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Seneca Creek Aqueduct

Mile 23 - Seneca Creek winds through Montgomery County and empties into the Potomac here.  It originally had three arches, the repaired remains of the third can be seen on the right.  The parking lot, boat launch and park here are very busy.  It is accessible off River Road via Riley's Lock Road, named after the last lock keeper on the canal.

Dam 2 forms a still water here which is why you often see Jet Ski's out on the waters on a sunny weekend afternoon.

A nearby plaque reads:

Canal engineers built aqueducts to bridge canal boats over rivers and large streams such as Seneca Creek.  Eleven aqueducts were needed between here and the canal's western terminus at Cumberland, Maryland; all required skilled quarrymen and stonemasons, and large outlays of scarce capital.

Seneca Aqueduct opened to traffic in 1833, and along with through-boats from the west, carried a substantial local traffic in lime, grain, fertilizer and sandstone to and from farms and industries around Seneca.  Made of red sandstone from nearby bluffs, it has long been one of the most admired canal structures.

Freshlets and flooding on Seneca Creek have always caused problems, and finally in September, 1971, almost 50 years after the canal closed, a violent local flood swept away one of the arches.

The last locktender at Seneca was Johnny Riley, whose former lock and lockhouse are at the east end of the aqueduct.  "I don't care what hour of the night it was," recalled a former boatman, "any hour of the night you boat to his lock and holler...there was his lantern waving you ahead."

A description of the Seneca area from Towns Along the Towpath.

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If you need to stop for some refreshments, try visiting Poole's General Store.  You can reach it by hiking 0.7 miles to River Road, it's just on the other side of the road, directly across from Tschiffely Mill Road.  It has an historic plaque that reads as follows:

In 1900, Frederick Allnut purchased the 1855 Darby House and 1 1/2 acres of land from William Tschiffely who had recently acquired the property along with the nearby mill.  Allnut, who had been running a store next to the canal for several years, built this store facing River Road in 1901.  Upon the death of Frederick Allnut in 1915, the store and house passed to his widow, Ada Allnut, then in 1927 to Guy and Hilda Allnut.  The store was sold to Raymond Poole in 1965 and became known as Poole's General Store.  It is the oldest general store in Montgomery County in continuous operation.

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Riley Retouched for Web.jpg (111706 bytes)

Mile 23 - This is a very well preserved lock house, the last one to operate on the canal.  A lot of the lock houses are either locked up, in ruins or long gone, so this one is well worth seeing.

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This aqueduct is unusual in that it is combined with Lock 24.

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Wrecked Riley.jpg (83164 bytes)The repair of the missing arch consists of large metal beams spanning the area where bricks used to be.  I see a lot of people climbing onto these beams or fishing from them.


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There's a lot to see here, so here's a mini map of the area with all the attractions marked.  If you're looking for a quickie hike, you can start from the parking lot, cross the bridge over to the Stone Cutting Mill,  walk up Tschiffely Mill Road to the General Store and head back down to the parking lot.  It's 7/10 of a mile between the parking lot and River Road.  From there you can walk to Violette's Lock or as far as you wish along the canal.

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