Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park | LOCK 54

Lock 54 (photo by Jerry Edmundson)

Lock 54 (photo by Jerry Edmundson)

Lock 54 is located at Mile 134 on the C&O Canal towpath. It cannot be accessed by vehicle, so reaching it requires hiking or biking 1.75 miles (one way) downstream from the closest parking area, Lock 56. See the Locks and Lockhouses web page for an interactive location map.

Lock 54 on the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal has been filled in with dirt to keep it from collapsing, so it is not a good lock to visit for your introduction to locks at Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park. However, you will pass Lock 55 on the way, and it has not been filled in (nor has Lock 56 where you most likely will park). From 1839 until the last fifty miles of the canal were completed in 1850, Lock 55 marked the end of the C&O Canal.

All that remains of Lockhouse 54 is the stone foundation (it’s on the hill above the lock). A lockhouse is the residence of the man who was hired to operate the lock. In addition to a yearly salary, he and his family—almost all lockkeepers were family men—lived in the company provided lockhouse and had use of an acre of land for farming. Those who tended multiple locks got extra money per lock, up to two. The locks had to be very close together for the C&O Canal Company to assign multiple locks to one person.

Operating the lock was a year-round, 24-hour-a-day job. When a canal boat approached, the captain would blow a whistle to notify the lockkeeper. If it were nighttime, somebody had to wake up and go to work. Of course that’s the benefit of being a family man—your kids had to get up for the late night and early morning arrivals!

If you plan to travel to the lock by bike, off-road bikes can take the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal towpath. Road bikes can take the paved Western Maryland Rail Trail. The two run parallel to each other and are only a few dozen yards apart.

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Last updated on April 23, 2020
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