The other week I took a trip to Great Falls National Park to look at the fall leaves and enjoy a walk.

Surrounded by enclaves of expensive homes, the park is a virtual wilderness area protected from development by the federal government. Residential development of this site would put a nice dent in the upcoming Social Security short fall.

However, it was not always this way. At one point, the site was considered for a hydroelectric dam. Before that it had been a private amusement park. Most interestingly, George Washington developed it for a canal to advance trade into the Ohio valley.

Approaching the falls from downriver, we can begin to see the problem to shipping up the Potomac River 200 years ago.

GreatFallsViewedFromDownstream

Up close, this obstacle to American commerce looms larger.

GreatFallsFromAboveCenter

Not a problem for the industrious Washington, who planned to build a canal around the obstacle through the forest, thick undergrowth, and exposed rocked.

GreatFallsBuildACanalThroughThis

While the canal operated for several decades, overtime the canal was destroyed by flooding and the superiority of railroads. Parts of the canal walls have been restored.

GreatFallsCanalRestoredWalls

Below is a view of the canal remains which blasted through rock in its descent to the river below the falls.

GreatFallsCanalReturnsToRiver

Below are the remains of a house from Matildaville, a town built on the canal by war hero “Light Horse” Harry Lee.

GreatFallsRuinsOfMatildaville

When it came to improving human life and strengthening America, George Washington looked to profit and the conquest of nature as the path to progress. Unfortunately, our current political leaders do not hold this Washingtonian view. In fact, when campaigning for office they express that they are running against Washington; while it is their intent to say that they are running against the corruption of the capital, they are also running against the integrity of George Washington. It is time that those that seek to rule in the capital city recognize that Washington is not an epithet referring to the city but a model referring to the man for the integrity that they should exhibit in public service.

Further Reading

For more information on Washington and The Patowmack Canal, see the Park’s website.

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