Hikers along Maryland’s C&O Canal National Historical Park who look up at the rugged cliffs at Point of Rocks, Milepost 48.2, now see an unusual sight: an active raven nest. Sticks and grass from the huge nest spill over a flat niche in the cliffs.
Ravens typically avoid heavily populated settings such as the Washington, D.C. region, but the C&O Canal trail offers them ideal food and cover conditions. The Potomac River, paralleling the trail, provides fish. The swampy bed of the old canal holds turtles and frogs. The cliffs shelter the nest from predators.
The high cliffs here, namesake for the tiny community of Point of Rocks, mark an historic 19th-century event. After his invasion of the north ended unsuccessfully at Gettysburg in 1863, Robert E. Lee led his army across the river back to Virginia near the overlooking cliffs, never to cross again.
The raven nest is about 200 yards north of a large day use parking lot. Restroom facilities and a boat launch make it an attractive contact point for C&O visitors.