Tuesday, June 8, 2010

C&O: Angler's Inn to Great Falls at Sunset

A couple of weeks ago, Matt and I took one of the most beautiful hikes we've taken in quite a while. It wasn't so much the location -- though this is a pretty section of the canal -- but the timing.

sunset at Great Falls
Sunset at Great Falls from Vicki Ashton
We left the Angler's parking lot at about 7:30 pm and walked the mile and a half to Great Falls along the canal. (See the park map - pdf.) Along the way there was lots of bird activity as the day was winding down, including a family of geese with lots of goslings, two pileated woodpeckers, and lots of songbirds and dragonflies. At our slow, stopping-to-look-at-everything pace we reached Great Falls just after sunset, with pink still in the sky. There were at least half a dozen great blue herons fishing below the falls, and more flying overhead -- they must roost somewhere upstream.

On the way back it got quite dark, but the towpath is wide, mostly level, and light colored -- as long as you're reasonably careful it's really not challenging in the dark. And the world is transformed: there are frogs croaking, and thousands of fireflies dancing. And, if you stay out long enough, there are some wide sections of the canal that will give you a patch of open sky for stargazing, with no lights nearby to ruin the view.

Sunset on the C&O Canal
Sunset on the C&O Canal by Vicki Ashton
Given our pace, I would have started a half hour earlier to catch more of the sunset at the falls. Your mileage may vary. You can also check the sunset time here and adjust accordingly -- but remember, the color peaks before the time of actual sunset. For a more rigorous hike, give yourself some extra time and take the Billy Goat A trail on the way out to the falls (it parallels the canal here). It's stunning -- I'm hoping to get a minute to write about it soon. 

Here's a map to the Angler's parking lot -- it's directly across the street from Old Angler's Inn. Unlike the lot up at Great Falls, there's no fee, and no closing time. (There's a bus stop nearby -- but it's the 32 Ride On bus, which only runs during rush hours on weekdays.)


View Anglers in a larger map


Art D. said...

I had never really thought about going to GF for the sunset - going to have to try it out.
there is a heron rookery on Conn Island - it's the island upriver of the falls just upriver of the low dam.
There is also an eagle nest on the island visible from the VA side.

Cycle Jerk said...

Very cool!

mattandeliz said...

Aha! I figured the rookery had to be nearby, there were so many birds headed that way.

Anonymous said...

The park closes at dark.

mattandeliz said...

But there are also campsites in the park, and we certainly weren't the only ones out after dark.

Liz Guertin said...

I thought about what you said, so we got out to Anglers about 4:30pm the other day and did Billy Goat and then walked down to GF. We were heading back to Angler's right about sunset time, and it was spectacular. We saw tons of herons at the falls, and then another right up close along the canal on the way back. We saw other incredible birds, including a family of OWLS! When do I ever see any owls around here?!? We also noticed a lot of schools of fish and turtles coming up to feed in the canal. And the sunset reflecting off of widewater. It was incredible.

Elizabeth | The Natural Capital said...

That's great Liz! I heard from someone else who saw owls on this stretch of the canal - wonder if they're also nesting nearby??

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