Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park | LOCK AND LOCKHOUSE 70

Lock and Lockhouse 70

Lock and Lockhouse 70


Lock and Lockhouse 70 are located in Old Town, Maryland, at Mile 166.7 on the C&O Canal towpath. A parking lot is next to the site. See the Locks and Lockhouses web page for an interactive location map.


When visiting Lock 70 on the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal, notice that the canal is much wider than normal—it’s usually just wide enough for two canal boats to pass each other. This wider section allowed room for the boats to pull over so the owners could purchase supplies at the Old Town stores situated along the canal. This wide basin stretches .3 mile upstream to Lock 71 and for a quarter mile downstream to Lock 69.

Wide area of the canal allowed boats to pull over without blocking the lock

Wide area of the canal allowed boats to pull over without blocking the lock

Along with the lock itself stands Lockhouse 70. 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!

The original Lockhouse 70 burned down in 1906 and was replaced by the present house. Like the other lockhouses at the far western end of the 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 locks. The lockhouse is often open on the weekends from Memorial Day through the end of September, 10 AM to 4 PM. If visiting the house is important to you, call the park at (301) 739-4200 to confirm it is open.

Lockhouse 70

Lockhouse 70

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Last updated on April 24, 2020
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