Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park | GREAT FALLS CANOE LAUNCH

Kayaking on the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal near the Great Falls Tavern Visitor Center

Kayaking on the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal near the Great Falls Tavern Visitor Center


Launch your kayak or canoe into the Potomac River or the C&O Canal at the Great Falls Tavern Visitor Center at Mile 14.4 on the C&O Canal towpath. There is a fee to enter this section of Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park. See the Boat Ramps web page for an interactive location map.

NOTE: Sections of the towpath, locks and other historical structures, trails, campgrounds, picnic areas, boat ramps, and visitor centers are constantly being closed due to damage and/or repair. When planning an adventure within Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park, make sure the areas you plan to visit are open by checking the National Park Service’s official Current Park Conditions web page.


For those looking for a relaxing paddling trip that the whole family can enjoy, try paddling on the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal from Lock 20 at Great Falls Tavern Visitor Center up to Lock 21 (aka Swains Lock), a 4.5-mile round trip. There is very little current in the canal, so you can paddle in either direction without a problem. You can actually go all the way to Lock 23, and even downstream to Georgetown by portaging around the locks, but the water is often too low and full of vegetation and other muck.

Kayakers looking for a white water adventure can launch their kayaks into the Potomac River. You’ll see more people with kayaks here than just about any other spot within the park. Unfortunately, I am not exactly sure where the river launch is. The trip from the parking lot to the Great Falls Tavern Visitor Center is a trek in itself, and everyone is heading downstream on the towpath from there. Wherever it is, that’s a long way to carry your boat and equipment.

See the Paddling web page for more information.

Kayakers making the journey to the Great Falls Canoe Launch on the Potomac River, Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park

Kayakers making the journey to the Great Falls Canoe Launch on the Potomac River, Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park

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Last updated on June 6, 2024
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