Level Walker Updates – September 19

Hello Level Walkers,

I have a few topics for you:

Invasive Plant Removal at Carderock Recreation Area – The NPS is hosting an invasive plant clean-up at Carderock on Saturday, September 25. For details and sign-up please visit:
National Park Service (NPS) Invasive Plant Management Team (IPMT): Invasive Plant Removal at Carderock Recreation Area (signupgenius.com)

Virtual Volunteer Appreciation Event – The NPS sent the following update on the volunteer appreciation event: Dear Volunteers, 
We have set the date for our Virtual Volunteer Appreciation Event for Thursday, October 21 from 5-7pm. Please RSVP for the event by emailing chohvip@gmail.com so that we can add your name to the guest list and send you the Zoom link. 
Even if you previously RSVP’d for the picnic that was cancelled, please email us a new RSVP for the virtual event. For planning purposes, please RSVP by October 1. 
We will also be sending you details on where to pick up your appreciation items and goodie bag prior to October 21. 
If you have any questions, please reach out to your volunteer program coordinator. 
Thanks, and we hope to “see” you on October 21.  – Emily Durán Hewitt

Level Walker Volunteer Hours – The end of Fiscal Year 2021 is September 30 and is rapidly approaching. I have to submit all FY21 volunteer hours for the Level Walker team to the NPS. I intend to send my report on Sunday, October 3rd. If you have any reports up to and including September 30th, please at get the hours to me by the end of the day on Saturday, October 2nd. You don’t need to do your full report if you need more time, just let me know what your hours were.

Thanks for all you do!


C&O Canal Update – March 24

Hello Level Walkers,

Happy Spring! Here is an update from the C&O Canal NHP Volunteer Manager.

Thanks for your support!


Dear Volunteers, 

It is wonderful to see the start of spring. If you are out in the park and get some nice photos, please remember to submit them for the 2022 C&O Canal calendar. Photos can be emailed directly to chohvip@gmail.com or shared via the Gmail drive to the same email. 

With the nicer weather, Great Falls Tavern has expanded pop-up table hours to Friday through Sunday, and Williamsport will be operating a pop-up table on Saturdays & Sundays beginning April 3rd. 

Finally, please help spread the word. The park has an immediate opening for volunteer camp host at our Antietam Creek campground. This opportunity is available for the 2021 season. Required schedule is 32 hours/week. R/V pad with hook-ups is provided. More information and an application can be found at this link –  Volunteer Opportunity Detail

Thank you & enjoy the nice weather!

Emily Durán Hewitt

Picnic Table Renewal

Hello Level Walkers!

The following request is forwarded on behalf of our VIP chair, Jim Heins. Jim is asking for your help to identify broken tables on your level, or anywhere else on the park. Please help Jim by reporting damaged tables per his request below.

Thanks, Steve

The C&O Canal Association will be refurbishing picnic tables throughout the park. Although there are a number of groups and ways to get them repainted, the Association plans to replace any boards that are rotting, broken or otherwise damaged that make them unserviceable.

We need help in identifying those tables in need of some TLC. To help us, we ask that, if you find any table that appears to fit this need, that you do the following:

            1. Take a picture of the area of need up close enough for us to assess the degree of the problem.

            2. Step back and take a second picture which would encompass the entire table which might show additional problems.

            3. Note whether it is a 6 foot or 8 foot table (most are 6) – we need to know what size boards to use.

            4. Accurately describe the location so we can easily find the problem table.

            5. Email this information to Jim Heins at vip@candocanal.org

Your help is greatly appreciated.

C&O Canal Update – July 8

Hello Level Walkers,

Here’s the latest park status.


Dear Volunteers,
This past holiday weekend was a busy one, and park staff are working hard to keep up with the higher than normal visitation. As a reminder, when you are in the park and see problems, issues, or hazards that need immediate attention, the best way to report them is to contact Park Dispatch.
Here are the Dispatch numbers:
Non-emergency: 301-714-2235
Emergency: 866-677-6677
The C&O Canal Trust will be holding volunteer trash clean-up projects this month. For more information on dates & locations and to register, visit the Canal Pride Days webpage.
The footbridge across the Potomac River that connects C&O Canal NHP and Harpers Ferry NHP is now OPEN. For a complete list of conditions, please visit the park website.
Thanks and 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

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

Volunteer Support to Clean Williamsport Boats

Hello Level Walkers,

The National Park Service is looking for volunteers to help get the Williamsport boats ready for the season. As always your help is appreciated.
This project will happen at the Williamsport maintenance yard. It will involve cleaning the exterior of the four boats with brushes and hoses, and wiping down the interior of the boats with rags and simple green. All supplies will be provided by the park.
The park would like to get the boats cleaned in the next couple of weeks. Please let Emily Hewitt at emily_hewitt@nps.gov know if you could help on any the following dates. The work starts at 10 a.m.
  • Monday, April 29
  • Tuesday, April 30
  • Wednesday, May 1
  • Thursday, May 2
  • Friday, May 3
Or the following week:
  • Monday, May 6
  • Tuesday, May 7
  • Wednesday, May 8
  • Thursday, May 9
  • Friday, May 10
If you have any questions, please contact Emily. Thanks!

Park Bench Locations

Hello Level Walkers,

Two philanthropists have made a donation to the C&O Canal Trust to fund installation of 15 benches upriver from Great Falls. Their donation is a thoughtful gesture for towpath users. To date almost all donors have chosen more popular downstream locations for their benches.

Because Jim Heins and his VIP crew do all the installation work, the Canal Trust has invited the C&O Canal Association to provide input on the precise locations of the benches.

The Canal Trust has designated 15 places for benches: Swains Lock, Seneca Creek Aqueduct, Point of Rocks, Brunswick, Harpers Ferry, Lock 38, Snyders Landing or Taylors Landing, Williamsport, Four Locks, Hancock, Little Orleans, Paw Paw Tunnel, Oldtown, Lock 75, and Cumberland.

If you are familiar with one of these places or are willing to scout one out, you can use the bench location specification form to submit a location to Jim Heins at jheins57@verizon.net by January 14. (If you can send it earlier, Jim would be appreciative.)  Jim will review the locations, consolidate our inputs, and send the information to the Trust, who will submit the locations to the park for compliance review.

The most challenging aspect of this process is describing the suggested location so that someone else can go back and find it. You have a few options:

  • If you can provide the exact GPS coordinates, that’s great.
  • Mark the location with a colorful ribbon.
  • Use your cell phone to take a picture of your hiking companion standing in the location. You can send the photo to Jim.

The bench location specification form gives some guidance on selecting a location.

Thank you for your support of this project.

Above – Bench installation at Great Falls, Level 6, November 5, 2016

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

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