I decided to go to Cumberland, Md. after seeing on my map that there was a steam train to ride and it was the western terminus of the C & O Canal. I love to see and read about early transportation history. In the visitors center I learned that you can bike ride the full 185 miles of the canal towpath. This takes you to down town Washington DC. After looking at the historic pictures of the canal and reading why it was built I knew what my route would be to visit one of my cousins in central Maryland. The canal was the idea of George Washington (we George's have wondrous ideas). The C & O Canal Company was formed and the construction started in 1828. It would parallel the unnavigable Potomac River from Washington DC to Pittsburgh, Pa and join the Ohio River. The expense($11,000,000), labor problems, and the coming of the faster railroads caused the canal to terminate at the coal center in Cumberland Md. The canal boats carried freight up and down and through the canal's 75 locks until 1924 when a major flood destroyed long sections of the waterway. The Canal Company was in bankruptcy at which time the National Park Service acquired the property with the idea of making it a parkway for automobiles. Luckily a Supreme Court Justice, Wm. Douglas, challenged the idea, promoted and won, his idea, to use the path for non-motorized travel. After my steam train ride I started traveling the towpath of the C & O Canal and camping on the banks of the Potomac river for four days. Several times an overpass, with speeding cars, passes above your head and you wander if they know how beautiful it is on this historic path below them. From the hi ways you can't hear the birds, smell the wild flowers, or enjoy the abundant wildlife. Along the way you pass through historic villages, Revolutionary War Forts, and Civil War battle grounds. These make interesting side trips. If you are in for a 185 mile bike ride I highly recommend a trip down the C & O Canal in western Maryland. Presently I am in the town of Williamsport, Md. This weekend they are celebrating their 25th annual Canal Days. There are lots of booths, tours, food, demonstrations, and all that canal stuff. I've decided to be part of the celebration. On to Gettysburg and Pennsylvania Dutch Country form here. See you, George


Last Updated: 1-18-98
By: Ted Handel


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