birding was always a hobby. Several of the nature walks led by National Park Service naturalists (yes, they had real naturalists in parks those days) were on the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal. I grew curious about the canal, but could find little on it. Sometimes when we passed the lock-houses, I wondered who lived in them. About the time that I wanted to do something about the lack of canal literature, I went to the Mediterranean for a tour of duty, then shortly thereafter to a tour in the Pacific to participate in the Korean War. When I finally returned to Washington, there was time to go on a few canal walks, but I was unable to make the first famous walk with Justice William O. Douglas, although later he became on of my mentors. After the Navy sent me to Yale to study Chinese, they logically sent me to the Republic of China, then back to Fort Meade, then to Hawaii, and from there to a tour of duty in Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War. As a reward, I was sent to Winter Harbor, Maine. My final tour at Fort Meade gave me a chance to return to canal walks and bike trips.

About 1969 I began collecting C&O Canal material. About 1970 I began work on the Towpath Guides. The idea had earlier been conceived by world naturalist Orville Crowder, who, among other things, pushed a measuring wheel the 184 1/2-mile-length of the canal. Orville did not have time to pursue writing a guide, so I took up the idea with his encouragement, his notes, and the use of his measurements. The writing of the guide took a long time, as I had to walk each mile of the canal, some sections several times to get it right. I decided in the beginning to do it in four parts. That was fine and it allowed me to do one section at a time. Later, it became cumbersome to try to correct each section, so I combined them.

Bill Shank of York, Pennsylvania and I had a joint venture in publishing transportation books for several years. Later we split up the operation. The Towpath Guide was my most popular book, having sold about 100,000 copies. Had I had the modern ways of doing things, I would have produced a nice-appearing, well-published book like Mike High's C&O Canal Companion. But, I like to think that the Towpath Guide had a place in time. I like to think of it now as a nostalgic milestone in canal literature. It may still serve a purpose for those who would like to see what it was like to hike or bike the C&O Canal in the "old days." The Harpers Ferry Historical Association now has the rights to all my books except for those published by West Virginia University. Last year they (Harpers Ferry) published a new edition of the Guide with my revisions. The Towpath Guide is available there.

The West Virginia Institute for the History of Technology and Industrial Archaeology, where I was an Assistant Professor and am now an Adjunct Professor, has the rights to the other books that remain in print there. They are: The Alexandria Canal: Its History and Preservation, Cement Mills Along the Potomac River, The Chesapeake & Ohio Canal Lock-Houses and Lock-Keepers, and the Canal Terminology of the United States. Each of the West Virginia University books, except the Lock-House-Lock-Keeper book, was done in collaboration with the Institute Director, Professor Emory L. Kemp.

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Title: Biking the Detour
From: Gary Mumma
May 21, 2001

I biked the canal in 95 and then again in 97. 1995 was what I call a "half trip". I started in Williamsport and went to Cumberland and back. That sparked the juices and in 97 I went from Cumberland to Chain Bridge.

I visit sites like yours from time to time to remind me of the fun I had. Hopefully someday I'll be able to do it again.

One of your pages mentions the "closed section" of the canal and that you wanted to know if anyone hiked it. I think it was 97-98 that I just had to hike it. If for no other reason, to say I had been on the "whole canal". I'm not so sure I would do it again. Very rough walking. Slippery. Overgrown. I guess the bottom line would be DANGEROUS.

I meet a lady on one of my trips down the canal that had tried to bike it. She said she was carrying her bike over a rough section and fell in! She said it happened so quick that other than the feeling of slipping, all she remembers is being under water with her bike on top of her. She pushed it away and came to the surface unhurt. She went on to tell me that they had to go back a couple of weeks later in a boat to retrieve the bike.

I will admit that the entrances on either end look tempting at first, but you don't get very far before it becomes out and out dangerous. I made sure in my description of my trips that I emphasized to USE THE DETOUR. I'm sure there is always the brave at heart, but I think they change their minds fairly quickly when they get to the middle of that section.

Again, thanks for taking the time to put up the site and all the pictures. It brought back a lot of good memories.

Gary Mumma


Reply: Gary's web site is a good one, especially for bikers.  I noticed from the web logs that during Saturday and Sunday, the traffic to this site goes way, way down.  I guess everyone's out hiking and biking on the weekend and during the week they're surfing the internet wishing they could still be there!

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Title: Biking Tips
From: Sue & Al from Michigan
Date: 1/11/2001

Some suggestions for biking the canal:

1- Experienced touring bikers already know this, we but learned the hard way. Carry all your gear on the bike. Any weight added to the body increases the pressure on the saddle.

2- With the exception of extra narrow road wheels/tires, the towpath can be ridden on any size tire. Big, wide, knobby, offroad tires are not necessary, and will required extra pedaling effort. A 38mm cyclocross tire or 1.5" semi-slick mountain tire are ideal. Anything more than a 1.95 semi-slick is overkill.

3- Don't over pack, but be prepared. First aid, tools, chain lube, phone numbers, map, patch kit, tire pump, etc. Vaseline or A&D Ointment should be use before your skin gets chaffed and sore. A thin plastic painters dropcloth doesn't take up much room and makes a good moisture barrier under the tent floor. If it rains a piece of it can be used to keep the bicycles dry.

4- Get padded bike shorts. Regular pants (and underwear) rub and chafe. And, even olympic riders ride with padding. However, to avoid a lot of whispering and finger pointing I wear my padded Spandex bike shorts under my Levis.

