A Long Stretch of History ... and Recreation. (Great Parks: The Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park)
The Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park must be one of the oddest-shaped parks in the country. Running 184.5 miles from Cumberland, Md., to Washington, D.C., in some places it's no more than several feet wide. Its thread-like shape notwithstanding, for more than three decades it's been among the most popular recreation sites in the Washington, D.C. area.
The park gets its shape, of course, from the canal's original purpose as a shipping route. The C&O Canal was just one of the dozens of canals built on the East Coast during the first half of the 19th century. Teams of mules, averaging just 2 miles per hour along the canal's towpath, pulled barges designed especially for traversing the shallow canal and filled with coal and other commodities. Seventy-four locks, 11 aqueducts and other engineering feats allowed smooth passage from the mountains of Western Maryland to the flatlands. (The canal drops 600 feet from Cumberland to its other end.)
The canal as a commercial enterprise was doomed from the start. The idea seemed solid--create an overland route linking the Eastern seaboard, via the Potomac River, with what was then the West, the Ohio Valley country--but logistics proved nettlesome. A survey in the …
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Publication information: Article title: A Long Stretch of History ... and Recreation. (Great Parks: The Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park). Contributors: Not available. Magazine title: Parks & Recreation. Volume: 38. Issue: 5 Publication date: May 2003. Page number: 64+. © 2009 National Recreation and Park Association. COPYRIGHT 2003 Gale Group.
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