Point of Rocks (POR) has been an important crossroads of travel since American Indians established routes through the region. Though quieter these days, the area was bustling with commerce between the 1830s and 1930s. During the Civil War, POR found itself in the middle of a battleground, and the village today is a staging point to explore this history.
You can park at the commuter train station (3800 Clay Street) or at the National Park Service parking area by the Potomac River off of Commerce Street. Before heading out on the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal Towpath, snap some photos of the elaborate train station (MARC Train parking lot on Clay Street), built in 1875 by the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad (B&O)–the charming Victorian station is on the National Register of Historic Places.
Check the website for details on available services and POR events scheduled throughout the year.
During the Civil War, troops from both sides frequently crossed the River and the Towpath. Troops traded volleys across the water, skirmished in and near POR, and Confederates attacked canal boats and trains, destroyed locks, and raided supply stores.
Both the C&O Canal Company and the B&O Railroad reached Point of Rocks by 1832. From POR, head east or west along the Towpath to explore important sites associated with the railroad and canal.
West on the C&O from POR
Miles represent Towpath mileage.
Mile 48.2 Point of Rocks
Rebels burned the bridge across the Potomac here in 1862 to impede the Federals from entering Virginia.
Just west of the US Highway 15 underpass is Point of Rocks tunnel, first blasted in 1868. Both the C&O and B&O fought in court for primary access to this “point of rocks.” The C&O won but the two companies compromised, sharing the narrow passage from here to Harpers Ferry.
In 1902 the tunnel was enlarged, and brick facing on both entrances added an artistic touch.
Mile 48.9 Lockhouse 28
Experience what life might have been like for keepers of the canal locks by spending the night in restored Lockhouse. Lockhouse 28 is part of the Canal Quarters program, and each lockhouse is refurnished to represent different eras during the days of the C&O Canal. Built in 1837, Lockhouse 28 represents the canal’s early days. There’s no electricity, and you’ll have to fetch water from the nearby campsite (mile 50.3).
In 1862 during the Antietam Campaign, the bridge across Lock 28 was destroyed. Confederate Colonel John S. Mosby and his Rangers also crossed the River here on July 4, 1864, on one of their many “Calico Raids,” during which Rebels raided stores and looted canal boats.
Mile 50.9 Lockhouse 29 (Lander)
In June 1863 Confederates attacked a train near the lockhouse, following it to Point of Rocks, where they captured the engineer and 15 passengers beforeburning the train.
Lockhouse 29 is now a living history museum from the 1920s time period. You can see the inside on Saturdays during summer (11 am–2 pm). Contact the Lander Community Association at Catoctinkey@gmail.com.
Mile 51.5 Catoctin Aqueduct
The stunning aqueduct is one of 11 such bridges along the C&O canal that were once filled with water. The aqueducts carried boats over major creeks that emptied into the Potomac. Catoctin was rebuilt in 2011 using 459 of the original stones. The structure was known as the “crooked aqueduct” because boats had to make a sharp turn to enter it. Two arches collapsed in 1973, and the stones were buried until the aqueduct could be restored. Take the short trail down to the creek to a viewing area, where you can admire the artistry of the
reconstruction. Interpretive signs describe the process.
Mile 55 Brunswick
Explore the town of Brunswick, rich in railroad history, before heading back to Point of Rocks.