5- If you plan to ride more than 30 or so miles per day, don't use a gel seat. They feel nicer at first, but after a few hours they become quite uncomfortable. For long rides a conventional saddle and some conditioning are the way to go.

6- Be careful around hikers and horses. Hikers usually don't hear you approaching from behind. Park rules require you to have a bell. Ring it far enough back that you can be heard without startling the walker. In general, horses are easily spooked. I never pass a horse without the riders ok. Horses and hikers have the right of way on the towpath. Be considerate.

7- Don't ride over the bridges and aqueducts. A fall from one of these structures would be serious at best. A sideways look over the edge could easily cause one to loose their balance.

8- If you start in Cumberland, the park service will allow you to leave your vehicle in their overflow parking area (under the freeway bridge). If you ride to Harpers Ferry or Washington, Amtrack will bring you back to Cumberland to retrieve your ride at a very reasonable cost. However, during peak times, a reservation may be needed.

10-If you're riding to Georgetown, arrange for accommodations in advance. At 4:30 in the afternoon, during the off season, we got the last room available in the area, and it was a $200.00/night suite.

11-Take the detour at dam #4. I've seen pictures of the towpath in this area, and I wouldn't want to be carrying a loaded bike over what's left of the towpath. The detour downstream from Great Falls is another matter. If the water level is low, and you're up to carrying your bike over rocks and boulders, it is a nice area to see. If the water level isn't low, don't do it. The some of the path will be under water, and the rocks are slippery.

12-There are water pumps at frequent intervals along the towpath. The water from these pumps won't kill you. But the best thing that can be said about some of it is that it's wet. Before you run out of water find a "good" pump and refill there.

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Title:Biker from Martinsburg, W.Va.
From:  Tom Hendrick
Date: 25 March, 2001

  I just wanted to drop a line and thank you for your website. I have biked from Cumberland to Point of Rocks and everything in between. I live in Martinsburg W.V and usually start my trips in Sharpsburg. Your site allowed me the chance to check out the sites downstream that I have not had a chance to see yet. I notice you site stops at the Tonoloway, do you have plans to complete the journey to Cumberland?

Reply: I finally finished it on Saturday, May 19th!  I'd stopped just short of Hancock as the weather turned to winter and picked it up again in April.

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Title: B & O Railroad Web Site
From: Steve Okonski
Date: Jan 28, 2001

Hi Rick,

I very much enjoyed your C&O canal tour at http://www.mcmullans.org/canal/. I can readily appreciate the effort it took to create your tour because I've done something similar for the B&O railroad in Maryland. In fact, our tours even have a somewhat similar feel probably thanks to the mile-by-mile arrangement, historical tidbits, mix of photos from assorted seasons, etc. I was wondering if you would be interested in exchanging links to each other's site. Mine is at http://www.trainweb.org/oldmainline

Reply: You can find a link to Steve's site on the Links page and I am getting lots of referrals from his! 

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Title: Guidelines for Level Walkers
From: Karen Gray
Date: 24 August, 2000

Essentially, Level Walkers are volunteers. The program is part of what the C&O Canal Association does to help keep the park clean and to keep the Park staff and the Association board informed about usage, problems, etc. For the purposes of this program the canal is divided up into sections about 2 mi. long and people are assigned to a given section (or sometimes, more than one if they want to take more on). They are required to work/walk their level and report (using a standard report) at least once a year but preferably 3-4 times a year.

Below are the guidelines for level walkers (who must be members of the C&OCanal Association). They explain well what level walkers do. Also you might want to visit our web site: www.omcdesigns.com/canal



1. Heavy duty garbage bags and ties.
2. A sturdy pair of work gloves.
3. Pencil and note book for recording observations.


1. Day pack for carrying supplies, water, snack/lunch, poncho, etc.
2. Additional tools such as rake, pruning shears, net for fishing objects out of water in the canal, etc. Once you're familiar with your level you'll have a much better idea of what is most useful to you.
3. First-aid kit, insect repellent, sun screen, sun glasses, and something like handi-wipes.
4. Binoculars, camera, pocket knife, hand lens, etc.


1. Pick up GARBAGE. If your area is badly littered, remove the most obvious and offensive and provide the Level Walker Chairperson with a clear description of the location of extensive litter or large objects. Leave your bags of garbage in park containers. If you have full bags at a distance from containers, leave them well tied alongside the towpath, preferably at an access point. Notify Nancy Brown at the park headquarters: 301-739-4200.

2. Remove from the towpath any OBSTRUCTION that could endanger or trip cyclists, joggers, and unwary walkers. This includes things such as dead and down branches, twigs, etc., branches growing far out over the towpath and vines, wire or rope on or across the towpath.

3. Watch for and report on significant CHANGES or anything unusual such as sink holes, vandalism or deterioration of any structure or area of your level. If there is something that merits prompt attention, notify the Level Walker chair or Park Service staff as soon as possible.

4. Make notes and report on HUMAN ACTIVITY such as (a) the number of people you encounter and what they are doing (canoeing, horseback riding, fishing, bird watching, etc.); (b) the number of the vehicles in parking areas and the states they are from; (c) the number of boats/canoes, etc.

5. Make notes and report on FLORA AND FAUNA insofar as you can identify it or it merits special comment. While this information may be of limited use at the present, these reports could constitute a resource for future research and documentation of environmental changes and the health of the Park as a natural environment.

6. GET TO KNOW YOUR LEVEL. There are members of the association who are experts on the geology, biology, and history of the canal. Your Level Walker Chair can help you contact these people and may be able to direct you to resources where you can learn more.