The C&O Canal in Georgetown and Beyond

In these last two weeks at the C&O Canal, I felt like I was able grasp a better understanding of the nature of the canal and the work that’s being done to improve it. One of the unique features of the canal is its long and narrow make-up. The C&O stretches 184.5 miles from Georgetown in Washington, D.C. to Cumberland, Maryland and, even though I’m stationed in Georgetown, I’ve been able to travel to different sections of the C&O. In my visits to some of the other parts of the canal like Williamsport and Great Falls, I witnessed a lot of the fun activities that go on up and down the canal. I had the chance to work a lock, go inside an interpretative lockhouse, meet a mule, see an operating visitor’s center (the Georgetown visitor’s center is closed indefinitely), and ride a canal boat. While Williamsport and Great Falls are located in rural and suburban settings, Georgetown is in an urban setting where the canal is integrated into the daily life of residents, commuters, and visitors alike.

One of the working locks in Great Falls

Learning about all these interest groups down in Georgetown that use the canal in one way or another has helped me realize how much communities care about the environment (both built and natural) that surrounds them. Currently, NPS and its partners in Georgetown are working together on a canal planning project. When I’m in Georgetown, I get a close look at the project’s major theme: to “restore, revitalize, and reimagine” the canal. While this means that I sit in on a lot of meetings, it has been an overall exciting process. Just recently, NPS and its partners held a public scoping meeting where they welcomed around 200 people to discuss the project plans and to take in public feedback. After a brief presentation covering the project plans, attendees split in smaller groups to discuss their current uses of the canal and what they hope to see in the future. Any project, such as this one, that deals with historic properties must involve the public so this public scoping meeting was critical to the development of the canal’s future. So far, my internship has provided valuable insight into major aspects of public history while showing me sides of nature that I hadn’t really been exposed to. My last takeaway from these last weeks was that no matter which part of the C&O you’re in, you’re bound to come across some amazing sights.

The view from the Washington aqueduct in Great Falls

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