Great Blue Heron. C&O Canal at Great Falls. Potomac, MD.
A great blue heron stands on the edge of the C&O Canal at dusk. As seen from along the towpath at Great Falls in Potomac, MD.
The C&O Canal was created in the 1830's in an effort to bypass rapids such as those at great falls, with the aim of connecting the Ohio River Valley with the East Coast. However, trains were beginning to come onto the scene, beginning with the B&O Railroad based out of Baltimore. Trains could carry much larger cargos than canal boats, and their construction was much easier than digging and dredging canals. Construction was halted at Cumberland MD, 100 miles west of Washington, as the railroad arrived at Pittsburgh, making the canals original purposes obsolete. Nonetheless, the canal was widely used for transportation of raw materials such as coal from mines in West Virginia. The canal fell into disuse by the 20th century, and the National Parks Service purchased the canal in the 1930's.