Skating On The Canal Is Legal

Photo by bwillis.

As the days finally get colder, GM starts to think back to his childhood days skating on a tiny frozen pond behind his friend’s house in Connecticut. (The fact that the pond was only about 25 feet across helps explain why GM never really learned to stop on skates; he hardly had room to start). It was this nostalgia for outdoor skating that led him to wonder: why not build a waterfront rink? GM’s question was answered in the affirmative shortly afterwards when MRP Realty announced plans to bring an ice rink to the Washington Harbour.

But that won’t get built in time for this winter. And what if you want to skate on a natural body of frozen water? Well we’ve already got one of those: the C & O Canal.

While it hasn’t been cold nearly enough for the canal to freeze yet this winter, by late January, February at the latest, it should ice over. And guess what? You are allowed to skate on it if you want. GM just assumed the NPS would prohibit such a fun activity since, lets face it, they can kinda be killjoys. But according to C & O Canal National Historic Park:

It’s that time of year and weather when Park visitors may go ice skating.

The ice skating issue is addressed in the Park’s rules (reprinted in the C&O Canal NHP Volunteer Manual):

“Ice skating is permitted at your own risk park-wide, except where prohibited by signage.”

There are signs at Widewater, where the water is so deep it never freezes enough to be safe.

Our role is to advise visitors of unsafe conditions when we become aware of them.  Do so nicely.  Elsewhere, the canal is usually safe because it is so shallow.  People may get wet feet and be cold, but this is rarely a life-threatening emergency.  If you are not sure, telephone dispatch and talk to them about it.

If person goes through the ice at Widewater or other deep water area, call 911.  No heroics; without the right gear, you will just be another casualty.   If an animal goes through the ice, no humans should be put at risk to save it, but you could call dispatch and ask what they recommend.

So keep an eye on the canal, and when it looks good and frozen, grab your skates!


Filed under Ice Skating

10 responses to “Skating On The Canal Is Legal

  1. David Abrams

    Now, you know, once NPS folks read this there are going to be signs up all over the place!

  2. Jack

    A warning to all of you-

    Last winter, while we were students at Georgetown, my girlfriend coaxed me into taking pictures for a photography class on the frozen canal. I won’t bore you with the details, but, I fell through the ice. While the canal is rather ‘shallow’, there isn’t much of a river bed. What’s below about 18 inches of water, is about 2 feet of mud. I was quickly up to my waistline in frozen water, and nearly lost a boot in the mud. I did however, live to tell the tale.

  3. David J

    Not safe. Not worth the risk.

  4. Got to wonder if folks ever skated great distances on the canal when it was fully watered and frozen one hundred plus years ago…

  5. adam

    They tend to largely drain the Georgetown section of the canal exposing rocks and debris; that and the fact that it doesn’t really freeze makes it dificult to skate. However, out towards Angler’s or Great falls it’s colder and the water flows more slowly; running or biking out there I’ve seen pickup hockey played out there in years past and you can skate between certain locks for hundreds of yards.

  6. That does not sounds like a wise choice of activities … seems quite dangerous. Always remember to skate with a hockey stick (seriously) in case you fall through. You can use it to pull yourself out (I lived in New England for a bit).

  7. Javier

    Ugh, no wise person goes on the ice in DC. This is the South, and the ice is not safe.

  8. my name

    what a bunch of negative nancys

  9. Pingback: Waterways Freeze Over | The Georgetown Metropolitan

  10. Pingback: The Potomac River is beautiful iced over (PHOTOS)

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