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.


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

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

Congressionally Mandated Senior Pass Price Increase to Take Effect on August 28

Hello Level Walkers,

I have some items of interest to pass on to you from the National Park Service. Because of the length of the items I am splitting these up in to separate blogs.  This one is of particular interest if you are over 62 and have not gotten your lifetime National Park pass yet. – LWC

WASHINGTON – In order to meet requirements set by legislation passed by Congress in December 2016, the price of the America the Beautiful – National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Senior Pass will increase from $10 to $80. The change will take effect August 28, 2017. Pass holders are given lifetime access to more than 2,000 sites and parks. The fee increase will support critical investments in maintenance projects at national parks and federal recreational lands nationwide.

The Senior Pass has cost $10 since 1994. Until August 28, U.S. citizens and permanent residents who are 62 years or older can purchase the lifetime Senior Pass for $10. Previously purchased lifetime Golden Age or Senior Passes will be honored for the lifetime of the pass holder.

The Senior Pass can be used at sites managed by the National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Bureau of Land Management, the Bureau of Reclamation, the U.S. Forest Service, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Funds from passes are used to enhance the visitor experience and support priority projects and programs.

The pass can be purchased for $10 before August 28 at a national park or other Federal recreation area that charges an entrance or standard amenity (day use) fee. The pass can also be obtained by mail or on line, for $10 before August 28 but there will be an additional $10 charge for processing, for a total of $20. Due to expected high order volume, there could be delays with online and mail order processing of up to several months.

The legislation requires that the price of the lifetime Senior Pass be the same as the Interagency Annual Pass, which is currently $80. The legislation also introduces a new annual Senior Pass that can be purchased for $20. Seniors who purchase annual Senior Passes for four years can trade them in for a lifetime Senior Pass at no additional charge.

The Senior Pass covers all entrance fees and standard amenity (day use) fees and may provide senior discounts for things such as tours or campsites. The pass also waives the entrance fee for traveling companions. At per-vehicle fee sites, the pass admits the pass holder and all passengers in a noncommercial vehicle. At a per-person fee site, the pass admits the pass holder and three other adults. Children under 16 are always admitted free.

Above photo – Culvert 116, Marsh Run – Levels 31/32 – June 17, 2017

Paw Paw Tunnel Closure


This is short and sweet, but info you should have if you plan to visit Western Maryland.

I mentioned in an earlier blog that the Paw Paw Tunnel is closing for a while. I received word today that it is closing on June 2. This closure is important; it is so the National Park Service can conduct the Paw Paw Rock Slope Remediation project, which benefits both the integrity of the towpath and towpath user safety. 

All thru-traffic will use the bypass trail (Tunnel Hill trail) for the duration of the project. Currently the contractor is projecting that the project should be completed around the end of September 2017.

I will send you updates as they are available!

Switching hats to the Editor hat – the June Along the Towpath is nearly finished!  There’s lots of great stuff in it, so be sure to take a look when it shows up in mid-June.

Photo – Paw Paw Tunnel in existing light, May 31, 2013 – Level 58

Trash and Invasive Plants

Catchy title, right? Hopefully you take the time to read this, because they are important topics.

Trash – we all love it – generally not!  I will say I found a $20 bill once amongst the trash; had a nice lunch that day!  Beyond that, I am not a fan of trash. Invasive plants – likely to strike up a healthy debate among many Association members.

The National Park Service appreciates what we do, rest assured of that.  However, they are seriously understaffed, especially in the maintenance area.  They have their hands full maintaining the towpath, structures and facilities.  They aren’t able to get out on the towpath as much as they would like, and they are also trying to reduce the amount of driving they do on the towpath to minimize the impact of truck traffic on the towpath.

For this reason, The NPS has asked me to request that you limit the amount of trash that you pick up to what you can haul off.  If you leave a pile of trash or debris along the towpath or at a site, it could be days before they can get to it.  In that event it becomes an eyesore for visitors and a source of complaints. We also don’t want to add to their already high workload. I recommend that you focus on the trash on the towpath and most visible; we can only do so much.

As with all National Park Service policies, I ask that you respect them and follow the policies and guidance passed on the NPS.

The second part of this message is passed on by the National Park Service, and pertains to a training opportunity related to invasive plants.  This message is passed on by Cyrus Chimento, the new Invasive Plants and Restoration Volunteer Coordinator at the C&O Canal National Historical Park, taking over from Kristi Shelton.  Those of us who met or worked with Kristi know that she is yet another one of the park’s amazing interns; she asked us to monitor emerald ash borer damage last year. I look forward to working with Cyrus as well. The message follows:

This past year, the Kristi has worked to reinvigorate C&O Canal NHP’s Weed Warrior program. This program teaches and certifies volunteers to maintain the natural vegetation of the C&O Canal by removing non-native invasive plants throughout the park. The C&O Canal is home to many different ecosystems and hundreds of rare, threatened and endangered species, so controlling the spread of invasive species is a critical effort that the park needs the support of volunteers to carry out. 

I wanted to extend an invitation to any volunteers in your programs that might be interested in helping to manage the vegetation along the canal to attend the Weed Warriors Training session. I am holding the Weed Warriors Training session on Friday, May 5th, 2017 at Great Falls Tavern, from 9:30am to 1:30pm. 

The training will start with a presentation indoors and, following a lunch break, some time outside around the Tavern for demonstrations and IDs. Those that complete the training will receive certification to remove specific invasive species in their chosen section of the park, Volunteer Service Agreements, and access to online resources compiled for specific species and sections of the park.There is limited space so please let us know as soon as possible if want to attend (RSVP below). The parking fee at Great Falls Tavern will be waived for those attending this training.

RSVP: chohweedwarrior@gmail.com

Volunteers who attend training should bring:

  • Lunch
  • Sturdy shoes suitable for the outdoors
  • Sturdy clothes suitable for the outdoors
  • Water
  • Sun protection

Photo – Culvert 141 outflow with flora – native or invasive?; June 1, 2013 – Level 42