C&O Canal NHP Status Update – May 27

Hello Level Walkers –

Following update is from volunteer program manager, Emily Hewitt.

Thanks!

Steve


 

Dear Volunteers,
We have some updates on the park’s operating status. The park is working to increase access in a phased approach. The volunteer program continues to be suspended until further notice. The following information can be found on the park website.
Park status at this time:
Reservation Only Campgrounds – beginning to open at Antietam Creek, McCoys Ferry, 15-Mile Creek, Paw Paw, Spring Gap. Campsites must be reserved through www.recreation.gov. These facilities will have every other site open in order to encourage social distancing. Please bring your own water as pump handles will not be replaced and turned on at this time. Restrooms will be cleaned twice weekly. Please bring your own hand sanitizer, soap, and toilet paper as these items have been the subject of theft.
Hiker-biker Campsites – open in Frederick, Washington, and Allegany Counties (Calico Rocks to Evitts Creek). Please bring your own water as pump handles will not be replaced and turned on at this time. Restrooms may be open and will be cleaned twice weekly. Please bring your own hand sanitizer, soap, and toilet paper as these items have been the subject of theft.
Restrooms, Vault Toilets, and Portable Toilets – beginning to open at campgrounds, boat ramps, and day use areas in Frederick, Washington, and Allegany Counties. Restrooms will be cleaned twice weekly. Please bring your own hand sanitizer, soap, and toilet paper as these items have been the subject of theft.

Water Fountains and Wells – beginning to open in Frederick, Washington, and Allegany Counties.

Gatherings of more than 10 persons are prohibited.
C&O Canal NHP will cancel permits and reservations and will not accept applications for demonstrations, special events, or park site reservations until further notice.
Visitor Centers continue to be closed.
 
Parking Areas – may be closed, including the Great Falls, Fletchers Cove, and Carderock Recreation Area. Parking at Anglers is limited to provide access for EMS and rescue services.

While the listed areas are accessible for visitors to enjoy, a return to full operations will continue to be phased, and services may be limited. When recreating, please follow local area health orders, practice Leave No Trace principles, and avoid crowding and high-risk outdoor activities.

The CDC has offered guidance to help people recreating in parks and open spaces prevent the spread of infectious diseases. We will continue to monitor all park functions to ensure that visitors adhere to CDC guidance for mitigating risks associated with the transmission of COVID-19 and take any additional steps necessary to protect public health.

Please let us know if you have any questions.
Stay well!
Emily H. Hewitt

Level Walker Update

Hello Level Walkers!

It’s been a while since I’ve written! My intent was to get in touch with you to kick off the spring, when many level walkers return to the towpath. Of course, the pandemic has affected us all in many ways; I hope you are all coping well and staying healthy.  As you most likely have heard, at the present time, volunteer activities are suspended on the C&O Canal NHP. We’ll update you when that status changes.

Over the past month, I’ve reviewed recent level walker activity and the coverage we provide to the park. I’m happy to report you all have done a great job!  You are a great resource for the park, and the program provides a unique service. Some of you focus on clean-up activities, some delight in the natural aspects of our park, some provide insightful details about the conditions of the towpath and structures, and some cover just about everything.

My review did find that there are some sections of the park that would benefit from more coverage. I am looking at ways to improve coverage in these areas, and if you are interested in other opportunities please let me know.  The levels are throughout the park, and I plan to reach out to some of you individually to discuss possible realignment of assignments.

I recently contacted you individually regarding the National Park Service Volunteer Service Agreements (VSAs). These agreements are a mandatory requirement for all volunteers on national parks, and the NPS now asks that we renew them annually. If I contacted you, and you have already responded, thank you. If I haven’t heard from you I will be reminding you.  You only need to do one, and if you support other programs and included level walking on a VSA for that program, you are covered. In that case, please let me know you did that so I can update your status for the Level Walker program.

If I haven’t contacted you about the VSA, I either missed you for some reason or I may not have you on the list of active level walkers. There are three things needed to stay in the level walker program: the VSA, current C&O Canal Association membership, and recent (within one year) level walking activity.

Over the next few months I will be revising the level walk reporting format. This change is to better address the type of information collected and make it as relevant as possible to the park’s needs. Hopefully it will simplify things a bit, too.

One other note on reports – you may have noticed in the March Along the Towpath that the period of reports covered now ends on the last day of the month before the newsletter is produced – i.e. January 31 for the March issue. This allows more time for production of the article for the newsletter.

I’ll be in touch later, as the season progresses. For now – stay well!


