At a Glance
Hours: Sunrise to sunset.
Tips: A spotting scope is highly recommended for viewing waterfowl and gulls on this broad stretch of the Potomac. ◾ Restrooms are available at some of the C&O Canal access points. See the Canal Trust website for locations of restrooms and other amenities.
Best Seasons: Year round.
Breeding Bird Atlas Blocks: Harpers Ferry CE, Point of Rocks CW, Point of Rocks CE, Point of Rocks SE, Buckeystown SW, Poolesville NW
Local MOS Chapter: Frederick Bird Club
C&O Canal – Mouth of Monocacy to Brunswick
21171 Mouth of Monocacy Rd, Dickerson, MD, 20842
(301) 739-4200 (Monday – Friday, 8 am – 4pm)
The Chesapeake and Ohio (C&O) Canal National Historic Park, administered by the National Park Service, is 184.5 miles long, extending from Georgetown in Washington, D.C. to Cumberland, Maryland. The canal runs parallel to the Potomac River, which forms the border between Maryland and Virginia or West Virginia. The gravel towpath alongside the canal is open to foot traffic and bicycles, and is a gateway to great birding in the Potomac River Valley. Mile markers along the towpath make it easy to keep track of your location; the markers run from Mile 0 in Georgetown to Mile 184.5 at the Terminus in Cumberland. The Recreational Guide by Milepost, available through a link at https://www.nps.gov/choh/planyourvisit/maps.htm, contains a handy list of access points and mileposts, with icons indicating the amenities available at each access point. See http://www.candocanal.org/access.html for another version of access points and parking areas.
The Frederick County portion of the C&O Canal includes access points (from south to north) at the Mouth of the Monocacy River, Noland’s Ferry, Point of Rocks, Lander and Brunswick. The riparian habitat along the Potomac River and the old C&O Canal bed provide for an abundance of species throughout the year. The path is wide, level and well-maintained, making access to birding in this area very easy.
The eBird lists for points along the Frederick portion of the C&O Canal range from 150 to 175 species or more.
The relevant eBird hotspots , from south to north, are:
- C&O Canal–Mouth of the Monocacy (Fred. Co.) – 168+ species
- C&O Canal–Nolands Ferry – 180+ species
- C&O Canal–Point of Rocks – 141+ species
- C&O Canal–Lander – 156+ species
- Brunswick Riverside Park – 118+ species
- C&O Canal–Brunswick – 94 + species
A variety of water birds are possible on the Potomac, primarily in winter and early spring. Most notable are Common Goldeneye, Common Merganser, Wood Duck, Horned Grebe, Bonaparte’s Gull, and Forster’s and Caspian Terns. Other species regularly observed in appropriate seasons include Great Blue Heron, Bald Eagle, Red-shouldered Hawk, Wild Turkey, Barred Owl, Common Raven, both Yellow-billed and Black-billed Cuckoos, all the Maryland woodpeckers except Red-headed, flycatchers, vireos, swallows, orioles, Prothonotary Warbler, Louisiana Waterthrush, and Scarlet Tanager.
Each C&O Canal access point has a level paved or gravel parking area. See maps at Trail Map link at left.
The Canal Trust has produced a mobile app, the C&O Canal Explorer, with over 600 points of interest mapped in a searchable format, allowing you to find hiking trails, campgrounds, history, trailheads, parking, and more at a glance, along the entire length of the Canal. The app is available to download for 99 cents and runs on Android and IOS devices. ◾ Wake up with the birds along the Canal: through the Canal Quarters Program, visitors may arrange for overnight stays at seven historic lockhouses along the Canal: five in Montgomery County, one in Frederick County, and one in Washington County. See https://www.canaltrust.org/programs/canal-quarters/canal-quarters-lockhouses-overview/ for details. ◾ Sections of the Canal are included in the Lower C&O Canal Important Bird Area (IBA), as designated by the National Audubon Society. ◾ Two restored, historic aqueducts are along this stretch of the C&O Canal: Monocacy Aqueduct at the Mouth of the Monocacy and the Catoctin Creek Aqueduct accessible from Lander. ◾ The Brunswick Visitor Center for the C&O National Historic Park is at 40 West Potomac Street, Brunswick, MD 21716 [(301) 834-7100]. Please call ahead for hours of operation, which change seasonally. The Brunswick Visitor Center shares the building with the Brunswick Railroad Museum. ◾ The local chapter of the Maryland Ornithological Society is the Frederick Bird Club, which hosts fields trips and meetings with informative presentations, all free and open to the public.
- Mouth of the Monocacy: From MD Route 28/Dickerson Road, take Mouth of the Monocacy Road west to its end near the Monocacy Aqueduct and the Canal, Mile 42.2.
- Noland’s Ferry: From MD Route 28/Dickerson Road, take New Design Road south to its end at the Canal, Mile 44.6.
- Point of Rocks: From MD Route 28/Clay Street in Point of Rocks, take Commerce Street south for 0.1 miles, then turn right onto Canal Road and follow it south for about 300 feet into the Canal parking area at Mile 48.4.
- Lander: From MD Route 464/Point of Rocks Road, take Lander Road south to the Canal at Mile 48.2.
- Brunswick: From MD Route 17/Petersville Road in Brunswick, go east on East Potomac Street, then south on South Maple Avenue (crossing several railroad tracks and bypassing the train station) to the canal access point at Mile 55, just west of the MD Route 17 bridge over the Potomac.
Frederick County: Audrey Carroll Audubon Sanctuary ◾ Catoctin Mountain Park ◾ Cunningham Falls State Park ◾ Fred J. Archibald Audubon Sanctuary ◾ Gambrill State Park ◾ Lilypons Water Gardens ◾ Seymour B. Cooper MOS Sanctuary ◾ Sugarloaf Mountain
Features:BeginnersBicycle Trails (Bikes may be prohibited on some trails)Boat or Canoe/Kayak LaunchFishingFree - No Entry Fee at Any TimeHiking/Walking TrailsHistorical FeaturesOvernight Lodging or CabinsParkingPets AllowedPicnic AreaRestroomsVisitor Center, Interpretive Displays, ExhibitsWater ViewYoung People / Families
Type:Audubon Important Bird AreasC&O Canal AccessHiker-Biker Trails (Paved)National Parks & MonumentsWater Trails