Maryland's Chesapeake And Delaware Canal - My Family Travels

This family discovers a B&B, fascinating local museum and other sites surrounding Maryland's C&D Canal.

Snowbirds that we are, we usually look for interesting stopovers, off Route I-95, on our annual Spring odyssey between Florida and New York. This April we picked a winner: we saw the third largest canal in the world (after the Suez and Panama Canals) and in the U.S. at that!

It was just serendipitous. The AAA book wrote up a small B&B in Chesapeake City, Maryland overlooking the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal and, just a stone’s throw from it, a nice restaurant specializing in Maryland crab-cakes. Perfect!

The B&B, aptly called The Inn at the Canal (410/885-5995; 104 Bohemia Avenue, Chesapeake City, MD 21915) is owned by an ex-resident of Philadelphia who turned us on to the local history as we sipped our English Breakfast tea on a terrace, looking out at the canal.

The Chesapeake & Delaware Canal, predictably, connects the Delaware River with the upper reaches of Chesapeake Bay and the port of Baltimore. Maintained by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and designated as a National Historic Civil Engineering and Mechanical Engineering Landmark.

Those listings are well earned. In the 1600s a visionary Dutch envoy and mapmaker, Augustine Herman, proposed that a waterway be built across the narrow neck of land (actually 14 miles) separating the two bodies of water, thereby reducing the water route between Philadelphia and Baltimore by nearly 300 miles. But it took 200 years to make it a reality.

In 1919, the Federal Government purchased the canal and responsibility for operating and maintaining it was assigned to the Corps of Engineers. In 1927, the canal became a “sea-level” operation, 12-feet-deep and 90-feet-wide and subject to tidal currents. The original lock at the Eastern entrance is still in place.

More changes in operational control followed and, as years went by, the tonnage of ships continued to grow and the volume of traffic increased; new road bridges were built, a rail bridge was added, until today, almost 175 years after it was first declared “open for business,” the canal is a modern, electronically controlled commercial waterway, 35-feet-deep and 450-feet-wide, claimed to be the third busiest shipping canal in the world with 15,000 or more vessels transiting the waterway each year.

Acting like an airport “control tower,” the command center for the canal in Chesapeake City is close to midway along its length, and its activity can be seen in the nearby C&D Canal Museum where a real-time display monitors the movements of shipping. Other artifacts, inter-active videos and exhibits explain the Canal’s history and its modern day-to-day operations. The Museum is open to the public from 8:30am to 4pm daily and entrance is free.

There are several small hotels/motels as well as the AAA-recommended B&B in Chesapeake City, and the nearby Bayard House restaurant literally overlooks the waterway. It’s quite an experience to look up from your dinner and see an enormous cargo ship passing by, just a few hundred feet from where you are sitting.

We were told this “quaint” Maryland town is very busy on summer weekends. Advance reservations are recommended whenever you go. It’s certainly worth the detour.

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