Skip to main content

River Access, Hazard and Incident Reports

C&O Canal Restoration - 10 Possible Loops
Alford Cooley

C&O Canal Rewatering – Ideas to Create (and Restore) Loop Trips (with the C&O's Maps) - rev. 11 March 2018
/PRIORITY  in Red
.

Attentive readers will have seen reports in the Cruiser  about the C&O Canal Park’s interest in rewatering the lower 22 miles of the waterway, and of the CCA’s engaging those authorities and the Washington Canoe Club and Team River Runner to cooperate in furthering a paddler and rower perspective to the changes that are afoot.  The following is a set of ideas for possible loop trips (up the Canal, down the Potomac) – and simple out-and-back forays that could be created.

If this interests you, please contact Acess Committee Chair John Snitzer navajuela@comcast.net
.

Bear in mind that water runs downhill (from the two feeder dams at Violettes [Lock 23] and Lock 5.  The term “level” is used for each Canal section above the eponymous lock:
.

PRIORITY I - Restore water into “our” sections (Violettes & Little Falls Loops) [Level 4 and Level 22] soonest, viz –
.

Violettes-GW Canal Loop:  (2.5 canal-miles) The run is from Violettes across the Potomac to the GW Canal, back across at end, return to Canal at Mi 21. Held by Pennyfield Lock, which is brand-new refurbished – and like all Lock gates, has an adjacent waste-weir for the blocked water to run back to the river.  This level needs to be replastered (clay put in to line the prism).
.

Dalecarlia Intake/Little Falls Loop: (0.3 canal-miles)  Water for the return portion of the paddler loop (Lock 6/Feeder Canal down Z Channel, Potomac, Little Falls) is retained by Lock 4 down in Georgetown, currently under construction.  CCA has pressed for a coffer dam, but the Park says the lock will be done by Summer.  The Park’s first priority is to finish work at Lock 4, beautify the first mile in Georgetown, and re-start a canal boat, which has not yet appeared.  CCA seeks to have the curb from Clara Barton Pkwy to Lock 5 parking diminished, so cars’ bottoms not be scraped.
.

PRIORITY II – a new loop – Mather Gorge Loop: (0.7 canal-miles)                             [Down the Po from Sandy Beach to Anglers] The Canal needs water in Widewater and down to the Anglers bridge.  Above that, no fix of Lock 15 (short portage) but reconstruct the top gate of Lock 16 to restore water along that level (0.36 mi) up to the Sandy Beach trail. 
.

Water Flow: This implies water coming down from Dam 2 at Violettes in a trickle through Pennyfield and Swains and the Six Locks (Locks 15-20) to fill up Widewater.        With its interest in getting the “Mercer” excursion boat afloat, the Park will probably try to fix Lock 20 at Great Falls Tavern, so it can be locked through.
.

Priority III – another new loop - Carderock Loop: (1.84 canal-miles)    [The run:  Anglers, Offutts Rapid, Yellow Falls, to Carderock] could be returned from in water held by Lock 14, the topmost of the 7 Locks.  But we need a coffer (temporary) dam.
.

Coffer Dam:  Lock 14, the next one below Anglers, is the top of the 7-Locks; however, ¾ the way down this nice long level is the infamous “Log Wall” with the Dulles Sewer buried below.  Here the Park’s projects will run into huge problems in time and money.   Somewhere below Anglers bridge but above the Log Wall at Carderock, maybe at the Marsden Tract. (Mi 11.5)., we suggest a coffer dam across the Canal while the Park and multiple jurisdictions dealing with the Dulles Sewer duke it out. 
.

Priority IV – another new loop – Seven-Locks Loop: (1.6 canal-miles, involving 5 of the 7 Locks)    [The run:  Carderock, down Stubblefield Falls, to Lock 10]  The return: paddle up the Lock 10 and 11 levels (0.2, 0.3 mi., resp.), carry past Locks 12, 13, and 14 (a 0.2 mile lift), and then paddle (1 mi) along the Lock 14 level to Carderock.  Again the huge problem is at the Log Wall/ Dulles Sewer (Mi 11), just upstream from the Carderock take-out.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 

      We support reconstructing the upper gate (or a low sill with pour-over) on only seven locks:  5, 10, 11, 14, 16, 20, 21  (Lock 4 is under construction, and Lock 22 (Pennyfield) is done)  At each lock boaters would carry, so a small dock below and one above each lock and steps up the side to the towpath or lock-keeper’s house would be helpful.  We’re discussinthis with Team River Runner.

      Water is needed to flow through nine other locks:  6, 7, 8, 9, 12, 13, 17, 18, 19   Here we might explore having a minimal water-flow through the levels above, with portage possibilities around the open lock-gates.
.

Now for some CANAL-ONLY OUT-AND-BACK TRIPS (double the distances of course for a full round trip)  These are great for rowers and beginning paddlers.
.

Widewater (Level 14, 1.1 mi) Anglers up to Lock 15 & back. Water between Widewater and Anglers is now too low, so it needs a small dam placed below the Anglers bridge. – CCA access project at Anglers   
.

Great Falls Tavern up to Swains Lock (Level 20, 2.3 mi) – The Park will do this anyway for the canal boat. – CCA has an access project to the river at Swains. 
  .

Lock 14 Level (0.5 mi) Downstream from Anglers to the big broad bend.  Many turtles, Great Blues, Canadas & goslings in season. Even if the Dulles Sewer/Log Wall thing can’t be fixed, with a Coffer Dam at Marsden Tract.
.

Fletchers/Lock 4 Level - 4.5 miles from Georgetown to Lock 5 / Feeder Canal.  Flat water canoe, kayak, and SUP paddlers from the Washington Canoe Club have trained here for years.  Fletchers rental canoe and kayak fleet can use this, an excellent place to teach basic flatwater canoe and kayak.  If Lock 4 repair drags on, build coffer-dam at Foundry Branch next to the waste weir. 

Pennyfield up to Violettes/Level 22 - (2 mi) – This is already listed as CCA’s first priority in the five loop trips above. – Just close Lock 22
.

The five above projects total 10.4 miles of restored Canal.  They are low-hanging fruit, as all these sections have had water in the last five years.

Additional non-priority projects:
.

Lock 14 up through Carderock/Anglers/Widewater to Lock 15 (4 mi)  If the Log-Wall & Sewer are fixed.  This could relieve the parking crush at Anglers by taking advantage of parking opportunities at Carderock - to go up the Canal and put in at Anglers for up- or downstream paddling.
.

Lock 6 up through Lock 10 (3.4 mi – 4 locks)  Boaters have less interest in these as paddling upstream (attaining) in the Potomac is almost as easy as using the Canal.   However, it could be useful at times of high water.
.

MAPS:   See the C&O Canal Assn's online map: with mileages and access points and attendant parking (with how many parking spots) - and links to Google maps.  It goes all the way up to Cumberland.
http://www.candocanal.org/access.html

.

For the Canal from Georgetown up to Swains Lock by the Park itself, see:

https://www.nps.gov/choh/planyourvisit/upload/C-O-Canal-Detail-Map-from-Georgetown-to-Swains-Lock-Accessible.pdf