The Cape Cod Canal is a 17.4-mile navigable waterway operated and maintained by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, New England District. The primary mission at the Cape Cod Canal is to provide a safe transit for the approximately 15,000 vessels that use the Canal each year.
Additionally, the US Army Corps of Engineers serves as a steward of more than 1,100 acres of Federal lands that surround the Canal. And offers a variety of recreational opportunities along both sides of the Canal. Each year, more than 3 million visitors enjoy activities such as hiking, fishing, biking, picnicking and ship watching.
Continue scrolling to learn more about the recreational opportunities along the Canal.
Or click on Menu items to explore the History of the Canal, Navigation Operations, Natural Resources, Rules and Regulations, Bridge Work Alerts, Volunteer and Park Attendant Opportunities, and more.
Cape Cod Canal Visitor Center
Operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Cape Cod Canal Visitor Center offers excellent insight into the rich history, fascinating features, and vigilant operation of the Cape Cod Canal. Inside you will discover a museum that is fun, fascinating, family friendly and free. Interactive exhibits offer something for visitors of all ages.
Board a retired 40-foot US Army Corps of Engineers patrol boat;
Scan live radar and camera images to locate vessels in the waterway. Captain a virtual boat through the canal;
Investigate what’s inside many of the ships transiting the canal;
Discover wildlife that live in or around the canal;
View films about canal history, wildflowers and wildlife;
Participate in various free interpretive programs;
Click here for a list of activities, programs, and events
Or just relax and soak in the waterfront views from the rocking chairs on our front deck
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Park Rangers and volunteers staff the Center, and provide information about the canal and its recreational opportunities. A small bookstore is also offered.
May – June 17: Open Tuesdays – Saturdays
June 18-Sept 30: Open Tuesdays – Sundays
Sept 30-Oct 21: Open Tuesdays-Saturdays
Located at: 60 Ed Moffitt Drive, Sandwich, MA. 508-833-9678
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers operates and maintains multiple recreation areas along both sides of the Cape Cod Canal. They offer a variety of recreational opportunities and are equipped with restrooms, picnic areas and parking.
• View the recreation map for recreation area offerings and locations.
• Restrooms: Flush toilets are open daily from mid - April through Columbus Day weekend. 2023 dates of operation are from April 22 - Oct 9. When flush toilets are closed for the season, portable toilets are available at most locations.
• Opened Memorial Day weekend through Columbus Day weekend, Midway Recreation Area is a beautiful, wooded area, ideal for families, offering individual and group picnic options with charcoal grills, volleyball, restrooms and more. Midway has a large picnic pavilion with grills, tables, and a fireplace that can be reserved for group functions at no cost via a Special Facility Permit request. For more information contact Park Ranger Elisa Carey 978-318-8591 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Biking and Walking
The North Service Road (7 miles) and the South Service Road (6.5 miles) are paved water-side service roads open to the public that are ideal for walking, jogging, cycling, and access to saltwater fishing. Benches are placed along the service roads. While enjoying the Canal’s service roads remember, if you pack it in, please pack it out. All developed recreation areas that offer service road access are equipped with seasonal trash receptacles for your convenience.
Know before you go:
Special Activities and Events
Interested in the Cape Cod Canal for a special event or activity? For more information on requesting special use of Canal facilities for your event or activity, please click here to view our rules and regulations and download the Cape Cod Canal Special Use Application Package. For questions or requests to transport overweight/ oversized loads across the Cape Cod Canal Highway Bridges, including the Bourne and Sagamore Bridge, contact the projects special use coordinator or by phone at 978-318-8534.
The Canal provides a unique, close-up view of ocean going ships and tugs underway as they utilize the canal route between Cape Cod Bay and Buzzards Bay. Cruise lines, cargo ships and jumbo car carriers can be seen from the Canal banks. From the simple lines of a working harbor tug to the sleek look of a luxury yacht, the Canal provides a continuous parade of vessels to observe and enjoy.
Fishing is permitted from the banks of the Canal on federal property except from the Cape Cod Canal Field Office compound. Fishing is prohibited from boat, bridge piers, and from/below the railroad bridge approach spans. Caution is advised as the rip rap slopes can be slippery. Handicap accessible fishing is available at the Sandwich bulkhead area and the Scusset Beach fishing pier.
Saltwater fishing and lobstering are subject to state regulations and licensing, and are managed by the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries. For more information, to obtain a saltwater fishing permit, and for up-to-date regulations, visit https://www.mass.gov/recreational-saltwater-fishing
To report a violation, contact the Massachusetts Environmental Police Dispatch office at 1-800-632-8075
If adequately powered, recreational vessels may transit the Canal. Sailing in the Canal is prohibited; sailboats must use auxiliary power during Canal passage. All boaters should familiarize themselves with the Canal's changing currents prior to attempting Canal transit. In a restricted channel such as the Cape Cod Canal, smaller vessels should stay to the right and give way to the larger commercial vessel traffic. For more safety tips and regulations on boating in the Canal, view the Recreational Boating Guide.
Swimming and scuba diving are prohibited in the Canal due to its swift current. A swimming beach on Cape Cod Bay is available at Scusset Beach State Reservation.
The Bournedale Hills Trail extends 1.4 miles along the north side of the Canal from Bourne Scenic Park to the Herring Run. The trail includes a .8 mile self guided loop which interprets the Canal's historic and natural features.
Within Scusset Beach State Reservation, the .7 mile interpretive trail to Sagamore Hill provides access to an area that was once a Native American meeting ground and later the site of a World War II Coastal Fortification. The top of Sagamore Hill commands a view of the Canal's east entrance and Cape Cod Bay. Click here to check out our self-guided plant identification tour for Sagamore Hill, made through a collaborative partnership with students from the Upper Cape Cod Regional Technical School!
Trailer and tent camping areas are provided on Canal lands at two locations, on the north side of the Canal. Under a long term lease agreement with the Corps of Engineers.
Bourne Scenic Park is operated by the Bourne Recreation Authority. The park offers facilities for both tent and recreational vehicle camping.
Another long term lease has been issued by the Corps of Engineers to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts for operation of Scusset Beach State Reservation. Located on the east end of the Canal, Scusset Beach State Reservation has camp sites for recreation vehicles.
The East Boat Basin located on the south side of the Canal in Sandwich has slips for recreational and commercial vessels. The area is leased by the Corps of Engineers to the Town of Sandwich.
On a fee basis, boaters may utilize the marina's slips or boat ramp. On the west end of the Canal the Buttermilk Bay channel provides boaters access to the Taylor Point Marina, which is owned by the Town of Bourne.
Canal Park Rangers offer a host of interpretive programs designed for various ages and interests. They include guided walks and tours, bike hikes, evening presentations, junior ranger programs, special events and more.
Scheduled programs are offered in the spring, summer and fall. Click for a list of upcoming scheduled programs, events and activities.
Group tours and interpretive programs are also available upon request, free of charge, to school, civic and scouting groups. US Army Corps of Engineers Park Rangers offer programs and lead tours on various aspects of the Canal’s engineered and natural history, its unique features and its marine operations. Programs at the Cape Cod Canal Visitor Center, along the Canal or at your school/facility are available. Please email Park Ranger Samantha Gray or call 978-318-8622 for more information and/or to schedule a program.
Updated: November 10, 2022