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National parks have roots in past

September 14, 2007

· Antietam - The single bloodiest day of fighting during the Civil War is remembered in pristine fields and woods in a park treasured for not being developed with tourist amenities.

On Sept. 17, 1862, the North pushed back an attempt by the South's Gen. Robert E. Lee to cross into Maryland. Three battles raged throughout the day, ending with more than 23,000 men dead, wounded or missing.

You can learn about the battle from rangers, cassette tapes, brochures, movies and plaques on the battlefield. The park also offers hiking and biking.

Admission is $4 per person or $6 per family. The park is on Md. 65 near Sharpsburg. For information, call 301-432-5124 or visit the park's Web site at www.nps.gov/anti.

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· Appalachian Trail - The 2,175-mile Appalachian National Scenic Trail snakes from Maine to Georgia, with about 40 miles in Washington County.

The Maryland portion of the trail runs along the backbone of South Mountain, a north-south ridge that extends from Pennsylvania to the Potomac River.

The Appalachian Trail Conservancy Web site says this portion of the trail, with an elevation of between 230 and 1,880 feet, is ideal for three- or four-day trips.

The conservancy says the time to hit the trail is mid-April through mid-June and September and October.

The Appalachian Trail Conservance Web site is at www.appalachiantrail.org.

· Catoctin - Catoctin Mountain Park, which is centered in Frederick County, Md., has 25 miles of trails winding through Catoctin Mountain Park and Cunningham Falls State Park. A portion of the nearly 6,000-acre park is in Washington County.

Camp David, the presidential retreat, is in the park, but it is not open to the public.

The park offers hiking, skiing and rock climbing, and it also has campgrounds, family cabin camping and two picnic areas. Interpretive trails also are available, and horseback riding is allowed on one six-mile trail.

The park is open year-round during daylight hours. Dogs are allowed on leashes. Admission is free.

For information, call 301-663-9388 or go to www.nps.gov/cato.

· Chesapeake & Ohio Canal - The Chesapeake & Ohio Canal was built to move goods west through the Potomac Valley to Pittsburgh, but only made it as far as Cumberland, Md. It flanks about 79 miles of the Potomac River through Washington County.

The canal was in use from 1850 until 1924, when flooding caused serious damage. It sat in ruins until 1954, when U.S. Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas walked virtually the entire way to bring attention to its beauty and to keep it from becoming a highway.

The walk prompted Congress to declare the park a national monument in 1961. It was named a national historical park in 1971.

Today, millions of people use the canal for hiking, biking, camping, picnicking and horseback riding.

The park is open during daylight hours. Admission is free.

For information, call 301-739-4200 or go to www.nps.gov/choh.

· Harpers Ferry - About 800 acres of Harpers Ferry National Historical Park are in Washington County.

The armory at Harpers Ferry, W.Va., was the site of an anti-slavery raid led by John Brown. On Oct. 16, 1859, Brown and 21 men attacked the armory and rounded up 60 men from the area as hostages. Government forces attacked the armory and killed 10 men, including two of Brown's sons. Brown later was hanged for his actions.

Washington County's portion of the park boasts Maryland Heights, a haven for climbers.

Admission to the park is $4 for people arriving by foot, bicycles or motorcycles. A three-day pass for other vehicles is $6.

For information, call 304-535-6029 or go to www.nps.gov/hafe.

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