by Kate Evans
Every April the National Park Service and the National Park Foundation celebrate National Park Week — a week of fun activities and special events hosted by parks across the country.
National Park Week 2019 takes place from April 20 to April 28. All entrance fees are waived on Saturday, April 20.
Special programs include April 20-Junior Ranger Day youth program, April 22-Earth Day, April 24-Wild Wednesday to learn about wildlife and wild plants, April 27-Bark Ranger Day with dog-friendly activities and April 28-Park Rx Day to improve your spirit and health.
During National Park Week, explore park views, learn culture and history, volunteer and connect with a park.
The first National Park Week occurred in 1991 with the National Park Service’s 75th anniversary and the tradition has continued.
C & O Canal
This area’s handiest National Historical Park is the 184.5-mile long Chesapeake and Ohio Canal.
Hike or bike the canal towpath and see historic structures — locks, aqueducts, dams and lockhouses.
Visit the Paw Paw Tunnel and visitor centers in Hancock, Williamsport, Brunswick, Great Falls and Cumberland.
The Hancock C & O Canal Visitor Center in the historic Bowles House has canal and Hancock history exhibits on display. Other Hancock canal sights include Locks 51 and 52 and the Tonoloway Creek Aqueduct. 301-678-5463.
Williamsport C & O Canal Visitor Center visitors can view canal exhibits, get Lockhouse 44 tours and walking tours seasonally, fish in the canal with a license, hike the canal towpath and see the Conococheague Aqueduct. Make reservations for the hour-long replica boat launch on the historical Cushwa Basin. 301-582-0813.
The Cumberland C & O Canal Visitor Center features interactive and educational displays about the history of the C & O Canal and Cumberland. It has a model of the Paw Paw Tunnel, a life-size piece of a canal boat and informational exhibits about canal construction, the locks, the boats and their cargo, the mules and the canal boatmen. The visitor center is located at the Western Maryland Railway Station. 301-722-8226.
The Brunswick C & O Canal Visitor Center shares its location with the Brunswick Railroad Museum. Brunswick has been a railroad town for over a century. 301-834-7100.
The Monocacy Aqueduct is the largest aqueduct on the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal and spans 438 feet in length. It crosses the Monocacy River before it empties into the Potomac River near Frederick, Maryland.
Canal Pride Day at Paw Paw
Canal Pride Day will be held at the Paw Paw campsite in Oldtown, Maryland on Saturday, April 27 from 9 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. It’s a day of volunteer service held by the C & O Canal Trust to preserve and beautify canal locations. Work includes repainting visitor facilities, revitalizing park grounds, improving campgrounds, preserving historic structures and removing trash and invasive species.
Other Canal Pride Day events are May 4: Great Falls and May 18: Williamsport.
All Canal Pride Day events are full and have wait lists. Sign up for the event on the C & O Canal Trust website and they’ll email those who should report that day.
Antietam National Battlefield
Antietam National Battlefield is hosting Junior Ranger Day on Saturday, April 20 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Youth ages four to 12 can participate in special programs, complete a Junior Ranger Activities Book and receive a badge and certificate.
A living historian portraying a Civil War soldier will talk about the life of a common soldier and do a firing demonstration. Civil War crafts and 19th Century games will also be on display. 301-432-5124.
During the September 17, 1862 Civil War Battle of Antietam, 23,000 soldiers were killed, wounded or missing after twelve hours of brutal combat between General Robert E. Lee’s Confederate Army and Major General George B. McClellan’s Union Army near Sharpsburg, Maryland. The battle ended Lee’s invasion of Maryland and led President Abraham Lincoln to issue the Emancipation Proclamation.
Other national treasures
Tour historic buildings and the Star Fort and raise a replica of the Star Spangled Banner above the fort at Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine in Baltimore on April 20. Kids can also become Junior Park Rangers and learn about the park’s historical and natural resources. The fort’s resistance during its War of 1812 bombardment inspired Francis Scott Key to write what would become the “The Star Spangled Banner.”
Take your dog to Fort McHenry on April 27 for Bark Ranger Day and enjoy a “History for the Hounds” walk, a “Find Your Bark” scavenger hunt and learn about the history of the park. 410-962-4290 x250.
Monacacy National Battlefield in Frederick, Maryland is also having National Junior Ranger Day on Sunday, April 21. Learn about creating healthy critter habitats during the park’s Earth Day celebration on Monday, April 22 between noon and 4:00 p.m. 301-662-3515.
More information about National Parks, their locations and attractions, can be found at park visitor centers and on the National Park Service website and social media.