The C&O Canal: Industrial Waterway to National Park
In 1828 ground was broken on the C&O Canal, a project that would bring to life George Washington’s vision to open up the country to the west. Stretching 184 miles west from Georgetown, the Canal connected the port town to goods and materials that supported a local industrial economy unique to the region.
Although commercial operation lasted only 74 years, the Canal remained an important part of daily life in Georgetown. In the 1950s planners proposed paving it over to build a highway, but a coalition of citizens answered Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas’ call to action and saved the Canal.
In 1971 President Richard Nixon created the C&O Canal National Historical Park. For 40 years, the one-mile section of the Canal in Georgetown was a popular destination for visitors, residents, and school field trips, with mule-drawn boat tours providing an authentic, immersive experience.