Image – Broad Run Trunk -– Level 13

Four Locks Tunnel Closure and Park Events

Hello Level Walkers!

Here are a few updates from the park about access and upcoming VIP Speaker Series events. Thanks, as always, for your support. – Steve

C&O Canal will temporarily close Four Locks Tunnel for needed repairs, June 10-13

Clear Spring, Md – Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park, in conjunction with Washington County Roads Department, will be repairing a major pot hole at the downstream end of the Four Locks boat ramp tunnel, located along the access road to the Four Locks parking lot and boat launch area. The repair will necessitate the closure of the Four Locks parking lot and boat ramp from June 10-13th  2019. This repair is necessary to preserve private and public property and prevent further damage. Property owners who use this access road will be provided other means of egress.  Check our website and Facebook page for additional updates: www.nps.gov/choh, www.facebook.com/chesapeakeandohiocanal.

VIP Speakers Series – Saturday, June 15, 2019 – Canal Quarters Tour: Lockhouse 25 at Edwards Ferry

From 10:00 a.m. until noon on Saturday the 15th, Don Streets and Linda Bergofsky will guide an open house tour of Lockhouse 25. Lockhouse 25 is situated at Edwards Ferry and serves as a Canal Quarters location that can be rented to public tenants for overnight stays. Not only do Don and Linda serve as caretakers of the historic site, but they bring its history to life through their own personal touches. Known to dress in homemade, period clothing, and lead interpretive tours of the space, they will craft an authentic setting and educational experience for this Speaker Series event. To reserve space(s) in this program, please email your headcount to chohvip@gmail.com. Space is limited to the first 15 sign-ups.

VIP Speakers Series – Saturday, June 29, 2019 – Oldtown Dragonfly Walk

Did you know? The C&O Canal has the most diverse population of odonates – dragonflies and damselflies – in the entire National Park Service! On Saturday, June 29th, join Steve Dean in Oldtown, Maryland from 10:00 a.m. until noon to learn more about these fascinating creatures, and what it is that draws them here. Participants will meet with Steve at Lock 70 and engage in a short informational discussion, before walk downstream for about 1½ miles, and then back. The talk and walk will take up to two hours. Bring comfortable walking shoes and water, as well as (if you have them): a dragonfly guide, camera, spotting scope and/or binoculars. A handout about dragonflies will be available. To RSVP for this program, please email your headcount to chohvip@gmail.com.


Above – Culvert 139 downstream arch at Four Locks; May 4, 2019; Levels 41/42

Below – Pondhawk (female) on wayside at Oldtown; June 30, 2018; Levels 62/63

Pondhawk

Volunteer Activity During Government Shutdown

Hello All,

As you have no doubt heard, a budget agreement was not made on December 21 and a partial Government shutdown is in place. The National Park Service is one of the agencies impacted by the shutdown.

Guidance was provided by the National Park Service before the shutdown went into effect and all volunteer duties are halted until the shutdown ends.

Volunteers are not allowed to serve in their volunteer capacity and the normal protections such as liability coverages are suspended. Note that the C&O Canal Association does NOT carry separate liability coverage for volunteer activity.

Volunteers will follow the same schedule as furloughed NPS employees and must follow the same restrictions as NPS employees. This includes not accessing closed federal buildings and not using any federal equipment or property, such as vehicles, computers or mobile phones, maintenance equipment or educational props.

Volunteers must not wear any NPS volunteer uniform or NPS volunteer logo item during this time.

During a shutdown, NPS staff will not be in communication with volunteers, and will not be able to check email or phone messages.

While I have not heard of any closure of part or all of the park, we are expected to observe all closure notices and not cross any barricades or area closed postings.

When the Government closure ends you can resume normal activities unless notified otherwise.

Thank you for your cooperation during this time.


Above – Lock 70, Level 63, November 13, 2018

C&O Canal NHP Storm Conditions – 13 September 2018

The C&O Canal NHP advises that, due to the lightened forecast of hurricane Florence, volunteer duties in the Park can resume as normal. Conditions are still not optimal and there are risks that should be considered if you choose to venture out on the towpath. As always, your efforts as level walkers are purely optional and you should consider the risks you may take out there. There will be plenty of time for level walks later, when conditions improve.

Check for the most up to date conditions, closures and safety warnings at http://go.nps.gov/choh_conditions or Facebook @chesapeakeandohiocanal before venturing out.

The following guidance is provided by the park safety officer outlining some things to look out for post storm.

