When you think of canal boats, most often Europe comes to mind. In fact, I did a whole Emerging Horizons feature on accessible canal boats in the UK. But if you don?t have the time or bucks to head over across the Big Pond, the good news is, there?s now an accessible canal boat in the US. And it?s unlike any in the UK; as it offers visitors a unique look at the transportation history on the Chesapeake & Ohio (C&O) Canal.
Docked at the Great Falls Tavern, near the town of Potomac, Maryland, the Charles F. Mercer is a historical canal boat with a twist. This replica was built with access in mind; in fact the Friends of Historic Great Falls Tavern recently won the 2007 NPS Volunteer Accessibility Achievement Award for their access efforts. Not only did they raise some $535,000 for the purchase of the new boat, but they also worked to ensure the boat would be accessible to everyone.
Access features on the Charles F. Mercer include incline lift access to both decks and an accessible restroom on the lower deck. The canal boat is pulled along by mules and it rises eight feet in a lock, while park rangers dressed in period costumes offer passengers a colorful look at 1870s canal life. Wheelchair-users can just roll aboard and stay in their own wheelchair for the entire ride.
The one-hour canal boat rides are priced at a very affordable $7 for adults and $5 for children and seniors. The 2007 season has ended, but tours will begin again in April 2008. Mark your calendar and make plans to join the folks on the Charles F. Mercer next year!