Things to Do DC

Worth the Trip: C&O Canal Lockhouses Offer a Rustic Getaway

You can rent a lockhouse along the C&O canal for an affordable, rustic getaway in the Washington, D.C., area

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The historic lockhouses along the C&O Canal are up for rent, offering an affordable getaway for any sort of family — whether you’re into history, nature or even ghost stories.

The C&O Canal is a 184.5-mile waterway linking D.C. and western Maryland. From 1828 to 1924, keepers helped shipments of goods flow through by controlling the water levels near their houses.

“When a boat needed to go through, they would holler and notify the lock keeper that they needed to be locked through,” said Robin Zanotti, president of the C&O Canal Trust.

Stay overnight and find yourself transported to another time.

“We call it an immersive, interpretive experience because it’s sort of like going into a museum — but there are no velvet ropes. you get to stay in it,” Zanotti said.

Historic furniture and old photos fill each house.

Three lockhouses have full amenities including running water, kitchens, heat and air conditioning.

In Potomac, Maryland, Lockhouse 21, also known as Swain’s, takes visitors back to a more comfortable version of 1921. There are scrapbooks about Woodrow Wilson’s presidency and a Murphey bed. It’s also ADA-accessible.

Four others are considered “rustic” and have no running water or electricity, such as Lockhouse 25 near Poolesville, Maryland.

That one is known not just for its Civil War history — but also rumors of ghosts.

“Lockhouse 25 is purported to have ghosts, but they seem to come out only at night, and they seem to be friendly,” Zanotti said.

Why rent a hotel room near the water when you could rent a boat and sleep on the water? News4 Megan McGrath reports on boat Airbnbs in the Chesapeake Bay.

The cost is $125 per night for a rustic or $160 for one with full amenities, plus a $20 fee. All proceeds go toward maintaining the lockhouses.

All the homes sit on National Park Service land, giving visitors easy access to scenery and hiking or biking along the canal’s towpath. It’s also a good spot for bird watching.

Nanette Nyce and her family stayed in Lockhouse 49. She fell in love with the canal and now works for the C&O Canal Trust.

She says the overnight stay is one her family will always cherish.

“You just realize that you’re living the history that’s been lived here for hundreds of years. And that really an experience that you can’t replicate anywhere else,” Nyce said.

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