The longest national park?

I’ve been to Washington DC more than a few times now, but I can still be surprised. And it happened again this weekend.

It turns out that DC is the ending point for a very special national park: the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal, where it dumps into the Potomac River.

Unbelievably, the canal starts near the Pennsylvania border, in Cumberland, MD, more than 185 miles away, and ends here in DC, in the Georgetown neighborhood. And, yes, you can bike or run the entire length.

The C&O Company formed in 1825, started digging three years later, and finished the canal twenty-five years later, at a cost of $11 million. By the 1920s, the traffic had ceased, a victim of competition with the railroad. It uses 74 locks because of the 605 foot elevation change over its length, and it had up to 500 boats regularly operating on it, mostly moving coal in the 1870s. [Check out Quick Road Trip: Washington, D.C. Part Two for a first person account of a ride on the canal boats.]

Next time you’re in Georgetown, head down to the canal and take a stroll. Just don’t forget to turn around before you end up in Pennsylvania.