George Washington knew that trade between the Eastern seaboard and the West — beyond the Allegheny Mountains, where roughly a quarter of the U.S. population lived — was essential to the fledgling country’s economy. Using horses and wagon to carry goods and resources over land routes was rough and slow-going, not to mention an estimated 30 times more expensive than transportation by water. At first, Washington promoted improving the navigability of the Potomac. This proved to be unfeasible, and plans were made to build a canal that would connect the Chesapeake to the Ohio River, which led to the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal. The canal opened in 1850, but was gradually made obsolete by railroads. Its closed after a damaging flood in 1924. The towpath alongside the canal still exists at the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park, operated by the National Park Service. This quiz will test how much you know about the canal. Answers are below.

1. In the early 1800s, four horses pulling a wagon on the best roads could move 1.5 tons of goods 18 miles. How much payload could be expected from a canal boat in one day?
A. 25 tons, 20 miles
B. 50 tons, 22 miles
C. 100 tons, 24 miles
D. 150 tons, 26 miles

2. The Potomac was briefly considered as a water route, but ruled out. Why was the river not a good route for transferring goods, especially heavy ones, westward?
A. Shallows & dangerous rapids
B. The Potomac flows west to east.
C. Portages around Great Falls and Little Falls
D. All of the above

3. Building a canal may have been the brainchild of George Washington, but which president broke ground for the C&O Canal on July 4, 1828?
A. John Adams
B. John Quincy Adams
C. Thomas Jefferson
D. James Monroe

4. How much did it cost to build the canal?
A. About $10 million
B. About $14 million
C. About $18 million
D. About $22 million

5. Original plans called for the canal to go all the way to the Ohio River in Pittsburgh. Acquiring property rights along the route, the rugged landscape and labor woes plagued the canal’s construction, though, and it ended far short of the Ohio. Where is the western end of the C&O Canal?
A. Cumberland, MD
B. Frostburg, MD
C. Harpers Ferry, WV
D. Martin’s Ferry, OH

6. How much elevation does the canal gain from east to west?
A. 512 feet
B. 605 feet
C. 710 feet
D. 820 feet

7. The C&O Canal is 184.5 miles long. About how many miles of the canal still contain water?
A. 10
B. 25
C. 40
D. 60

8. The canal’s towpath, once used by horses and mules to pull canal boats, is now the domain of hikers, bicyclists, joggers, families out for a stroll and wildlife watchers. Although its width has decreased in some places, how wide is the towpath?
A. 8 feet
B. 12 feet
C. 16 feet
D. 20 feet

9. When the canal had to cross waterways that were too wide to accommodate culverts, aqueducts were built to carry the canal over the stream or river. How many aqueducts were built for the canal?
A. 11
B. 17
C. 21
D. 25

10. Who or what is reported to haunt the so-called Haunted House Bend?
A. Union troops from the 1861 Battle of Balls Bluff who drowned when their boat capsized in the canal.
B. The wife and two children of a lock keeper who died when their home by the canal burned to the ground in 1888.
C. A dog.
D. A & C



1. C  2. D  3. B  4. B  5. A  6. B 7. B  8. B  9. A  10. D