2017 Canal Boat Excursions Season Opens at Great Falls Tavern Visitor Center in Potomac, Maryland

Hello Level Walkers – the following notification is from the National Park Service. Contact Pete Peterson, Supervisory Park Ranger, pete_peterson@nps.gov 301-767-3702 for further information. – LWC

Potomac, MD – Nineteenth-century mule-drawn canal boat excursions resume for the 2017 season at the Great Falls Tavern on Saturday, April 1, 2017. Come aboard the Charles F. Mercer, a reproduction packet boat to experience what it was once like to travel up and down this historic waterway. Cruise on the canal at a mule’s pace and experience rising and falling 8 feet in a lift lock. Hear tales of what life was like for the families who lived and worked on the canal.

Public Boat Excursions: April- October, Saturday and Sunday at 11:00 am, 1:30 pm, and 3:00 pm. June-August, Friday, Saturday and Sunday at 11:00am, 1:30pm and 3:00pm. To confirm the boat ride for your visit, please call 301-767-3714 for details as special circumstances may affect this schedule. Prices: $8.00 for adults (ages 16-61), $6.00 for seniors (ages 62 +), and $5.00 for children (ages 4-15). Children aged three and under ride free. In addition to the boat fee, there is an entrance fee to the park of $10.00 per single vehicle.

Ten or more people are required to make advance reservations. Otherwise, seats are available on a first-come, first-serve basis. To charter the Charles F. Mercer for evening excursions, please call 301-767-3709.  The Charles F. Mercer boat capacity is 60 people. The boat programs last approximately one hour.

The Charles F. Mercer operates at the Great Falls Tavern Visitor Center of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park. The address is 11710 MacArthur Blvd. Potomac, MD 20854. Check our website and Facebook page for additional special event and ranger-led programs: www.nps.gov/choh, www.facebook.com/chesapeakeandohiocanal . Join in the conversation this summer! #candocanal #great falls #towpath #mules #potomac

Photo – An excursion on Charles F. Mercer departs Lock 20; September 13, 2014 – Level 7

Volunteer Opportunities, Level Walks, and Molly


Two rites of spring are coming up – the Potomac Watershed Cleanup on April 8, and the Garlic Mustard Challenge. Jim Heins manages several sites for the watershed cleanup and he has site leaders assigned for each site. We need some help out there; sign-ups are a little lower than normal, and if you want to help you can contact Jim at vip@candocanal.org. You must sign up before participating. The sites include Carderock (my site), Swains Lock, Pennyfield Lock, Angler’s Inn and Violette’s Lock.  This is work, but it can be a fun event – “who found the oddest thing” is popular, and you will see early wildflowers and great views of the river. Families and kids are welcome!

April is Garlic Mustard month. The garlic mustard is winning in many places. There are several sites along the canal that are adopted, but there are plenty more to go around. There will also be two group events – the first at Carderock on April 22, 9 a.m. to noon, and the second at Swains Lock on May 6, 9 a.m. to noon.  If you are interested and want to get involved, contact Jim or Steve at gmc@candocanal.org.

Level walker activity has started to increase with the start of spring-like weather.  I like winter, but I have to admit the first few spring walks are intoxicating! As you get out on your levels, bear in mind to keep an eye out for towpath surface conditions and debris that could impact bike users and walkers. With the spring rains upon us, be mindful of blocked culverts or prism washouts.  If you’re used to being on the towpath in winter with no bikes, watch out because they are back and some riders go through pretty quickly. I will be sending out safety guidelines in a future blog.

Several of you have used the level.molly@gmail.com for submitting reports. Thank you. That is not a must-do, but it does help segregate reports from the other mail.  I have eight or nine addresses that I receive canal-related email at, and the levelwalker address is a target of frequent spam. Using this special address helps out, because I can search on the name “Molly” – I have no Molly contacts or level walkers so this has helped.

And – many of you have asked who Molly is – wife, old girlfriend, mother, niece?  Actually, I once owned a racing go-kart in my crazy 20s called “Molly-K” for “molybdenum kart,” but that’s not it either. Molly is my six-year old tuxedo cat; I rescued her as a four-week old kitten someone dropped in front of my house. She is a nervous, introverted feline who has little use for other cats or people, mostly just me. She “lap edits” much of Along the Towpath and sees it before anyone else does.

Top Photo –  Carderock Pavilion; May 3, 2015 –  Level 5

Bottom Photos – Molly the cat; note on the left that she enjoys Along the Towpath, at least the delivery box 



C&O Canal Explore the Story of Women’s Lives

Hello Level Walkers – the following notification is from the National Park Service about a program for the park’s volunteers. Contact  Pete Peterson, Supervisory Park Ranger, 301-767-3702 for further information. – LWC

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Potomac, MD – On Saturday, March 25, 2017, the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park (C&O Canal) invites the public to come explore the story of women’s lives and work on the canal. The program will take place at the Great Falls Tavern in Potomac, Maryland.

