Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park | LOCK AND LOCKHOUSE 72

Lockhouse 72 (photo by Fishfoot)

Lockhouse 72 (photo by Fishfoot)


Lock and Lockhouse 72 are located at Mile 174.4 on the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal towpath. They cannot be accessed by vehicle. Parking upstream at Lock 74 or downstream at the Spring Gap Campground. You have a 1.1-mile hike or bike ride from either one. See the Locks and Lockhouses web page for an interactive location map.


Along with Lock 72 itself stands Lockhouse 72. 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!

Lock 72 (photo by Sonny W)

Lock 72 (photo by Sonny W)

If you walk downstream for about a quarter mile, you will find the foundation of a steam pump. In most cases, to fill the canal with water a dam was built to create a deep pool. Water from this pool could be funneled into the canal year-round, even during periods of low rainfall. By the time construction reached the Cumberland area, it was clear that the railroad would soon put the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal out of business, so spending money lavishly was no longer an option. To save money on building a dam, the C&O Canal Company decided to use a pump powered by steam to draw water from the Potomac River and pump it into the canal.

Steam Pump foundation (photo by Sonny W)

Steam Pump foundation (photo by Sonny W)

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 23, 2020
Share this article