Thursday, March 7, 2013

Think Back Thursday: C & O Canal History Lesson

I've been meaning to share about the C & O Canal for a couple of months, and since I don't have a theme for this week's Think Back Thursday, I will combine the two.

April 26, 2013: This post has been updated and linked to Adventure Fridays at High Plains Homeschool.
Adventure Fridays

We had a history lesson way back in the fall about how canal travel affected the settling of the west in the early 1800s.  The lesson focused on the Erie Canal, which is the best known of the canals of that era. But the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal was also very important, and because the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historic Park is near us, we reviewed our previous visit there, and paid it another visit as well.

The building of the canal provided jobs, although it was back-breaking labor, for many immigrants. Skilled engineers and masons designed and built the aqueducts, locks and tunnel. It took 22 years and the work of about 35,000 laborers to build the canal from Georgetown, DC to Cumberland, MD.  Communities grew up along the banks of the Potomac River, as people took advantage of the opportunities to provide goods and services to those traveling the canal. Operation of canal boats and locks were often family businesses.  Families or crews lived in the small living space of the boats, which traveled about 360 miles per week in a round trip, and a crew member would earn about $15 per trip, roughly 5 cents per mile.

We enter the park at Great Falls Tavern.  This hotel opened for business in 1831, just three years after ground was broken for the canal and original lockhouse. The locktender asked for the hotel in response to travelers' requests for meals and shelter.

Great Falls Tavern in summer
Great Falls Tavern in autumn

When we visited in July a few years ago, we were able to ride on the canal boat.




We visited again in October 2012, but it was late in the season, and Hurricane Sandy was due to arrive, so the canals were being drained and the canal boats had stopped operating for the season. We were able to get on the boat and learn more about it from the ranger.

On both visits we were able to get a good look at the locks and learn more about how they operated.

closing the lock gates

In the 1930s, the canal was falling into disrepair and had been damaged by floods. Young men from the Civilian Conservation Corps had a camp in the area and the repair of the locks and aqueducts provided work and income. After WWII, Congress planned appropriate the canal corrider as a vehicular corrider. Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas was an avid outdoorsman and believed that the rich history and natural beauty of the canal should be preserved as parkland. He drew attention to the area, and led a group of almost 60 prominent businessmen and others on a hiking trip to see the canal for themselves. As a result, a group was formed to make plans for preserving and protecting the canal's resources and developing the area as a park.  In 1971 the Chesapeake & Ohio became a National Historic Park.

Visitors to the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal today can enjoy all kinds of recreational activities - hiking, cycling, camping, horseback riding, canoeing and kayaking - as well as the boat tours, which operate seasonally, and the interpretive centers which offer plenty of information about the history of the canal.
More information about activities at the park can be found here. (The park is open during daylight hours year round, except on certain holidays. Check the website to see operating hours for the various visitor centers. A three-day pass for the entire park costs $5/vehicle or $3/person if entering on foot or bicycle. Entrance fees are only collected at Great Falls Tavern. The canal boat tours are offered April through October and cost $5/person. Check the website for more details.)

Something I REALLY want to do is stay at one of the lockhouses! Would that not be the coolest thing EVAH?! I think yes. 



This post is linked at: Debbie's Digest for Think Back ThursdayVisit Debbie's Digest to join in with Think Back Thursday, and to see what other bloggers are sharing this week. During the month of February, Debbie did a Think Back Thursday series on Playing with Photos - the programs used to enhance or tweak your photos. Today is the last day for that theme.  Upcoming themes are: Signs of Spring, Field Trip/Vacation, and Easter.

 Think Back Thursday is a photo meme that encourages sharing something from the past.  It is hosted by Debbie's Digest.  You can find out more about it, and how you can participate, by clicking the link or the button below.  
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7 comments:

Samantha Massey said...

How wonderful! I would love to see that. We used to live near an Amish community and the kids were just in awe of the horse and buggy life. They were so friendly to us too and we bought lots of our food from them!

Debbie said...

Wonderful pictures... We have never visited a canal. My son and I enjoyed the book By Wagon and Flatboat by Enid Meadowcroft which we read last year. Your trip looks like it was a lot of fun and a very lovely area. Love that photo of the fall trees. Sleeping in a lockhouse sounds like a LOT of fun!

Thanks for sharing. Next week we are back to regular photo themes. Thanks so much for joining up. It looks like it was a great trip.

Mary said...

I would love to stay in one of those rooms too! How cool!!

Lexi said...

That field trip looks amazing! I would love to go there!

Stacie said...

The field trip looks like a lot of fun. Very interesting as well.

wodaking said...

This looks like a blast, I had no idea this was even there! Thanks for linking up! I'm filing away this field trip idea for our next cross country trip!

kewkew said...

What a wonderful opportunity you had to be able to visit more than once and see it in the different seasons. Thanks for the history lesson too.
So glad you stopped by to share this with Throwback Thursday Blog-Style. Just wanted to let you know that your post was featured this week.
I can't wait to see what you share this week.

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