Tucked along the C&O Canal are over twenty stone structures that pay testament to the canal era, when boat horns would sound and lock keepers would scamper from the beds to open the locks. Today, visitors are invited to stay in the lockhouses and experience the life of a lock keeper – although with no boats to lock through, guests can enjoy their days hiking or biking, and their nights by a campfire.
The Canal Quarters program, a partnership between the C&O Canal Trust and the C&O Canal National Historical Park, is an innovative, award-winning program that restored six lockhouses within the Park to provide overnight interpretive experiences for guests. Each has been furnished to depict and interpret a different time period from the 1830s to the 1950s, and a stay in all six lockhouses will allow visitors to trace the history of the Canal in an interactive way.
Lockhouse 22 near Potomac reflects the 1830s-40s and tells of the engineering marvels that created the canal, locks, and aqueducts, while Lockhouse 28 at Point of Rocks relives the 1830s race to the west between the C&O Canal and the B&O Railroad. Lockhouse 25 is nestled in the sleepy town of Edwards Ferry and interprets the movements of Union and Confederate troops across the Potomac River during the Civil War. All three of these lockhouses are “rustic” – with no electricity or running water, guests really have an authentic experience of stepping back in time and living without the amenities we are so accustomed to today.
Lockhouse 49 is located near Clear Spring and tells the story of the families and merchants who lived in the Four Locks community during the Canal’s heyday in the 1920s. This lockhouse offers electricity. Cabin John’s Lockhouse 10 houses antiques from the Civilian Conservation Corps, when men in that 1930s program lived in nearby camps and worked to preserve the canal, and Lockhouse 6 relates Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas’s 184.5 mile hike of the entire canal in order to help preserve it in the 1950s. The two most modern lockhouses do feature electricity and running water. Of particular note are the antique stove and refrigerator from the 1930s in Lockhouse 10.
No matter which lockhouse visitors choose, their guest book comments tell of their wonderful adventures. Frequent are stories from children who start out their entry saying how much they were dreading being away from technology all weekend, and end with joyous accounts of hikes in the woods, the discovery of frogs, the family games of dominos and Lincoln Logs, and the enchantment of living in the forest, away from it all. Each lockhouse can sleep up to eight people, and all have been the site of numerous birthday and anniversary parties, holiday celebrations, family reunions – and even a few weddings!
A group of volunteers called our Quartermasters are an integral part of the program – they are the caretakers of the lockhouses, helping guests and doing maintenance as needed. It costs between $100-$150 a night to reserve a lockhouse, depending on which one you select. All proceeds from the program go right back into the continued preservation and maintenance of the lockhouses.
You can reserve your lockhouse stay by visiting the C&O Canal Trust’s website at www.canaltrust.org.
Passionate about history and heritage, she penned a book on the impact of the War of 1812 on the small city of Havre de Grace, MD and serves on the Board of Directors of the Association of Living History, Farm and Agricultural Museums. She holds a B.A. from Susquehanna University and an M.S. from Towson University, both in communications. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, visiting museums, listening to music, and hiking with her fiancé and her dog.