The C&O Canal follows the route of the Potomac River for 184.5 miles from Washington, D.C. to Cumberland, Maryland. The canal operated from 1828–1924 as a transportation route, primarily hauling coal from western Maryland to the port of Georgetown in Washington, D.C.

Hundreds of original structures, including locks, lockhouses, and aqueducts, serve as reminders of the canal's role as a transportation system during the Canal Era. In addition, the canal's towpath provides a nearly level, continuous trail through the spectacular scenery of the Potomac River Valley.

The National Park Foundation encourages and promotes local fundraising support at individual national park sites. The C&O Canal Trust is a nonprofit partner of the National Park Service and helps to ensure that the park's natural, historical, and recreational potential is fully realized through a combination of fundraising, volunteerism, community outreach and education, and hands-on restoration.

The Citizen Scientists Program featured a curriculum-based education program involving water quality monitoring, macroinvertebrate stream analysis, and invasive plant identification, as well as a service learning component that allowed students to continue data collection throughout the school year and develop a model for service learning that can be replicated year after year.