Explore Geology
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Chesapeake & Ohio Canal

National Historic Park

Washington D.C., Maryland, & West Virginia

cover of park brochure

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Photo of people walking along canal at Chesapeake & Ohio Canal
Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historic Park Washington D.C., Maryland, & West Virginia

The historic canal stretches along the Potomac River for 297 km (184.5 miles) of tow path from Washington D.C. to Cumberland, MD. It has more than 400 km (250 miles) of boundary making it unique in the National Capital Region as the largest and longest. The park's 19,236 acres cut through the four geographic provinces described briefly above. It was George Washington's vision of an industrial corridor along the Potomac River that spurred the canal's construction. From beginning of its construction in 1828 to the end of all operation in 1924, the canal functioned as a transportation route. It was primarily used as a corridor for transporting coal from western Maryland to the port of Georgetown in Washington, D.C.

In 1938, the Federal government acquired the then defunct C&O Canal Company property, focusing on the lowermost 37 km (23 miles) of the canal, near Washington, D.C., for restoration. With the addition of the upper canal, it was established as a National Monument on January 18, 1961 by President Eisenhower. Then, in 1971, under President Nixon, legislation authorized the National Park Service to preserve and interpret the park's historic and scenic features. This designated Chesapeake and Ohio Canal as a National Historical Park. The boundaries of the park last changed on November 10, 1978.

Hundreds of original structures, including 74 lift locks, lock houses, and aqueducts, serve as incredible examples of early civil engineering and of the canal's role as a t ransportation system during the so-called Canal Era. The canal locks and aqueducts are made of stone quarried along the Potomac River Valley and present an introduction to the rock types of the Appalachian Mountains. The park also supports a great variety of recreational opportunities from the highly urbanized area in Washington, D.C. to more the rural communities in western Maryland serving 3.1 million visitors in 2000.

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The General park map handed out at the visitor center is available on the park's map webpage.

For information about topographic maps, geologic maps, and geologic data sets, please see the geologic maps page.

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A geology photo album for this park can be found here.

For information on other photo collections featuring National Park geology, please see the Image Sources page.

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Currently, we do not have a listing for a park-specific geoscience book. The park's geology may be described in regional or state geology texts.

Please visit the Geology Books and Media webpage for additional sources such as text books, theme books, CD ROMs, and technical reports.

Parks and Plates: The Geology of Our National Parks, Monuments & Seashores.
Lillie, Robert J., 2005.
W.W. Norton and Company.
ISBN 0-393-92407-6
9" x 10.75", paperback, 550 pages, full color throughout

The spectacular geology in our national parks provides the answers to many questions about the Earth. The answers can be appreciated through plate tectonics, an exciting way to understand the ongoing natural processes that sculpt our landscape. Parks and Plates is a visual and scientific voyage of discovery!

Ordering from your National Park Cooperative Associations' bookstores helps to support programs in the parks. Please visit the bookstore locator for park books and much more.

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For information about permits that are required for conducting geologic research activities in National Parks, see the Permits Information page.

The NPS maintains a searchable data base of research needs that have been identified by parks.

A bibliography of geologic references is being prepared for each park through the Geologic Resources Evaluation Program (GRE). Please see the GRE website for more information and contacts.

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NPS Geology and Soils Partners

NRCS logoAssociation of American State Geologists
NRCS logoGeological Society of America
NRCS logoNatural Resource Conservation Service - Soils
USGS logo U.S. Geological Survey

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General information about the park's education and intrepretive programs is available on the park's education webpage.

For resources and information on teaching geology using National Park examples, see the Students & Teachers pages.
updated on 01/04/2005  I   http://nature.nps.gov/geology/parks/choh/index.cfm   I  Email: Webmaster
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