Frederick County Parks

Also see our Parks & Recreation Section on the Main Menu.

The Frederick County Parks and Recreation Bureau (301-696-2936 Voice/TDD) provides for acquisition and development of a County-wide park system, including those of local, regional, and stream-valley nature; develops and manages various quality and convenient community recreation programs; and maintains County grounds.

There are four State parks in the County: Cunningham Falls State Park, Gambrill State Park, Gathland State Park and Washington Monument State Park. Federal recreation areas include Monocacy National Battlefield, Sugarloaf Mountain, C&O Canal Towpath and Catoctin Mountain National Park.

Points of Interest:

  • The Parks and Recreation handles facility reservations of picnic shelters, ballfields, tennis courts, the A-Frame building, Rose Hill Manor Museum and tours in County owned parks.
  • The 4 Season Recreation Program provides opportunities for all ages as well as programs to specific communities or specific populations (i.e. Nature, Senior Citizens, Teens) through the Department of Recreation and their twelve volunteer recreation councils.
  • Programs include:
  • sessions such as Nature, Crafts, Family and Special Events
  • the Haunted Rail and Trail Excursion in the Fall
  • the Adult Volleyball League in the Winter
  • many outdoor opportunities in the Spring
  • summer camps such as Camp Monocacy, History, Nature, Modeling, Baseball
  • tennis lessons, Fishing Derby, and Boat Safety
  • consistent programing such as Line Dance, Karate, Aerobics, Gymnastics, Mighty Fit, and Pee Wee Tennis
  • The Community Grant Program provides grants to community groups to construct new or improve existing recreation facilities on land owned or used by an organization. The recipient is expected to provide labor and equipment for construction. To qualify, groups must be non-profit and the facility must be open to the public as well as be located in Frederick County. Additional information is available by contacting the Bureau of Parks and Recreation's offices at (301) 694-1646.
  • Brochures are available on County Parks and Facilities as well as on Seasonal Recreation Programs by calling (301) 696-2936 Voice/TDD.
  • Catoctin Wildlife Preserve and Zoo has been bringing people and animals together since 1966. We deliver fun, intimate, educational encounters with exotic animals.  Covering 26 acres filled with natural wildlife, CWPZoo exhibits bears, boas, macaws, monkeys, big cats, small mammals, reptiles and a petting zoo in an up-close  manner - perfect for kids and kids at heart.

    Encounters are scheduled seasonally, where visitors can play with a baby animal, get the "bear" facts on  grizzlies, rub and scrub our 575-pound tortoise, talk to a tiger, and hug a boa constrictor.

    "Catoctin Wildlife Preserve and Zoo is a private, family-owned and operated facility. Since 1966, these animals have been our extended family. We hope that through our personal style of education and introduction, these wonderful creatures will become your extended family, too."

    The Hahn Family and Staff

    Cunningham Falls State Park

    Cunningham Falls State Park, located in the Catoctin Mountains, is known for its history, as well as its scenic beauty. Before the first Europeans arrived, many small Indian tribes farmed, hunted, and fished in the area. By the time settlers began to arrive in the Monocacy River valley, Indians were seldom seen.

    Early settlers used timber from the surrounding forests to make charcoal to fuel the Catoctin Iron Furnace, the remains of which are located inside the present day park. Traces of old logging roads are still evident today. Remnants of old farms, such as stone fences and cellar pits, can also bee seen. With the passing of years, it became more difficult for the mountain people to eke out a living. Such practices as clear-cutting of the land for charcoal making, as well as logging, unscientific farming practices, and stripping trees of the bark for tanning all contributed to the overuse of the land.

    In 1936, more than 10,000 acres were acquired by the Federal Government and developed to demonstrate the possibilities of creating parks from worn-out lands. In 1954, the area was divided into two parts, separated by MD Route 77. The Federal Government retained the northern 5,770 acres which is now the present day Catoctin Mountain Park, a unit of the National Park System. The 4,230 acres south of MD Route 77 was named Cunningham Falls State Park. Today there are two main developed areas in the state park, the William Houck and the Manor Area.

