Exploring Kentucky River’s Lock and Dam No. 3

Down many miles of winding, two-lane roads lies the community of Gest, Kentucky, and the Kentucky River Lock and Dam No. 3.

Down many miles of winding, two-lane roads lies the community of Gest, Kentucky, and the Kentucky River Lock and Dam No. 3.

Built from 1836 to 1842, the dam creates a 23-mile-long pool of water located 42 miles from the mouth of the Ohio River. Initially, it was made of a timber crib structure filled with dirt and rock, featuring a stone masonry lock. It was reconstructed in 1882, with further modifications in the early 1890s and 1900s.

As time passed, commercial river traffic on the Kentucky dwindled as steamboats gave way to passenger trains and automobiles. Industries also shifted to freight trains and trucks, finding these modes more efficient and cost-effective. Consequently, locks below Frankfort, including Nos. 5 through Nos. 14, were gradually abandoned. The lockmaster houses ceased operation by the early 1990s, with many eventually demolished.

Lock and Dam No. 3 remained operational until 2007 when it closed due to structural and mechanical issues. Following a renovation in 2012, it reopened for limited traffic three days a week.


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There was also a toll ferry just below (north) on the river between Gest and Monterrey (Owen Co).
I am not sure exactly when it was in operation.

I have some old county maps where it was marked (Owen 1937, Henry 1942, Owen 1953, Henry 1955). I don’t have any other maps between those years and 1990. It closed sometime between the mid-1950’s and then.

I hope they get all the locks going in years to come. And build a nice Yaght club above # 14
Saw some nice ones at Frankfort lasy time I was there! Perhaps the locks could be run by private marinas.

Nice pictures and a good article! I would point out, however, that Locks 5 through 14 are above Frankfort, not below. The old Kentucky River locks and dams were operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for most of their history, but are now owned by a state agency, the Kentucky River Authority, which was formed in 1986 specifically for the purposes of restoring and operating all the locks and dams.

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