Your River Center at Lock 8

Housed in a historic lockhouse along the C&O Canal, the River Center at Lock 8 offers visitors a chance to learn about the Potomac River, the C&O Canal, nearby recreational opportunities, and how they can help the Potomac Conservancy protect the health, beauty, and enjoyment of these special resources. The River Center is located halfway between the National Park Service interpretive centers in Georgetown and Great Falls. Each year, as many as 250,000 visitors pass its front door and have the opportunity to:

  • Join the Movement for a Clean Potomac: Visitors can learn more about the Potomac River, the challenges it faces, and how to help Potomac Conservancy restore the river back to full health.  
  • Experience the Potomac: The River Center is located just steps from the Potomac River. Take a stroll down to the shoreline to spot local wildlife and soak in the river's natural beauty.
  • Lend a Hand in River Restoration Projects: Help us restore the Potomac to full health by participating in a stewardship activity to enhance the beauty and safety of the Potomac's lands. 
  • Learn About the Canal's History: Explore educational displays about the history of the C&O Canal, the lockhouses, and the families who once lived in them.

The best part about the River Center at Lock 8? It is staffed entirely by our volunteer River Center Guides! These dedicated volunteers spend two hour shifts on summer weekends teaching the public about the mighty Potomac and how they can get involved in its protection. 

The River Center at Lock 8 is located in the C&O Canal National Historical Park. You can reach the River Center by car along the Clara Barton Parkway, and on foot or bicycle along the C&O Canal towpath near Mile 10. To view detailed directions and a map, visit Directions >

River Center Hours

The River Center is open for the season! It's open every Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. from May through October.

Volunteer as a River Center Guide

River Center Guides are volunteers who are 18 or older who help maintain and staff the River Center at Lock 8 in the C&O Canal National Historical Park, provide information to park visitors, promote the river protection activities and programs of Potomac Conservancy, and lead occasional education activities for park visitors.

After training provided by Potomac Conservancy, guides will answer visitor questions and distribute information about Potomac Conservancy and the C&O Canal National Historical Park. In the morning, the volunteers will open the River Center to the public. Before closing, they will keep the public areas of the River Center tidy, restock materials, and remove trash and recyclables. Volunteers who are able and interested may be asked to lead walks, talks or occasional education programs for small groups of families and children.

A minimum commitment of 4 hours a month in May through October is required.

If you are interested in becoming a River Center Guide, please contact Katie Blackman at or 301-608-1188 x213 for an application.

Backyard at the Bay

The River Center features "Backyard to the Bay," an exhibit that informs River Center visitors about the natural diversity, and scenic beauty of the Potomac River. The exhibit explores past and present human influences on the Potomac River watershed, especially the cause-and-effect relationship of human activities and the health of the ecosystem. Most importantly, the exhibit shows visitors how their actions affect the river. The exhibit is a part of the Chesapeake Bay Gateways Network, a partnership of parks, refuges, museums, historic sites, and water trails spanning the watershed. The River Center exhibit makes a strong connection between the Potomac River and the Chesapeake Bay.

River Center Guide Scheduling