Paw Paw Tunnel open to through traffic after rock & boardwalk work

The C&O Canal towpath on both ends of the Paw Paw Tunnel is now open for use by bikers and hikers.

The far end of the tunnel has been closed since August 2021 while rock scaling work was being done, and the boardwalk connecting the tunnel opening to the towpath was rebuilt.

Tunnel Hill Trail, which was used as a detour for hikers and bikers during the construction period, will be closed for several weeks for restoration, the National Park Service has said.

Paw Paw Tunnel boardwalk
National Park Service photo of rebuilt boardwalk at the Paw Paw Tunnel

Heavy construction equipment used part of the trail to access the work area. Work will restore the condition of the trail to make it usable for bikes and walkers again.

C&O Canal officials said there will be intermittent times in the next few weeks that flaggers will be used along the boardwalk while critical lifting operations or other work adjacent to or over the boardwalk/towpath will be carried out.

“Visitors are reminded to please stay out of active work areas in the canal, access roads, and staging areas; dismount bicycles within the Paw Paw Tunnel and on boardwalks, and to follow any directions in signs/flaggers,” said the park service.

In September 2020, the National Park Service awarded a contract to stabilize the rock slopes along an approximately 1,000-foot length of canal just downstream of the Paw Paw Tunnel, located in the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park in Alleghany County, Maryland.

While more recent projects completed in 2017 – 2019 addressed the stability of rock slopes on the towpath side of the canal, the current project will address the highest risk slopes within the 1,000-foot long reach of canal, on all sides. Loose rock above the towpath at the “cut” and downstream portal presents potential safety hazards to visitors and cultural resources (i.e. Paw Paw Tunnel). The rock also damaged the boardwalk section of the towpath. Contractors removed existing debris remaining in the canal prism from a rockslide in May 2016, stabilizing the rock face adjacent to the canal, and replacing the wooden boardwalk that serves as the towpath for a portion of this stretch.

To learn more about the project, visit