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Dear PoP – Ice Skating on the Canal

skating - old photo 004

“Dear PoP,

One good result of all this cold is ice skating on the C&O Canal. Has anybody been out there to check it out & report back yet? Maybe we should get together a PoP skating party on Saturday!

Here are a few tips & best places. The closest good, safe places to skate, with good parking are Fletcher’s Boathouse and Chain Bridge, both reached from MacArthur Blvd. driving north/west from Georgetown. Lock 8, which is about 1 mile past (north) of Glen Echo, is also good, but can only be reached from southbound Canal Road, so from DC you have to drive north to Seven Locks road, cross over and get on the southbound side. Of course, for hardy folks, you can bike along the towpath and just look for good spots.

Further north of Lock 8 is beautiful, but the canal is narrower, with lots of downed trees and debris. The canal near Georgetown is also nice and open, but so many people throw rocks on the ice while it is freezing that it often ruins the surface. Plus you’re close to the road and hear traffic.

Ice should be at least 4 inches thick. The canal is pretty shallow, but may be 6 foot deep in the center, which can make it tricky to escape with wet heavy clothes if you fall through. I know some people bring along a stubby screwdriver, the handle wrapped with rubber bands to loop around your wrist to use as an ice pick if needed, but be careful where you carry it, so you don’t fall on it and impale yourself. Best not to skate alone, though I do admit I’ve done it lots. The most likely danger aspect is hitting debris and crashing – knee pads are nice.

Most of all please remember that the Potomac river – every bit of it – even close to shore is ALWAYS dangerous. Currents are strong and all you need is one foot to break through to get in serious trouble (Despite the above photo of my sisters and me out in the middle in 1969!)”

Update: I agree with Nichole in the comments, please consider the sculpture garden which is a much safer option!

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