Writings and Photos > 100 Parks Project

#6 Great Falls Park
#6 Great Falls Park

Park #6: Great Falls Park

On the opposite bank of the Potomac River from the Chesapeake & Ohio National Historic Park sits Great Falls National Park. I’ve been here many times over the years, most recently just a few months ago, as the few leaves clinging to the trees in late fall blushed a bright red.

Now, a thin coat of ice slicked the grass, and the melting snow created puddles everywhere – on the walkways, in the grass, on the viewing decks. I knew I’d not be scrambling over any boulders on this trip.

For all the times I’d been here, I’d never viewed the films in the Visitor Center – always too anxious to get on one of the trails, or tugged ahead by my (then) young sons. This time, I arrived alone, with just my camera for company. I sat alone in the amphitheater, watching the history of this park unfold on the screen. I learned that the historical importance of this park is that George Washington wanted to connect the original 13 colonies to the frontierland immediately west via water commerce, but the falls on the Potowmack River (as it was spelled then) created too great a hazard, so he formed a company to build the first canal here in the U.S.

The first canal. Before the C&O. Before the Erie.

Funny, I’d now been to all three in the span of a few weeks.

Still, as the movie drew to a close, I felt the pull of the water. The falls gushed over the rocks as always, but the cliffs that formed the bank of the river now sported clumps of snow here and there.