Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park | LOCK 33

Downstream view of Lock 33

Downstream view of Lock 33


Lock 33 is located near the Harpers Ferry Railroad Tunnel at Mile 60.7 on the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal Towpath. It cannot be accessed by vehicle, so reaching it requires hiking or biking .75 mile (one way) downstream from the closest parking area, Lock 34. See the Locks and Lockhouses web page for an interactive location map.


Harpers Ferry Railroad Tunnel is just south of Lock 33

Harpers Ferry Railroad Tunnel is just south of Lock 33

By 1833, the C&O Canal was completed to Harpers Ferry. It wasn’t until six years later that construction from this point continued farther upriver, so Harpers Ferry served as the canal terminus during this time.

Upstream view of Lock 33

Upstream view of Lock 33

Grooves cut into the granite once held part of the lock gate hardware

Grooves cut into the granite once held part of the lock gate hardware

Lock 33 is interesting because it has an intact sluice. All locks had them, but today many have been filled in with dirt or are covered in vegetation and hard to spot. In most cases, the sluice was just a rudimentary ditch that was dug parallel to the lock. When the upstream gates were closed, it allowed water to flow around the lock instead of backing up into a pool of excess water that could spill over the banks of the canal or put additional pressure on the lock gates. The water emptied back into the canal just past the downstream gates. The idea is similar to that of a spillway on a dam.

Downstream end of the Lock 33 sluice

Downstream end of the Lock 33 sluice

The house on the hill above the lock is often mistaken for Lockhouse 33, but that was destroyed in a flood in 1936. The house standing today has had various owners during its lifetime, though it is currently known as the Elgin House or Spencer’s Store.

Former residence and store

Former residence and store

Back to the Top


With a few exceptions, use of any photograph on the National Park Planner website requires a paid Royalty Free Editorial Use License or Commercial Use License. See the Photo Usage page for details.
Last updated on April 22, 2020
Share this article