Falling Trees

  • Due to the extremely wet spring and summer, the ground is completely saturated and does not have its normal ability to hold tree root balls in place. As a result, large and small trees are falling over without any wind or for any other reason.
  • Avoid traveling under a tree canopy if you can.
  • Do not stop or rest under trees that are leaning. These are more prone to falling over due to ground failure.
  • Look for bulges in the ground around the base of trees. If you see a bulge, notify the park via the dispatch number 866-877-6677 or the hazard warning email CHOH_Hazards@nps.gov
  • If the wind begins to pick up, get off the towpath and away from any trees.

Towpath Travel

  • The towpath is very wet and some area may be covered with slippery mud due to recent flooding.
  • If you are unfamiliar with the section of towpath, this is not the time to explore. If you must go, take an experienced person with you. Again, if you are unsure, stay off the towpath.
  • Make sure someone is aware of your destination and is responsible for ensuring your safe return.

 

C&O Canal NHP Storm Conditions – 11 September 2018

Level Walkers,

The following message is from the C&O Canal NHP. Please heed all cautions both before, during and after the storm.  Water levels are already high. It is important that we follow their guidance because conditions can be very dangerous due to localized flooding, loose or undermined earth, or tree issues.   Your safety is more important than your work as volunteers.

As noted below, the park is the best source for information. Visit http://go.nps.gov/choh_conditions as noted below or follow the park on Facebook @chesapeakeandohiocanal.

The park will be looking for volunteers to help prepare for the storm.  Contact one of the visitor centers (contact info is on the contacts page of Along the Towpath) for local volunteer requirements. Also, if you are interested in helping prepare Lockhouse 6 for the storm on Wednesday, 9/12, from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m., call 301-745-8888 or further information

Like you, I hope our park avoids serious damage from this storm. Be safe! The guidance from the park follows.

BT

Due to the flood impact we are expecting and experiencing, volunteers should not be on the towpath at this time. However, we can use their help at park access points providing safety messages to visitors. VIPs must report in and out to their District Volunteer Coordinator.

As of 10:00 am, September 11, 2018

Increased rainfall and rising river level in the area has caused sections of C&O Canal NHP to close. Sections of the canal and towpath may become flooded and trap visitors. Do not attempt to cross washouts or high water areas. High winds and wet soils can cause trees and branches to fall.

Volunteers must receive specific instructions from their District Volunteer Coordinator before entering the park.

All visitors encouraged to use caution; hikers and bikers are encouraged to seek alternatives.

For the most updated information, please refer to: http://go.nps.gov/choh_conditions

Flooding on the C&O Canal

Hello Level Walkers,

As you know, persistent and heavy rains have occurred frequently over the last few weeks. This has created flood conditions on parts of the C&O Canal. Floods can create a number of issues in the park, and visitors are urged to take great care in the time after this and any future floods. Towpath instability is often not immediately apparent, and sink holes or collapses can occur in the period after flood conditions. The areas around culverts and bridges can be unstable, and often streams undermine the soil around their edges. The National Park Service responds as quickly as they can to assess and repair conditions, as well as to prepare alternate trails and markers, but this effort can take a great deal of time.

There is a significant breach on Mile 52, where Culvert 82 washed out. There may be other breaches or damage when this latest flood recedes. Please pay close attention to conditions and  follow park regulations and warning signs.  No level walk or photograph is worth risking your safety for.

When planning a trip on the canal, visitors should visit the park web site http://www.nps.gov/choh/index.htm or visit the park Facebook site @chesapeakeandohiocanal for the most up-to-date information. The park responds quickly to questions posted on Facebook. The park is the best source of information because third party sources may post inaccurate or out-dated information. Safety hazards can be reported by calling 866-677-6677 or by using the hazard reporting system http://www.nps.gov/choh/safetyhazardsreportingsystem.htm.

The NPS has advised of the following closures until further notice:

1. All boat ramps

2. All campsites (HBOs and Drive In)

3. All lockhouses

4. All through-riders, hiking and biking

5. Harpers Ferry has closed the pedestrian bridge over the Potomac River (Access to the Towpath and Appalachian Trail).

6. Many parts of the towpath are washed out or have breaches.  Please use caution throughout the park.

7. And of course never, ever try to cross a flooded section.

Important Safety Message for March 2, 2018

All,

The following safety message is from the C&O Canal NHP.  Given the high risk of tree damage, this is advice well taken.

Regards, Steve


Attention,

All C&O Canal offices (including the Great Falls Tavern) are closed today (3/2) due to the high winds. Please do NOT come into the Park today. Trees may come down on the towpath or Great Falls entrance road at any time.

Stay safe and use caution!

