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Towpath Guide to the C&O Canal

by Thomas F. Hahn (HFHA, 2015) Edited by Catherine Baldau

With new photos and research, updated maps, and a 21st century makeover, Thomas Hahn’s labor of love remains the most comprehensive mile-by-mile guide to the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal. Journey 184.5 miles past former wharfs and foundries on the Georgetown waterfront, through quaint Potomac River towns, to the mountainous region of Western Maryland, while exploring all of the canal locks, lockhouses, aqueducts, and culverts along the way. Read how raging floodwaters and Civil War armies wreaked havoc on canal structures. Discover nature, geology, and 19th century engineering feats, as well as stories of the laborers, locktenders, and canallers who made the C&O a monument to human ingenuity and endurance. Deftly balancing engineering details with colorful anecdotes and lore, Hahn’s guidebook is the go-to resource for all things C&O.

With the help and enthusiasm of volunteers from Washington, D.C., Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia and Pennsylvania, and with the encouragement and support of the C&O Canal National Historical Park (CHOH), the Harpers Ferry Historical Association (HFHA) has published a revised edition of the Towpath Guide to the C&O Canal by Captain Thomas F. “Swiftwater” Hahn.


Captain Hahn originally published the book in four sections beginning in 1972. He combined the sections into one volume in 1982 and published 15 editions of the book in the next 17 years. The book sold over 100,000 copies and was for decades the most popular guidebook to the C&O. In 1999, after dedicating 30 years to this project, Hahn gave the rights to the book to HFHA and retired to Florida. (He had lived in Shepherdstown since 1976.) The last print book of this edition was sold in the HFHA Bookshop on June 17, 2006. Captain Hahn passed away a year later at age 80.


This book is available at the Park Bookshop in historic Lower Town Harpers Ferry, by calling 304.535.6881, or visiting


**The Harpers Ferry Park Association is a non-profit cooperating association supporting the educational and interpretive programs of Harpers Ferry National Historical Park. All proceeds from the sale of their publications benefit park programs.

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