C&O Canal boat ride proves enjoyable

July 06, 2012|By MYLINH A. HOANG |
  • Williamsport offers trips along the C&O Canal.
File photo

WILLIAMSPORT — If you have never been on the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal launch boat tour, then schedule it into your weekend plans. There really is no better way to experience the canal, then on a canal boat.

Being that I am a New Orleans native, it was unheard of to actually go on a boat tour down the canal. I grew up thinking about canals in a negative perspective because they just seemed so dirty and unlively.

The C&O Canal was beautiful beyond my expectation. It wasn't the smelly experience I expected. The vibrant green trees and grass was a wonderful sight and the sounds of nature from birds to ducks were inviting.

The tour guide provided historical insight about the canal and it was quite the experience to learn that the canal was a form of transportation for business and leisure purposes.

"They were battery operated and people just came down for fun," said Lisa Dittman, park ranger at C&O Canal National Historical Park.

The canal launch boat tour was like taking a ride down history. Literally.

The canal reopened during Memorial Day weekend and is open to all visitors to participate in the canal launch boat tour or also other outdoor activities in the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historic Park.

I think it is so great that the canal is now open because it allows visitors to come and take in a part of Williamsport history and it is also great business for the park and the town.

"The park ranger talked a lot about the history of the canal and the ride on the launch was very entertaining," said Max Burnham, a resident of Williamsport.

If you enjoy spending time outdoors, but not a fan of riding on a boat down the canal, there are other things to do.

The park hosts a great space of outdoor activities such as picnicking, fishing, biking, walking dogs, running and just exploring along the Cushwa Basin in Williamsport.

It really is a beautiful sight.

Another awesome perk is complimentary bike rentals, which is available in the Williamsport Visitor Center.

The hour-long boat tour began at the visitor's center in the Cushwa warehouse of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park in Williamsport.

Dittman also took visitors "back into time" when she told us to imagine that we are living in the early 1900s.

I like that Dittman guided visitors' imagination with her historical knowledge and use of sounds to give us the feeling of what it was like to live back in the day.

"This was just something totally new and we were anxious to give it a try," said Tanya Burnham, a resident of Williamsport.

I had never heard of the word, lock-keeper, until I was on the canal boat. Dittman said lockkeepers operated the 74 locks along the canal, and they were on call 24/7. They also opened and closed the gates and raised and lowered the water and did any maintenance work that had to be done.

"We give the visitors the opportunity to open and close the gates. So they can actually feel how heavy the beams are and experience what the lock-keeper had to do to open and close those gates," Dittman said.

Another exciting activity is turtle-watching. It was really cool to see turtles randomly throughout the canal tour.

"The fact that they can be from a town and come here and actually see wildlife, not something in the zoo, not something that's tamed, but actually the turtles are really fascinating for the kids," Dittman said.

Overall, it was an amazing experience and I would definitely make my way out to Williamsport for another canal tour. I also think biking in the park would be another fun way to see the canal.

Mylinh A. Hoang is an intern at The Herald-Mail. Her email address is

If you go ...

WHAT: C&O canal launch boat tours

WHEN: Saturdays and Sundays at 10:30, 12:15, 1:30 and 3 p.m.

WHERE: Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park

CONTACT: C&O Canal's Williamsport Visitor Center at 301-582-0813.

The Herald-Mail Articles