Women played vital roles in the operation of the C&O Canal from its beginning in 1828 to the present. Historically, women needed to be skilled in mule care, booking, laundry, cooking, sewing, medicine, and teaching. They often found themselves as lock-tenders and boatman. The public will be encouraged to participate in the various forms of labor performed by women along the canal in the 19th century. Volunteers will demonstrate how laundry, cooking, cleaning, child rearing, and other forms of “women’s work” was done during the heyday of the C&O Canal. Come and try your hand at kneading dough, scrubbing a washboard, and mending a shirt. This event will run from 2:00 pm to 4:00 pm.

This demonstration will take place at the Great Falls Tavern Visitor Center (11710 MacArthur Boulevard, Potomac, MD  20854). The event will be free of charge. There is a fee to enter the park (currently $10 per vehicle for a single visit, unless a passenger has an applicable park pass). Call ahead for details at (301) 767-3714 (press “0” to reach a park staff person, Wed.-Sun., 9:00-4:30).  For more information on the C&O Canal’s programs and events, please visit www.nps.gov/choh.

Photo – Fifteen Mile Creek Aqueduct Upstream; October 21, 2016 – Level 53

C&O Canal Volunteers-In-Parks Speaker Series Program Presents: “Seneca Quarry Bike Ride”


Hello Level Walkers – the following notification is from the National Park Service about a program for the park’s volunteers. Contact: Dorothy McQuaid, dorothy_mcquaid@nps.gov, 301-639-6940 for further information. – LWC

On March 26th, 2017, at 9:30 a.m. Ric Jackson, longtime volunteer with the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park (C&O Canal), will share his knowledge of one of the park’s hidden gems. Did you know that less than 10 miles from Great Falls, there was a sandstone quarry and stonecutting mill that provided the red Seneca sandstone for the Smithsonian Castle? Join Ric, as well as other volunteers from the park’s Bike Patrol, for a trip to the quarry ruins to see this unique site and learn its story.

The trip will feature a bike ride from the Great Falls Tavern to the Seneca Stonecutting Mill, a hike up to the Seneca Quarry, a visit to the Quarry Master’s House, and of course, commentary and knowledge from our volunteers. The bike ride will be about 20 miles round-trip on the towpath, and the hike less than an hour, on possibly rough terrain. Attendees are asked to bring snacks, water, their bike helmet, bike, and lock for their bike. The group will return to the Great Falls Tavern around 1 p.m. The event is weather permitting, if heavy rain is predicted or if the paths are too muddy it will be rescheduled. Cancellation will be announced on the park’s Facebook account no later than 8 p.m. on March 25. Because the ride will be strenuous, it is not recommended for children.

The program is free, but there is an entrance fee to the park of $10.00 per single vehicle. Space is limited to the first 25 guests. If you would like to attend this event, please RSVP with your name and how many will be in your party. For more information or to RSVP, please contact Dorothy McQuaid, Education Intern, at dorothy_mcquaid@nps.gov. The Bike Loaner Program has bikes available to borrow. If attendees need to borrow a bike, they will need to notify Dorothy in advance and arrive early on the day of the event!

The park entrance to Great Falls Tavern is located at the intersection of Falls Road and MacArthur Boulevard in Potomac, Maryland.

Photo – Seneca Creek Aqueduct Arches 1 and 2; October 29, 2016 – Level 10

C&O Canal NHP Calendar Photo Submissions

This announcement is from the C&O Canal National Historical Park, National Park Service, about the annual call for submission of photos for the park calendar.  This beautifully designed calendar is given to volunteers at the annual volunteer recognition dinners and other park associates.  Note that submission of photos is only open to park volunteers and NPS staff.  – LWC

Park Volunteers & Staff,

We are now accepting photo submissions for the 2018 C&O Canal Calendar!

Photos of all parts of the Park, through all four seasons will be included in the calendar. So if you have photos of historic structures, flora/fauna, visitors, volunteers, or just about anything else in the Park, please submit them!

Once again this year, we ask that you submit your photos via Google Drive to chohvip@gmail.com. To do this, compose an email and hover your mouse over the plus sign next to the attachments, click on the drive icon (resembles recycling logo), upload the photos you would like to share, and send to chohvip@gmail.com. If you have any issues with this, please feel free to attach photos to a standard email sent to the same email address.

Please label your photo files with the name of photographer and location.

– Ex. BigSlackwater_John_Doe.

The deadline for submission is Friday, May 19th, 2017. If your photograph is selected, you will be contacted and credited in the calendar.

Thank you.

