C&O Canal National Historical Park turns 50

The Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park celebrated its 50th Anniversary last Friday, January 8. The park was established on that date in 1971. The towpath stretches from Cumberland to Georgetown, a length of roughly 184.5 miles. President John Quincy Adams turned the first shovelful of dirt to start construction of the canal on July 4, 1828, say canal historians. The canal would open for boats in sections, from 1831 to 1850, when it reached Cumberland in full use. It would remain open until 1924, when other modes of transporting goods eclispsed its prominence. The federal government bought the canal in 1938 but no action was taken to secure its future for some time. A famous walking tour of the canal, led by Associate Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas in 1954 brought attention to the canal’s historical importance and promise as a park asset for the National Park Service. It would take another 17 years for the C&O Canal National Historical Park to be made official. The C&O Canal is now an important part of a network of connected rails that  stretches across the United States. For Hancock, it is an important economic driver as a tourist attraction and trail.

A marker on Hancock’s section of the C&O Canal.