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This is the Great Falls Tavern Visitor Center and museum. It's open Wednesday through Sunday and has decent displays.
Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park
Closest available address
11710 MacArthur Blvd, Potomac, MD 20854
Park is open daylight hours. Museum is open Wed.-Sun. 9:00am-4:30pm.
Best time to visit
Summer, Fall, Spring
Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park preserves a 184 mile canal and towpath that extends from Georgetown in Washington, DC to Cumberland, Maryland. The historical park also has mule-drawn boat rides, museums, historic buildings, hiking trails and numerous views of the Potomac River. The towpath is a recreational mecca and can draw waves of hikers and bikers. Also very popular is the boardwalk to Olmsted Island with impressive views of Great Falls.
The C&O Canal was the second canal built here. The first one was built around Great Falls on the southern side of the Potomac River. Construction of the C&O Canal began in 1828. It was intended to extend to Pittsburg, Pennsylvania but by 1850 had only reached Cumberland where construction ceased. Railroads had already made the canal obsolete. Nevertheless, it operated though 1924 when floods and lack of business led to its closure. The canal became a national monument in 1961 and a national park in 1971.
The Great Falls area has a number of worthwhile attractions and activities. The restored tavern includes a small museum that is worth checking out. There were interesting displays about canal workers and their families. A video regarding the natural diversity of the Potomac River Gorge also was informative. The park service offers a one hour boat ride on a canal barge pulled by mules. It was a pleasant excursion and provided a good sense of how boats operated here historically. This would be a fun activity for kids. Not to be missed is the boardwalk to Olmsted Island. This path provides great views of Great Falls and is near the tavern. From a recreational standpoint, the well maintained towpath can be walked for miles. A rugged and challenging hike called the Billy Goat Trail is also available. Although often crowded, this part of the park was enjoyable. With a range of activities it’s a great option for a family outing. It’s also a good venue for a date or just as a place to take a relaxing walk.
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