C&O Canal Update – June 17, 2020

Hello Level Walkers,
I hope this finds you well.
Here is the latest update from the park!

Dear Volunteers,
As of today, the fee booth at Great Falls has reopened. For visitor and staff safety, the park is switching to a policy of credit/debit/contactless payment only, i.e NO CASH. The fee booth can take the NFC (Near Field Communications) technology, i.e. Apple Pay, Google Pay etc. Or if you have a newer credit card the chip will communicate with the reader without having to be inserted. The park will also have a digital pass deploying via Recreation.gov starting tomorrow. This program was formerly called YourPassNow, but has now been folded into Recreation.gov for simplicity.  It will allow you to have a 7 day pass or a CHOH Annual pass on the Recreation.gov app on your phone. Please continue to check the park website for operations updates.
Hopefully you’ve been able to get outside and enjoy the beautiful weather we’ve been having. I have noticed a lot of activity around my garden this week. See Cheyenne’s attached article about pollinators to learn what all the buzz is about!  Pollinator Volunteer Engagement Article
As always, if you get out to enjoy our public lands, please remember to recreate responsibly. And stay well!
Emily H. Hewitt

Image – Hummingbird moth on thistle – Level 42

C&O Canal Update – June 10, 2020

Hello Volunteers!

Here is the latest update from the park.

Best regards, Steve

Dear Volunteers,
Here are the latest updates on park status –
  1. The Great Falls entrance road is open.
  2. Great Falls, Carderock, and Fletchers Cove parking is open.
  3. All of the public restrooms in the Palisades District are now open.
    1. Great Falls Maryland
    2. Anglers
    3. Carderock East
    4. Carderock West
    5. Fletcher’s Cove
  4. As of 6/10, well pumps are beginning to be opened. Well pumps in Frederick, Washington, and Allegeny Counties should be fully operational by 6/20.
  5. Drinking fountains in Palisades will remain off until further notice.
For a complete list of alerts, please visit the park website.
In other news, do you know what malacology is? To find out, see Claire’s attached article for a fun natural resource lesson! If you spot any creatures that fit in that category, send us a photo. Claire would be thrilled! Snail Discoveries
Please stay well, and if you visit the park remember to stay safe and practice social distancing.
Emily H. Hewitt
6 ft bicycle

Image – Snail on Towpath near Culvert 71 – 1 April, 2017 – Level 17

Volunteer Update – May 15

Hello all!
Here is another update from Emily, our awesome volunteer manager at the C&O Canal.

Dear Volunteers,
I hope you are enjoying the sunshine as we finally get a little respite from all the rain. As we all know, flooding is a fact of life on the C&O Canal. This week, Cheyenne put together the attached information on how you can help with stormwater management. Maybe we can all use these sunny days to add some fun projects to our backyard to-do lists. Stormwater Volunteer Communications
The park’s new Chief of Interpretation, Education, and Volunteers is settling in to her new role in the park. Please see the attached message from Christiana Hanson to all of you. Message to Volunteers from Christiana
Enjoy the nice weather and stay well!
Emily H. Hewitt
Volunteer Program Manager
C&O Canal National Historical Park

Image – Historic Mile Marker 22 – Level 9

River Otter Citizen Science Project

Hello Level Walkers!

The following interesting opportunity is forward from Ranger Stephanie Siemek. If you would like to help with this initiative please contact her.

Also, if you are interested in submitting photos for the 2020 volunteer calendar, please contact Claire Connor at chohvip@gmail.com.

Thanks, Steve

I_00085cDear Volunteers,

Recently, I met with wildlife ecologist, Dr. Tom Serfass from Frostburg State University. His expertise involves many diverse species, including the river otter. He is interested in starting a citizen science project within the C&O Canal NHP, but before extending this to the public, I wanted to gauge the number of people who would be interested in helping within our volunteer community.

Dr. Serfass is planning on doing an educational session on river otters, such as their natural history, presence within the region, and their use as a flagship species. The citizen science aspect would be informing us if you see a river otter along the canal while you are on bike patrol, or just walking/hiking through the park. Another possible aspect would be looking  through photos taken by wildlife cameras (camera traps) that will be placed along the canal.

The project is currently in its infancy, but we would like to just get a count of how many people would be interested in attending the educational session/ program and might be interested in helping us find river otters along the canal.

Please send me a reply, if you are interested. Attached are some pictures of river otters (with one taken at the C&O Canal!) and other wildlife captured with the wildlife cameras.

Thank you,
Stephanie Siemek 

Interpretive Ranger, C&O Canal National Historical Park

Email: stephanie_siemek@nps.gov (301) 722-8226

Copperheads – They’re Everywhere!

The following note is from the C&O Canal NHP Safety Officer, John Adams. Copperhead sightings and bites have been on the increase this year in Maryland. With a little care the risk can be minimized.  Please read it carefully and heed the safety cautions; especially how to respond to a bite. If you encounter any copperheads (without getting bitten) on your level, let me know and I will inform the park so they can track the areas where copperheads are active. – LWC

The park had a lot of juvenile copperhead snakes in the Palisades Maintenance yard about two years ago and had to hire a pest removal company. This year, a bunch of juvenile copperhead snakes have taken over the mule barn (white garage building by E-House/Ranger Station) at Palisades.  I’ve also been told we have copperhead snakes at the downstream end of Paw Paw Tunnel and I saw approximately five last week in the canal prism to confirm.  Over the past two years, we’ve had several visitors that were bitten by copperhead snakes near the river and on the Billy Goat Trail.

