Wednesday, July 30, 2014
The C&O Canal Towpath - an Easy, Work-Related, Day Hike
For the vast majority of posts on this blog, I’ve avoided posts about work. Sure they work their way in from time to time, as they did when I traveled more often – see the "road trips" label, where I wrote about my Japan trip or my last Yosemite trip, for example; but still it’s an infrequent occasion. And I would never have expected to do something blog-worthy at my current position, as a program manager on a construction site…
We have started working in earnest on some storm water management concerns, and for two or three months we’ve known that we were going to have to follow our watershed channels down to the C&O Canal and the Potomac. That day finally came a few weeks ago on a Friday – we’d planned ahead so we could dress appropriately for a hike into the woods and potentially into some muddy areas.
Our plan was to walk the canal towpath to see ifwe could find any locations where our streams might have crossed under the canal. Some historical resources say that when they designed the canal, their plan was to cross over streams rather than incorporating them into the waterway. We walked for a kilometer or so and didn’t find any features of that sort.
From Google Earth we had seen that the natural route of our channel entered the Potomac just downstream of the Little Falls Dam and pumping station, in the little waterway that is set up as a kayak course. After we had explored the towpath, we walked down into those areas, but we literally came up dry in our search for an outfall.
Our next stop was to drive up to Glen Echo Park to see if we might hike back into the canal area with more success of finding our objectives, but the whole property there is fenced in, so we had no success. We did enjoy a brief walk through there, and I took a photo or two of the carousel. By coincidence, we met some of the NPS employees that we have been working with on this project and had a good chat with them about the project and its potential impacts.
We went back downstream and parked near Lock 7, again walking a short way down the towpath to get a sense of whether our outfalls passed under the canal – we didn’t find any evidence of this, but it was interesting to check out the old lock houses as we walked by them. Apparently, if you are a brave soul, you can stay in these facilities overnight.
Eventually we found what we were looking for, but we had to bushwhack a parking place and then go into some brush. Our outfall runs down a steep hillside in the Palisades, and runs into a culvert, through a tunnel, and then exits after passing under Canal Road. The culvert dumps onto a paved streambed, and then goes into a plunge pool to take its velocity down; then it finally makes its way into the canal.
Our mission was accomplished at last, after a total of about 2 miles of walking with negligible altitude changes. We had found the route of our stormwater and the location where it enters the canal, although we didn’t expect to find exactly that scenario. We were able to take a look at the condition of our stream and make some judgments on the work we need to do upstream in order to manage our runoff. That is going to be a fun part of the project coming up.
By the way, there is a NPS link here with the official information about the C&O Canal National Historic Park: http://www.nps.gov/choh/index.htm