    The Chesapeake & Ohio Canal

    The C & O Canal is a 184 mile long National Historical Park. It begins in Washington, D.C. and follows the Potomac River to Cumberland, Maryland. Construction of the Canal began in 1828 and eventually stopped in 1850 when it reached Cumberland. The original idea was for it to go much further west, but the competition from railroads had not been foreseen when the canal was originally planned. It finally began making some profits in the 1870's but at the end of the next decade, a massive flood caused the Canal Company to go into receivership to its rival, the B & O Railroad. The railroad operated the Canal for several decades until another devastating flood in 1924 at which time the Canal was closed for good.

    In 1938, the 184 mile long stretch of property was acquired by the Federal Government for $2 million and put in the domain of the National Park Service. The Service decided it would make a perfect Parkway - an attractive approach to the city of Washington. However, such was not to be. Justice William Douglas of the Supreme Court reviled the thought of the destruction of the beautiful river corridor. He challenged the editor of the Washington Post, who had come out in favor of the proposed construction, to walk the entire towpath and then decide whether he still thought the road project idea was a good one. The editor agreed to Douglas's proposition, and after completing the hike came out with an editorial in favor of saving the natural beauty of the river and dispensing with the highway. Public opinion turned towards keeping the land natural, and in 1971 it was designated the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park.

    Locks and Aqueducts

    During the course of its 184 miles, the canal had to climb a little over 600 feet. This was accomplished through a series of 74 liftlocks, each of which would raise or lower a canalboat about 8 feet to the next level of the canal, a procedure which generally took about ten minutes. Besides liftlocks, a number of river feeder and guard locks also had to be constructed. These locks allowed water from the river to flow in and out of the canal as needed. The guardlocks also served to protect the canal during flood periods.

    Other structures that had to be built as a part of the canal were culverts and aqueducts. To enable the canal to cross relatively small streams, over 150 culverts were built. The crossing of major streams required the construction of 11 aqueducts.

    One of these, the Monocacy Aqueduct, at mile 42, is thought by many to be the most beautiful feature of the canal. Constructed of pink and white quartz sandstone quarried from the base of nearby Sugarloaf Mountain, the aqueduct withstood Confederate attempts to blow it up during the Civil War. More recently, it suffered extensive damage during 1972's Hurricane Agnes. While it underwent extensive repair work to save it following that flood, it is still in great need of further major repairs if it is to be saved for posterity. A joint campaign to save the Monocacy is in the works.

    Cargo and Mules...

    The boats that plied the Canal typically carried cargoes of coal, flour or grain, and made the trip from Cumberland to Georgetown in four or five days. They used teams of two or three mules, working in six hour shifts. The canalboats generally had crews of five, often all members of the same family. If there were young children living aboard the boats, they would be tethered to the boat to prevent accidents.

    The Canal Today

    Parts of the Canal have been rewatered and other towns along its path are hoping to do the same in the future, but in the meantime, much of the bed of the Canal is filled with trees and shrubs. Since the Canal has been out of operation since the '20's, some of them have had time to reach quite a considerable size, especially the Sycamores. You can also see smaller trees such as Pawpaws (the fruits of which may someday soon appear in local supermarkets!) and bushes such as Spicebushes, which are very noticeable in the early spring with their small clusters of yellow flowers that appear before the leaves. These and many other trees and shrubs cause countless visitors to the park to ask: "How did the boats get through the canal with all those trees there?" 

    The Canal Towpath is now a very popular spot for walking, biking and horseback riding. And in Georgetown and at Great Falls, you can go for canalboat rides.

    Links: Local and Foreign :-)


    For more information, contact:
    C & O Canal Headquarters
    Box 4
    Sharpsburg, MD 21782
    (301) 739-4200

    Visitors' Centers
    Cumberland - (301) 722-8228
    Hancock - (301) 678-5463
    Williamsport - (301)582-0813
    Great Falls - (301) 299-3613
    Georgetown - (202) 653-5190


    You may also be interested in joining the C and O Canal Association. They publish a quarterly newsletter entitled Along the Towpath. This organization is devoted to the preservation of the Canal and Park. Its members recently donated a new mule named Lil to the Park. You can write to them at:

    P.O. Box 366
    Glen Echo, Maryland 20812
    Or call them at: (301) 983-0825


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    Note: This is a different guestbook than the one on the Appalachian Trail page. In addition, many entries are missing when the guestbook was on the previous guestbook server.

    This C&O information was compiled by Kathy Bilton, Shepherdstown, West Virginia, and was begun in March, 1995. For her most recent updates: see: http://www.fred.net/kathy/canal.html

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