Directions:

This walk follows the Patowmack Canal for its full length through Great Falls Park. The entire walk is wheelchair accessible from the inlet to lock 1 at the other end of the canal. There is also wheelchair access to 2 of the 3 falls overlooks along the way. The entire walk is 2.5 miles long but you may elect to visit only the northern portion (.7 miles) or the southern portion (1.8 miles). The southern portion includes access to the 3 overlooks and loops back via a part of the Matildaville Trail.

  1. The northern portion of the walk starts at the northeast corner of the visitor center. The canal bed is dry in this section and may be difficult to recognize. Walk north along the trail with the parking lot on your left on the other side of a wooded strip..
  2. After walking around a slight curve the canal appears filled with water. The water is diverted through a spillway here so that much of the canal south of here is dry.
  3. Notice the stone wall on the other side of the canal. It is twenty feet thick and 10 feet high and protected the canal bed.
  4. This is the upper guard gate. Notice the spillway on the northern side of the guard gate. During floods the guard gate was closed to divert water back into the river. A path intersects from the left. Continue straight on the path along the canal.
  5. The path crosses a bridge over Mine Run. This stream helped to feed the canal when the water level on the river was low. Continue straight past the path intersecting along Mine Run.
  6. The trail appears to split prior to an intersecting trail to the left. Continue to the right on the trail along the canal.
  7. This is the inlet to the canal. There are usually a few geese and ducks in this section. Look out along the river and you can probably see the rough water marking the wing dam that diverts water into the canal. The picture was taken when the water level was high so that the dam could not be seen. The trail continues north along the river for a short distance if you would like to see more of the activity there. Otherwise, turn around and head back to the visitor center along the same trail that brought you here.
  8. The southern portion of the walk starts at the center of the southern side of the visitor center. Walk south for a short distance to a trail marked overlook 1 on the left.
  9. Follow that trail to the overlook. There are a few steps along that trail that make it inaccessible to wheelchairs. Also, the overlook has a number of boulders that will require some scrambling to reach the edge of the entire overlook. After viewing the falls return to the main trail.
  10. Walk south along the trail and turn left at the first intersecting trail. This trail crosses the canal on a bridge and turns right to follow the canal.
  11. Turn left at the first intersecting trail on the left marked overlook 2. This trail has a ramp providing wheelchair access and provides an excellent view of the falls. After viewing the falls return to the main trail.
  12. Continue south along the canal. A trail intersects from the right. Continue straight along the canal. Notice the sign on the left marking a difficult trail down to Fishermanís Eddy. This trail is used primarily to launch kayaks in the river and is not part of this walk. Continue straight on the present trail.
  13. Turn left at the next intersecting trail on the left marked overlook 3. This trail is also wheelchair accessible and provides additional views of the falls and the river. Notice the post on the right marking the heights of floods during different years. After viewing the river return to the main trail.
  14. Continue south along the main trail. The canal bed is dry in this area except for spots where recent rains have not drained off.
  15. A sign on the left marks the start of the river trail. Continue straight on the present trail. A trail intersects on the right along the side of a stream. This stream fills the canal for the next section of the walk. Continue along the current trail into the woods.
  16. A trail intersects from the right. Continue straight on the present trail. The section to the right of the trail was a holding basin where canal boats waited their turn to use the locks up ahead.
  17. A trail intersects from the left. This follows a waste weir to the river trail. Continue on the main trail as it turns right to cross the waste weir. The waste weir helped to regulate the water level in the canal and allowed the canal to be drained for maintenance.
  18. The lower guard gate appears on the left after the waste weir. The gate controlled the flow of water to the locks and protected the locks below from flooding. Turn sharply left after passing the lower guard gate to continue following the canal trail. A narrow path to the right leads to the remains of the superintendentís house in Matildaville. Continue along the canal trail with the canal on the left.
  19. A trail intercepts from the right. Continue straight on the present trail. The trail splits just prior to lock 1. The trail to the right provides access to some markers and a historical plaque. However, it becomes narrow and overgrown after a short distance. Take the trail to the left as it crosses the canal bed and passes lock 1. The plaque on the rock on the other side of the canal marks as a National Civil Engineering Landmark. The plaque may be read by clicking on picture 19c.
  20. The trail crosses the canal bed again with some mud at the crossing. This marks the end of the designated wheelchair access. If you donít mind some mud and tree roots the trail is wide enough to permit further wheelchair travel. The river trail intersects from the left. From this point on this is the river trail.
  21. The remains of lock 2 are on the left. Notice the cut through the rocks to create locks 3 through 5 to bring the canal down to the river.
  22. There are several observation paths on the left to view the canal cut. They are not wheelchair accessible. Turn around here and proceed back towards lock 1.
  23. After passing lock 1 take the intersecting trail to the left away from the canal bed. This wide trail leads up a hill and may be somewhat difficult to navigate in a wheelchair but will offer more views of the ruins of Matildaville.
  24. The trail joins the Matildaville trail. Continue to the right along that trail. The ruins of several Matildaville buildings may be seen on the right.
  25. The trail joins the Old Carriage Road. Turn right to follow this road. This was the vehicle entrance to this area. The current entrance road follows the path of an old railway line to the park.
  26. Trails intersect from the left and the right. Continue straight on the Old Carriage Road.
  27. A trail intersects from the left. Turn slightly to the right to continue on the Old Carriage Road.
  28. A trail intersects from the right. Continue straight on the Old Carriage Road.
  29. A trail intersects from the left. Turn slightly to the right to follow the road back to the visitor center that can now be seen in the distance.
  30. The walk ends back at the visitor center. The ramp leads to an exhibit center upstairs.

Next - Pictorial Directions

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