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The C&O Canal Towpath Trail and Great Allegheny Passage

Paddling from Cumberland to DC

Ray (webmaster) on 1/7/2011 12:18:28 PM:
Interesting discussion from Yahoo answers:
A friend of mine and I were wondering if its even possible to canoe from Cumberland, MD to Washington D.C. We would have camping equipment with us. Would the river be calm the whole way? Are there lots of locks, waterfalls, or other obstacles to an easy ride down the river?

By Jessica on Jan 6, 2011

You cannot canoe or kayak through Great Falls. Below that you are clear to Georgetown. Above that I am not sure but I googled around a bit and it sounds like it’s doable. I would recommend doing much more preparation than posting on Yahoo! answers.

By Jack A on Jan 6, 2011

Jessica gives good information especially about getting the additional information. Above Great Falls there are great stretches above the dams, at least 4 of them, with calm waters. The dams were built back in the 1800s and are not very high but still obstacles. At Harpers Ferry, WV there is one of these dams. Below the dam especially around August there can be practically no water; so yeah you need lots more knowledgeable information than you will probably get here. You might want to check with the National Park Service since the C&O Canal National Park runs parallel to the river all the way from Cumberland.

By Cheryl G on Jan 6, 2011

Sorry, you can’t do it. There are falls, rapids and locks all along the river that impede you. The biggest impediment is Great Falls at Falls Rd. and MacArthur Blvd. on the Maryland side of the river. There are locks on the canal that will keep you from traveling by that waterway.

BUT, you can boat from Cumberland to Great Falls and the trip is well worth it. It isn’t all that far from Washington, D.C. You could get off the river, go around the falls and then get back on for the rest of the trip.

John Spalding from Bardstown, Ky on 1/20/2011 11:16:58 AM:
I biked the canal path last spring, and tried to pay attention to the level of the river, because I was think of doing the same paddle. Late spring early June would work well. Just not right after a big storm. No doubt there are some portages but since the canal path is right there it wouldn't be that difficult. A couple of the dams along the way are washing machines, that would kill you if you got to close. However, if you scout and plan ahead it could be done and FUN.