Georgetown Canal Boat Surprise: Public Rides Return May 5

After disappointing news last October that the newly-christened Georgetown canal boat  – “The Georgetown Heritage” – might not be hosting tours again until 2025 due to extensive National Park Service (NPS) repairs on the Georgetown portion of the C&O Canal, the Georgetown Heritage organization issued a surprise announcement this morning April 10 that public rides will indeed begin again this May 5. 

“Georgetown Heritage is operating a second C&O Canal boat season after a successful inaugural run in 2022, featuring public tours, private charters, and a fundraising event,” Georgetown Heritage said in a press release. Georgetown Heritage’s Chesapeake and Ohio (C&O) Canal boat is returning for a second season, with public rides beginning May 5. The new canal boat, the “Georgetown Heritage,” is the only one of its kind in Washington, D.C. It will be available for public programs and private rentals when the tour season begins.”

“Thanks to a multiyear partnership” between Georgetown Heritage, NPS, the Georgetown Business Improvement District (BID), and the District of Columbia, the dream of “bringing the boat back to Georgetown” has come true.

To celebrate the 2023 C&O Canal boat season, Georgetown Heritage will host a fundraising gala called “All Aboard! The Spring Soirée” on May 4 from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at the Mule Yard by Lock 3 of the Canal (between Thomas Jefferson and 30th Street NW. Special guest speakers, cocktails, hors d’oevres and live music will enliven the party. Tickets for the event can be ordered at

To much fanfare on May 2 last year, the “Georgetown Heritage” was christened by Mayor Bowser, Ward 2 Council member Brooke Pinto and others, having been launched as seaworthy – or canalworthy – in April, “welcoming visitors aboard for the first time in more than a decade.” 

And the new canal boat exceeded all expectations as troves of visitors from around the world delighted in costumed historic reenactments while puttering at a 19th century pace from Thomas Jefferson St. and 30th St NW under Key Bridge and back. “Over 20,000 tickets were purchased during the season, with riders representing 52 U.S. states and territories, and 48 countries. WorkBoat Magazine named the boat on its list of 10 Significant Boats of 2022, and as a finalist for their boat of the year,” Georgetown Heritage said.

Speaking to The Georgetowner, S. Rex Carnegie, director of education and partnerships for Georgetown Heritage, said: “It’s exciting to have water back in the Canal, because it allows us to build on the success of our canal boat season last year instead of going a couple of years without it. With so many people from the neighborhood, and around the world, having visited and shared their experiences, we think that even more folks will want to participate, hear about Georgetown, learn about the Canal’s history, and the work of the National Park Service to preserve the Park and the Canal for generations to come. Now that the worst of the pandemic is behind us, maybe folks who missed the last season will be comfortable and intrigued enough to visit. This boat is the only one of its kind in Washington, and our tour season this year is indefinite, so this is a limited opportunity to see the history of our Nation’s Capital and of our region from a unique angle, moving along the Canal as they did over a hundred-fifty years ago.”

The Canal boat “serves as the cornerstone of Georgetown Heritage’s education and interpretation programs, connecting and engaging students, families and visitors from D.C. and beyond to the powerful stories of the people who helped build and sustain our nation’s capital, as well as the technology that drove the innovations of that time,” Georgetown Heritage said. “Every boat tour is a singular look into the past,” said Carnegie in this morning’s press release. “So much of our diverse history in Georgetown, and the years of work by Georgetown Heritage and our partners, have made this a unique experience for visitors, and an exciting way to engage with one of the nation’s most visited national parks. We are glad to build on last year’s success and offer new ways to connect people with this important milestone of American history.”

Working closely with the city, Georgetown Heritage plans to provide educational field trips as a “cornerstone program” for every 3rd grader in the D.C. Public School system to learn about the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) aspects of the canal and its historical and cultural significance. “There will be educational opportunities where we can have canal relics and display boards to show the canal’s history so people can actually study what’s going on with the canal and Georgetown,” Jennifer Romm, chair and president of Georgetown Heritage told The Georgetowner last year. “We’re hopeful that in the next 5 years, the Visitors Center will be up and running and a huge success for the community and the city as a whole.”   

By immersing so many young students across the District in Georgetown’s deep historical past, neighborhood vitality is bound to increase. “I think having these kids come here who maybe haven’t heard of Georgetown and having them bring their families…. They’ll visit and be excited and want to learn more. And, they’ll keep coming back. Maybe they’ll move here. Maybe they’ll open their business or go to school here. Show them how great [Georgetown] is and get them excited about it — and they’ll learn something too,”  Romm said.

The “Georgetown Heritage” canal boat was funded by a grant from the District of Columbia and constructed at Roudebush Yacht & Engine Works in Dundalk, Maryland. Measuring 80-feet long and 12-feet wide, the boat was modeled on designs for historic packet boats that were used on the Canal during its early years of service. The new design includes modern amenities and materials such as an onboard restroom, battery-powered electric motors, and a fiberglass hull to ensure visitor comfort and safety.

The boat will be located along the Canal next to the C&O Canal National Historical Park’s Georgetown Visitor Center, between Thomas Jefferson St and 30th St NW. Discounts are available for children, seniors, active military, and educators. Accommodations are available for the visually and hearing impaired.

To learn more about the Canal boat, visit Canal boat tickets can be purchased at The docked Canal boat will also be available for private evening rentals. Email for more information. 



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