Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park | LOCK AND LOCKHOUSE 68

Lock and Lockhouse 68

Lock and Lockhouse 68


Lock and Lockhouse 68 are located at Mile 164.8 on the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal towpath. They are not accessible by vehicle, so reaching them requires hiking or biking 2 miles (one way) downstream from the closest parking area, Lock 70. See the Locks and Lockhouses web page for an interactive location map.


An old trestle bridge passes over the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal at Lock 68. This was once a road that connected Highway 51 (Oldtown Road) to a ferry on the Potomac River. The road still exists north of the canal, but nothing remains to the south.

Old bridge that crosses the canal

Old bridge that crosses the canal

The National Park Service has renovated the section of the C&O Canal between Oldtown and Town Creek so that it holds water and can be traveled on by those with hand-paddled watercraft. However, the canal has been dammed at Lock 68, so you must take your boat out here and carry it a few hundred feet down the towpath to the next watered section of the canal. Keep in mind that the water in this section is often filled with vegetation to the point of it being like sludge. The better paddling is done at the eastern end of the canal near Georgetown. See the Paddling web page for more information.

Upstream view of Lock 68, which is now dammed at both ends

Upstream view of Lock 68, which is now dammed at both ends

Watered portion of the canal downstream from Lock 68

Watered portion of the canal downstream from Lock 68

Along with the lock itself stands Lockhouse 68. 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!

Lockhouse 68 is a two-story house with a front porch. Like the other lockhouses at the far western end of the C&O Canal, it is made of wood. As you travel towards Georgetown you will find more and more stone lockhouses. The reason for this is that it was harder to deliver quarried stone to the western end of the canal, so the houses were built with wood and the stone was reserved for the construction of the locks.

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Last updated on April 23, 2020
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