First thing first.  Copperhead snakes are a natural predator and are not to be killed.  They do serve a purpose in getting rid of mice and other small rodents.   Did you know that the white footed mice are the only documented source of Lyme Disease?  The deer tick bites the mouse and acquires the virus and then transmits the virus to humans. So snakes are helpful.  They also eat birds, lizards, other snakes, frogs, and some large insects.

Snakes are looking for two things – shelter and food.  If you take away the food and other items that attract mice, the snakes will leave also.  Also, if you get rid of openings and small spaces for snakes to enter and hide in, they will also find another place to dwell.

Copperhead snakes account for most of the venomous snake bites in the US and bites usually occur when they are stepped on or a person decides to try and pick one up.  You have probably stepped over or passed by countless copperhead snakes in your lifetime and never knew it.  Their first line of defense is to be camouflaged and this works best when they remain still.

If a snake feels threatened, they will bite and you could be injected with venom.  The venom will not typically kill a healthy adult human but it is very painful and can cause serious damage to skin, muscle, and bone tissue.

Prevention is the key.   Avoid areas where copperhead snakes have been sighted.  If you must work in these areas, make sure you have adequate lighting to see all areas and never ever reach into an unknown area or step into an unexplored area.  Use a long pole or rake to clear debris and use extreme caution when picking up items.  Move items cautiously and ensure no snakes are hidden under, behind, or inside objects.  Boots and heavy leather gloves can help minimize bites but may not prevent them.  If you find a snake, you have options.  You can leave the area and call for assistance.  You can allow the snake to escape from the area and go on it’s way.  If you feel comfortable working around snakes, you can relocate them to a wilderness area by picking them up using a long handled flat shovel, rake, snake tongs or other long object.  Use extreme caution and never handle a snake with your hands.

If you are bitten by a snake, this is an emergency condition.

  1. Immediately notify Dispatch (866-677-6677).  You can also notify 911.
  2. Clean the bite area with generous amounts of soap and water.  If water is not available, use an alcohol wipe or antibiotic to clean area.
  3. IMPORTANT:  Remove any rings, jewelry or other items that will bind your your body.  The area will begin to swell quickly and it needs to be free to do so.
  4. Stay calm and wait for transport to the hospital.
  5. Do NOT cut open the wound and try to “suck” out the venom.  It doesn’t work and you will simply make a bad situation even worse.
  6. Do NOT apply ice or tourniquet.  They can cause more damage.
  7. Hospitals in our area do not need to know the snake species so do NOT try to capture the snake and risk getting bit again.  If needed, hospitals will treat all venomous snake bites in our area with the same anti-venom.

As for snake repellents, none have been proven to be effective and appear to be a waste of money and time.  The key is to safely remove the food and shelter and the snakes will move on.

If you see copperhead snakes, please record a description of the area and the date and time.  

Above – Young copperhead on the towpath at Seneca, Level 10, May 30, 2009

Below – Copperhead watching surroundings, and head detail. I warned visitors until it departed the towpath. Many visitors were unaware what it was and didn’t realize it was poisonous; a couple people wanted to pick it up.

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

C&O Canal Volunteers-In-Parks Speaker Series Program Presents: “OneHealth: Your Health & the Park’s Health”

Hello Level Walkers – the following notification is from the National Park Service. Contact Kelsey Smith, Assistant Volunteer Coordinator, at chohvip@gmail.com to RSVP – LWC

Potomac, MD – On April 23, 2017, at 11 a.m: What role do invasive plants play in the emergence of Lyme disease? How does trash serve as a breeding ground for mosquitos? Why is the “dogs on leash” policy a way to protect visitors from rabies?  For Park RX day, Susan Howard, Palisades Bike Patrol Volunteer, a seasoned international public health professional, also pursuing a PhD in environmental science, will give a talk on the intersection of wildlife, ecosystem and human health, called ‘One Health’, where she will discuss the link between conservation stewardship and how zoonotic diseases such as Lyme disease, mosquito-borne infections, and rabies spread when ecosystem integrity is imperiled by human actions.

The 184.5 miles of the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal (C&O) is a living laboratory to not only stimulate an understanding among visitors of history and the human industrial pursuits that prompted its creation, but a place to promote the interconnectedness of all living things, particularly the interaction between wildlife, humans and ecosystems in both health and the emergence of disease.   

Ms. Howard is an active volunteer with the US National Park Service as a Palisades Bike Patrol Volunteer and has been involved in efforts to develop a One Health Plan for the C&O Canal since 2015.   As a PhD student in environmental science at George Mason University, she is interested in studying the role that interactive videos and games might have in fostering desirable One Health behaviors and practices including conservation stewardship in National Parks. Ms. Howard will share recommended risk reduction precautions and practices for park visitors; as well as preventive public health actions and conservation measures for park volunteers and employees.

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 Kelsey Smith, Assistant Volunteer Coordinator, at chohvip@gmail.com.

Photo – Four Locks, Locks 49 and 50 from Lock 48; April 6, 2017 – Level 41