West Virginia. The Paw Paw Tunnel is a 3,118-foot-long (950 m) canal tunnel on the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal (C&O). Located near Paw Paw, West Virginia, it was built to bypass the Paw Paw Bends, a six-mile (9.7 km) stretch of the Potomac River containing five horseshoe-shaped bends. The town, the bends, and the tunnel take their name from the pawpaw trees that grow prolifically along nearby ridges.
Construction on the tunnel began in 1836 and was expected to be completed within two years at a total cost of $33,500. But the project proved far more complicated and costly than expected, and the tunnel would not open until 1850, more than a decade behind schedule.
Built using more than six million bricks, the tunnel has been described as "the greatest engineering marvel along the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park." Located at milepost 155.2, the tunnel served to eliminate six miles of canal and is credited with contributing to the economic success of nearby Cumberland, Maryland.