I’ve frequently biked portions of the C&O Canal (although this year, not as much as I’d hoped) and of course, any good weather entices me to bring the mutts for a satisfying walk along some of my favorite sections. The towpath is a go-to destination, over and over. I’m constantly impressed by the beauty of the canal and its surroundings.
But I’d never gotten to explore it from water level, although I’d watched two kayakers launch at Swains Lock last year with envy. That’s where we got the idea.
Last summer we headed back to Swains Lock one evening to kayak north on the canal ourselves. What we discovered was a different perspective on the canal. Walkers and bikers traveled just a few feet away and several feet higher, but a world apart. We found ourselves ducking under fallen trees and navigating underwater obstacles — adding to the sense of adventure.
We also got to chat with several folks who were fishing. One man admitted he was fishing for the infamous snakeheads, a fish that invaded the Potomac River in recent years. I decided to keep my fingers away from the water’s surface… which was a wise move, since we also saw several snapping turtles.
I love the C&O Canal and its towpath — a uniquely Maryland treasure and a great day trip destination!
Know before you go: There is limited parking at Swains Lock — it was pretty full on a weekday evening. Plan on getting there early on a weekend to ensure access to parking.
Getting there: 10700 Swains Lock Rd. Potomac, MD 20854
For other parts of the C&O Canal, check out the below articles:
Brunswick to Dargan Bend
Canal Pride Days
Fort Frederick to Hancock
Locks 33 and 34
Maryland Heights (Harpers Ferry)
Monocacy & Catoctin Aqueducts
Paw Paw Tunnel to Lock 56
Swain’s Lock to Seneca Aqueduct
Kayaking at Swain’s Lock
Updated June 2020