Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park | LOCK AND LOCKHOUSE 44

Lock 44 at Mile 99.1 on the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal towpath

Lock 44 at Mile 99.1 on the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal towpath


Lock and Lockhouse 44 are located at Mile 99.1 on the C&O Canal towpath. They cannot be accessed by vehicle, so reaching them requires hiking or biking a half mile (one way) downstream from the closest parking area, the Williamsport Visitor Center. See the Locks and Lockhouses web page for an interactive location map.


Lock 44, which was built in 1834, is one of 74 lift locks on the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal. A lift lock is what raises and lowers a boat between two segments of a canal that are at different elevations. Think of a staircase in your house. To get from the top to the bottom there are a number of steps. When one step butts into another, you must move your foot up or down to get to the next level. That’s what a lock does—it’s really nothing more than an elevator for boats that uses water as its lifting method. By connecting together many level sections of a canal that are at different elevations using lift locks to maneuver the boats between them, you can build a long canal over uneven terrain. Some locks may raise or lower a boat only a few feet, while others may cover dozens of feet. Locks on the Panama Canal raise and lower ships 90 feet.

Though water no longer flows through Lock 44, it does have all of its gate hardware, something that is not very common above Lock 23.

Downstream gate and hardware on Lock 44 at Mile 99.1 on the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal towpath

Downstream gate and hardware on Lock 44 at Mile 99.1 on the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal towpath

Downstream gate and hardware on Lock 44 at Mile 99.1 on the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal towpath

Downstream gate and hardware on Lock 44 at Mile 99.1 on the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal towpath

The smaller channel on the inland side of the canal is the 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 ran 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.

Lock 44 sluice, Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park

Lock 44 sluice, Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park

Along with the lock itself stands Lockhouse 44. A lockhouse is the residence of the man who is 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.

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!

Some of the lockhouses along the canal are open to the public, and seven have been restored and can be rented for overnight stays (see the Lockhouse Rentals web page for details). However, Lockhouse 44 is only open during the Launch Boat Rides that depart from the Williamsport Visitor Center.

Lockhouse 44 in Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park

Lockhouse 44 in Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park

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Last updated on June 23, 2024
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