Mile 13.4 - The new bridges at Widewater

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This is probably the most heavily used section of the canal. Generally, the towpath here is in excellent condition, and the canal basin still contains water. In April 2006, after more than 30 years, the Widewater towpath breach (between mile 12.6 and 13.7) was finally repaired (much rejoicing!). As a result, you no longer need to carry your bike up and down the stairs to use the Berma Rd detour (although this is still a nice alternative route).

The major point of interest in this section is Great Falls, located at mile 14. During nice weather, this area is crawling with folks out to enjoy hiking on the challenging Billy Goat Trail, rock climbing in Mather Gorge, kayaking in the Potomac rapids below Great Falls, or just enjoying a stroll along the towpath. Use caution and be courteous around the pedestrians.

Once you pass Great Falls, the towpath quickly becomes less crowded. Swain's Lock is a nice place to stop for a break. At mile 22.8 are the remains of the Seneca Creek Aqueduct. This three arch aqueduct is the first of eleven such structures along the canal. The western most arch was destroyed by a local thunderstorm flood on Sept 11, 1971.


Connecting Rides: Here are some short rides that make use of the towpath along this section.
Access from the Capital Beltway: Take exit 41 (on Maryland Side of American Legion Bridge). Follow Clara Barton Parkway towards Carderock. The following areas are accessible: Access from River Road: If you wish to avoid the crowds, try one of these access point west of Potomac Village along River Road:

Towpath Map - Mile 10 thru 25

MileNameInfo Food Water Campsite/Restrooms Lodging Access Point
10.8 Carderock Recreational Area (map) Picnic, rest rooms, water. Very easy access from I-495.XX
11.5 Marsden Tract Campground (map) 301.299.3613: PERMIT REQUIRED - reserved for civic/scout organizations only. $20/night. Call for permit.X
11.5 Footbridge Water on opposite side of canal. Access to MaCarthur, 0.1 mile west of Brickyard Rd. Loading only - No Parking.XX
12.4 Old Angler's Inn (map) Popular free parking area across from Old Angler's Inn on MaCarthur Blvd. VERY Crowded. Access to optional Berma Rd route.X
12.4 Rockwood Manor (map) 301.299.5026: County operated conference center with overnight accommodations for large groups (up to 100 persons). About one half mile up the hill from Angler's Inn.X
13.0 Bill Goat Hiking Trail A South Entrance: Excellent 1.7 mile hiking trail along Mather Gorge. Rejoins towpath at Milepost 13.8 Recommended if you have time, but strenuous. No Bikes.
13.8 Widewater Stop Lock This structure is used to prevent flood damage downstream. Provides access to Berma Rd, via stairs.
13.8 Bill Goat Hiking Trail A North Entrance: Excellent 1.7 mile hiking trail along Mather Gorge. Rejoins towpath at Milepost 12.8 Recommended if you have time, but strenuous. No Bikes.
13.9 Mary's Wall 75 foot wall down to river. Provides overlook to Mather Gorge. During big floods, the river rises about 10 feet over the towpath at this point!
14.0 Great Falls Overlook (map) Follow footbridges 1/4 miles out to overlook. Sorry NO BIKES allowed. Bike racks available.
14.3 Great Falls Tavern Visitor Center 301.767.3714: National Park Visitor Center. Operational Lock #20 located here. Paid parking available. 11710 MacArthur Blvd, Potomac, MD 20854XX
14.3 Great Falls Snack Bar (map) Hotdogs and burgers. Located in large parking area.X
16.6 Swain's Lock #21 Five Campsites - nearby vehicle accessXXX
17.5 Montgomery County Pumping Station
19.7 Pennyfield Lock #22 Parking Lot - Access to River Road at Esworthy RdX
19.7 Lockhouse 22 New lodging option. Stay overnight in a real lock house.X
21.0 Blockhouse Point cliffs Towpath extends out into the river while passing some scenic cliffs.
22.1 Violettes Lock #23 This lock also marks the end of the watered canal basin. With a few exceptions, the canal basin is mostly abandoned upstream from this location.X
22.8 Rileys Lock #24 Parking and access to River Road.XX
22.8 Seneca Creek Aqueduct (Ruins) North arch was destroyed in 1973 by a thunderstorm flash flood.
26.0 Horsepen Branch H/B Hiker/Biker campsite. 1.2 miles from vehicle access at mile 27.2. XX