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Before the dawn of the automobile and the first-rate railroad, the Kentucky River was the primary route of access to locations in central Kentucky. At one point, the river was fully navigable from the Ohio River at Carrollton to Beattyville, with fourteen locks and dams providing safe passage for passengers and freight alike.1 In 1986, the Kentucky River Authority was established by the Kentucky General Assembly 2 to take over operation of locks 5 through 14 from the United States Corps of Engineers; they were subsequently closed and sealed with concrete barriers. Only the first four locks from Carrollton to Frankfort remain in operation.

Lock and Dam 3 is located at Gest and was constructed from 1836 to 1842.3 The dam supports a 23-mile long pool of water and is located 42 miles from the mouth of the Ohio River. Constructed originally of a timber crib structure, which consisted of an outside frame of timbers filled with dirt and rock with a lock built of stone masonry. It was rebuilt in 1882. Additionally, a concrete overlay of the top of the timber crib dam was completed in the early 1890’s, and an additional overlay was completed on approximately two-thirds of the dam by 1911. A concrete wall was added adjacent to the abutment opposite of the lock, running upstream for 70 feet, in 1908.

Repairs to cracks and holes in the concrete cap were completed in 1941.3 New concrete was poured to the crest of the dam, along with surface repairs, and the addition of sheet piling to the front of the dam for additional stability in 1977. The abutment, opposite of the lock, was repaired with rock armoring in 2005. Despite this, the lock was closed in 2007 due to structural and mechanical problems.

In 2012, the Kentucky River Authority awarded Brayman Construction a $4 million, five-month contract to dredge the approaches and lock chambers, removal of the gate, repairing and repainting the steel, and the resetting of the gate and masonry repairs.4

The Lock and Dam No. 3 is active on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

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