 

Level Walker Updates

Hello Level Walkers,

As the Association’s annual meeting approaches, I look forward to seeing some of you there.  If you need a level walker hat or have any questions, it will be a good time to catch up with me. If you have any questions about the annual meeting, please contact me.

If you are out there on the towpath, please keep in mind that icy conditions can persist even when it is above freezing, and tree limbs are prone to falling this time of year.  I observed both of these conditions first hand on Friday – though I did have the towpath all to myself!

The following updates are from the National Park Service.  The Weverton access change is a concern for many of us, and I don’t know if there will be any kind of work-around. I will update you if I hear anything on that.

Thanks for all you do!

Volunteer Program Assessment. The park is conducting an assessment of the volunteer program.  The park will use this information to improve the volunteer program.  The deadline to respond to the assessment is February 28th.
You will need to enter your name and email address to complete the survey.  This is so the park can follow up for more information if needed.
The survey is available at: https://goo.gl/forms/bhIOtPFeek58lVc13
Weverton Railroad Crossing (near Harpers Ferry). CSX has notified the Park that the railroad crossing at Weverton (off of Keep Tryst Road) is to be only used by CSX personnel. There is no longer access from the parking lot at Weverton to the C&O Canal towpath or Appalachian Trail.
Both the AT and the National Capital Region are aware of the change of status.  Private crossing signs have been installed and trains are not required to sound horns. Trains go through this area very rapidly and it is an unprotected crossing, making it a safety hazard!
Special Events at Great Falls:
  • Great Falls Tavern is hosting a pop up exhibit during the month of February called “What Would You Do To Be Free?” focusing on the stories of runaway slaves on the Canal
  • Feb 17 – VIP Speaker Series: Great Backyard Bird Count (9:00-11:00)
  • Feb 18 – Annual George Washington Ball with music and dancing (1:00-4:00)
  • Feb 25 – Presentation on the African-American CCC at the C&O Canal (12:00-1:00)
  • March 10 – VIP Speaker Series: Aqueducts of the C&O Canal (2:00-3:00)
  • March 18 – Irish Laborers on the C&O Canal (1:00-2:00)
  • March 24 – VIP Speaker Series: Grand Old Ditch (2:00-3:00)
  • March 25 – Women’s Life and Work on the C&O Canal (1:00-3:00)
  • March 31 – Northern Virginia Mountain Dulcimers (12:30-3:00)

Above – Culvert 93, Israel Creek, at Weverton,  January 20, 2018

Update on the Conococheague Aqueduct and Other Notes

Hello Level Walkers!

I have a few notes of interest for you from the National Park Service. As always, visit the park’s website at www.nps.gov/choh or Facebook at chesapeakeandohiocanal for up-to-date information.

Construction on the Conococheague Aqueduct restoration project is anticipated to begin in late July 2017 and extend approximately 18 months, weather dependent, until December 2018. During this time visitors will be unable to travel over the aqueduct and through the construction area, and will be directed onto a 1.1 mile long detour route around the Conococheague Aqueduct. The upstream end of the detour departs from the towpath near milepost 99.75, travels along Fenton Avenue, an alleyway, state Route 68, and U.S. Route 11 until rejoining the towpath near milepost 99.60 (directly adjacent to the Cushwa Basin). Prior to closure of the towpath, signage will be posted to clearly mark the detour route. The detour is outlined on the below map.

The Olmsted Island bridge crossing at Great Falls is anticipated to reopen on July 7.

Many of you have reported seeing acoustic monitoring devices at various points on the park. These devices are part of a study to monitor bat activity. They will be in place through this year and possibly later. If you notice any signs of damage to them please let me know; photos are helpful in that event. A report of the findings will be available after the study is completed.

The NPS is looking for some rescue help for some fish trapped in the canal under the Key Bridge in Georgetown. The rescue effort will take place on Thursday, July 6 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.  Interested volunteers should meet NPS staff at 10 a.m. near the Washington Canoe Club, at the end of Water Street N.W. Nets, buckets, waders/muck boots, and a water cooler will be available, but volunteers are encouraged to bring their own equipment if available.  Please RSVP to park biologist Andrew Landsman (andrew_landsman@nps.gov) if you are able to come. Andrew can also answer any questions you might have.

Thanks for all you do for the park!  Enjoy those summer walks; stay safe and remember to carry plenty of water.


Above photo – The Western Maryland Railway tunnels, including the Indigo Tunnel, are bat habitats and protected from human intrusion – Level 52

20170620 Conococheague Bypass Plan

Conococheague Aqueduct towpath bypass route – image courtesy of the National Park Service, C&O Canal National Historical Park