Safe Camping

C&O Towpath Flooding

While the previously posted C&O and GAP itinerary didn’t go as planned, I did learn a few valuable lessons. In our case, it was raining the day we started our trip and there had been severe thunderstorms from Ohio to the Virginia Tidewater prior to our start. All the rain had increased the amount of water in area rivers, including the Potomac River. As a result, the storm water was damaging roads and bridges in the park. While the park remained open, we learned of closures and detours from park employees and riders traveling in the opposite direction.

In selecting our campsites, it became important to evaluate the safety of the campsite ourselves. While camping along the C&O is only permitted in designated sites, that does not automatically mean the campsite is safe. Many of the designated campsites are in low lying areas and prone to flooding. In fact, several of the sites were already flooded when we arrived and others had a high risk of flooding.

In addition to the potential flooding danger, there was another danger looming above us. While perhaps not as obvious as flooding, there was a very real danger of falling limbs and trees, so tent placement became critical under these conditions. In the middle of the night I was awakened by a tree falling near my tent. In the morning I also observed another tree falling near our campsite. This is a very real danger and it pays to be aware of dead trees and branches when making camp.


Ken Whittaker


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