Conococheague Creek Aqueduct Closed

After three days of constant rain in the Potomac basin, the river’s banks filled to the brim and threatened the low-lying areas along the floodplain–including the C&O Canal National Historical Park. Polly #5 is an avid cyclist who enjoys riding on the C&O’s towpath, and she was concerned that the flood waters would do damage to the trail and interrupt her upcoming Cumberland, Md. to Georgetown, DC adventure.

Being the curious frog, she drew up a map and picked three likely places to survey the situation: Williamsport, Hancock, and Sideling Hill Creek. We weren’t sure what we were getting ourselves into, but the first look at the Potomac River was both awe-inspiring and reassuring.

None of us had ever seen THAT much water before, but we were pleased to see that neither Williamsport nor the C&O Canal were in any immediate danger.

One of the first things visitors see from the Cushwa Basin parking lot is the Conococheague Creek Aqueduct. The water from the creek washed a large amount of debris against the upstream portion of the aqueduct, and the area where the towpath crosses the creek was flooded, but there didn’t seem to be any serious damage.

My human checking out the scene...

It doesn't look safe beyond this point!

A little ways downstream, the geese seemed to be enjoying themselves in a quiet spot along the riverbank. This area is usually the beginning of a boat ramp, but today it appeared to be under several feet of water. We soon found out that there were lots of places that are usually on dry land that were submerged by the swollen river.

I think I'll stay on the bank for now.

After leaving Williamsport, we headed up I-70 and checked out Hancock, Md. Hancock’s main street is relatively close to the river, and we were worried that some houses and businesses may have fallen victim to the flood. Although the river raged, none of the town was in imminent danger, and one of the locals informed us that the Potomac had nearly crested. Nevertheless, a riverside picnic area was under water, and many people looked on at the mighty river.

The river sure is high!

It's definitely not picnic weather!

We left Hancock and then headed to the Sideling Hill Creek Aqueduct. The high water nearly filled the entire arch of the structure and backed up to the first bend in the creek.

High water at Sideling Hill Creek Aqueduct.

As we walked back to the parking lot at Pearre Station, we met a couple of interesting gentlemen who told us that they lived in lockhouse #56 from 1939-1955. The C&O Canal ceased operation in 1924 and didn’t become a national park until the 1970s, so there was a time when a family could rent the old lockhouses for a few dollars a month.

Polly at the C&O Lockhouse #56

It turned out that our new friends were brothers who had some great stories to tell. As young boys, they got their coal from the nearby railroad, carried water in from a spring about a half-mile away, and floated down the Potomac on logs during floods at least as bad as this one. I guess kids didn’t have video games back then!

In all, Polly got a great lesson in the awesome power of water, and she was pleased to see that her beloved C&O Canal would make it through another flood. A great lunch at the Lock House Grill in Hancock topped off a very interesting day along the Potomac River!

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17 Responses to “Polly #5 The Tour de Flood”

  1. Great pictures, and it looks like you managed to have fun, even on a rainy day!

  2. See…Frogs do go into the water!

  3. Hey Polly #5, I thought you liked water, but you stay “safe” on the high ground all day long? Are you sure you are a frog?

    Looks like you had fun, but next time be a bit more adventurous, OK?


  4. I’m glad you were careful. That sure was a lot of water and that can be very dangerous!

  5. I found your pictures through Facebook, and I must say that they look great. I can’t even say “Conococheague”!

  6. You need to look at the pictures again. I was looking at a flood, and YOUR frog is in a little bit of water–like a mud puddle or something! I wasn’t about to jump in that huge river after three days of hard rain!

  7. I heard the Potomac crested about six feet below the early estimates. I’m glad it didn’t get any worse. That’s a beautiful area–all the way from Cumberland to Georgetown.

  8. Both of you made some excellent observations. The water was much deeper than usual that day, and it was moving really fast. A pool is really small, and the water is very still. The geese played around in the quiet areas close to the bank and were afraid to go out into the current.

    My favorite picture is the one with all of the driftwood piled up behind the Conococheague Creek Aqueduct. It’s not really that far away, and if you go there this summer, the water will be much lower. You would be amazed how much different it looks.

    Mrs. Schneider, I can see that RW and AJ are very observant AND smart! You must be very proud of their creativity too. Those were well written comments, and I had a great time responding to them!

  9. The three O’s in Conococheague have the short vowel sound, and the locals pronounce the “cheague” part as “jig.” If you were saying it, it would sound like co-noc-o-jig. Thanks for your wonderful comments everybody! It was an interesting trip, and I was glad to see that the damage in Williamsport and Hancock was minimal.

  10. Thank you for taking such good pictures of Polly at the flood. My favorite picture is of the high water at Sideling Hill Creek Aqueduct. (A.J.) My favorite picture is the one with the geese. It’s cool to see so much water. (R.W.) I would like to swim in it. (A.J.) Is the water deep? (A.J) Is it like a pool? (R.W.)I know how to get rid of the water. I would drink it so it can go away! (A.J.)Polly is happy that the rain stopped.(R.W.)Polly couldn’t swim because it was too deep. She was scared. (A.J.) Polly looks cold. (R.W.) I think we could put a sweater on Polly. (A.J.)
    (Mrs. Schneider’s students)

  11. Thanks for the comment. I do like to fish, and the Potomac is a great smallmouth bass (etc.) fishery. Flooding is a fairly regular event in the spring, and this shouldn’t have much of an effect upon the fishing or the usual hotspots.

    The Potomac is formed where the North Branch and South Branch rivers meet (about two miles below Oldtown, Md.), and the North Branch has a Corps of Engineers dam that catches a good bit of the runoff. Otherwise, things could have been a lot worse.

  12. Thanks for this post, it’s well written and I enjoyed looking at the pictures. I had heard about all of the rain, but it’s quite a different thing when you see a visual. Are you a fisherman? If so, what will this do to the local fishing holes?


  13. As you can see,
    There is no doubt,
    Polly #5 is travlin’ about!

    Give her a shout,
    give her a yell,
    Polly #5 is doin’ well!

    Over the River,
    And through the bog,
    Polly #5 is an explorin’ frog!

    Go Polly!

    P.S. I like your posts!

  14. Good job Anonymous! I think I’ll use that little ditty as my theme song. I guess I’m the official travel frog of the C&O Canal NHP.

  15. I like the lock house picture. I did some reading about the canal, and I’ve heard that three of the lock houses have been renovated and are available for vacations or overnight stays. That would make a good Polly article. Have you ever thought about staying in a lock house?

  16. Nice post! I’ve been to that area and really like spending time on the C&O. Hopefully, there won’t be any big floods this spring.

  17. So this was in 2010? Were there any major floods this year?