Emily H. Hewittt, Volunteer Program Manager, C&O Canal National Historical Park

Photo and video – Lock 22, Pennyfield; February 25, 2017 – Level 8

Level Walk Reports

You won’t always see three blogs on the same day, but I wanted to kick off with a fair amount of useful info for your first visit. Most of us are in the age range to remember the Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys book series. They started with feeder sets of three (1927 for the Hardys and 1930 for Nancy). I collect old series books so I am well familiar with this concept, and copied the idea as a feeder set of blogs.

Level Walker reports are a significant element in how we do business.  When I started as a level walker in the fall of 1992 we only did paper forms and mailed them in.  Several still do that! (Which is fine.) The majority I receive now are via email. I am flexible on how you submit reports – I receive them in five different file formats.  I’ve even gotten text messages and phone calls! It is all valuable, even the small bits of info add up to the bigger story of the use and conditions of our beloved park.

Tracking all of this info is a bit dicey sometimes because of the volume of email we all seem to receive no matter what we do. You may have noticed I can’t always get back to you right away.  That is not a lack of interest or appreciation, just a fact that I have to manage my time and I can’t always respond quickly.  I do screen emails for emergent issues that require more immediate action.

I have considered an alternate submission method, but our diverse group of users are not all ready for that.  Over time I will reconsider that; but for now email still rules.  You’ve probably also been frustrated if you’ve seen that I missed your report in Along the Towpath or failed to respond to a question.  I regret that, but it is a human mistake. I can’t blame the editor because we are the same person! I would like to ask you to consider the following things when you submit:

  1. Submit reports to level.molly@gmail.com. This will separate level walker reports from other emails and improve my chances of keeping track of them.
  2. Put “LW Report” in the subject line of the email that includes the report. This is especially important if you send me multiple emails about your walk.
  3. If there is a serious condition that requires attention put “Condition” in the subject line. Remember that you should call 866-877-6677 for an actual park emergency.
  4. If there is a question for me that needs a timely response put “Question” in the subject line.

In a future blog I will discuss upcoming revisions to the report form. Thanks!

Photos – Bald Eagles and Aerie across Potomac from Mile 39; 18 March 2017 – Level 15


Why a Blog, and How Does It Work?

I am starting my sixth year as Level Walker chair.  I wouldn’t continue to do this if I didn’t firmly believe we support one of the most varied and wonderful national parks properties in the system, and the National Park Service staff who support it are some of the finest and most dedicated individuals I’ve ever known.  It’s a cause worth supporting, and our group of volunteers bring a lot to the table.

Under the earlier by-laws of the Association, I would have hit my term limit in another three years.  I didn’t want that to happen; first, because I strongly believe that having a good working relationship with the National Park Service and maintaining continuity is important. You only need to look at Jim Heins’ management of the VIP program to see that success story.

Second, I personally enjoy working with the fine group of individuals – you – who make up the corps of Level Walkers. I am humbled by the heritage of the program (started in 1960) and the level walker chairs who have proceeded me.

For these reasons I proposed a by-laws amendment at the 2017 annual meeting that divested the Second Vice President office from the Level Walker chair.  It received a positive majority vote, and the Level Walker chair now serves at the pleasure of the president, with no term limit.   I plan to serve the Association, the National Park Service and you for as long as I am able.

With five years under my belt I see this as time for me to tune up how I do things.  I’ll discuss these changes as we go through future blogs. This blog is the first change. Most of us are older, and may have only heard of blogs from our children or grandchildren.  I read blogs but have never done one, and it was a learning experience to set this one up.  I was lucky that two of the park’s most awesome interns, Dorothy and Monica, gave me some helpful advice.

The blog replaces the info emails. I feel have fallen short on passing on info to you via email, but that has become an impossible situation.  Apparently, some time back someone reported me as spammer (and it would have been someone on my email distro list), and now my group emails result in a flood of kick-backs, missed deliveries and other nastiness.

The blog is a much neater solution.  If you want these updates, enter your email address under FOLLOW BLOG VIA EMAIL and select FOLLOW.  You won’t get junk mail for doing this, but you will get a notification any time I send out an update. You don’t need to be a WordPress user to do this.

The blog provides an index by category, past post date and a calendar.  It’s searchable, too.  Check it out and let me know what you think!

Photo – Fisheye lens view of Williamsport from Conococheague Aqueduct  10 March, 2017 – Level 38


Welcome to the Level Walker Info Blog

Welcome Level Walkers!  In the interest of effective transfer of information to level walkers I have set up this blog. This is an unofficial site and is not maintained or necessarily endorsed by the C&O Canal Association, the C&O Canal National Historical Park or the National Park Service.

Postings will include level walker specific information, training opportunities, volunteer calls, advisories and event information from the National Park Service, the Association and other partners. It is not intended to replace the periodic info emails sent out by the Association. I’ll also highlight interesting things about the park, other volunteers and whatever you tell me you would like to hear.

Photo – Towpath above Dam 5, upstream enroute to Two Locks (with a sprained ankle!) 11 March, 2017 – Level 41