Ohio River Locks & Dams

Ohio River Lock and Dam No. 32 House

The Ohio River consisted of 53 wicket-style dams and locks that were gradually phased out in favor of larger facilities.






The Ohio River originally consisted of a system of 53 wicket-style dams and locks that were built between 1875 and 1929 from the Mississippi River to the Allegheny River. 1

The movable dams maintained a minimum nine-foot channel depth. 4 When the water was high, the wickets were lowered and rested flat on the river’s bottom. This allowed boats to travel over the wickets, saving them time by not having to enter the lock chamber.

RiverLocationOpenedRebuiltClosedDemolished
OhioNo. 31 (Kirkville)191719641964
OhioNo. 32 (Vanceburg)192219641964
OhioNo. 34 (Chilo)19251964
This is a list of locks and dams along the Ohio River.

Ohio River Lock & Dam No. 31

Lock & Dam No. 31, constructed between 1915 to 1917, featured a one-story powerhouse with a 60-foot smokestack designed in the Classical Revival style. 1 It was flanked by two 1½-story bungalows, a seven-bay garage, a blacksmith shop, and a steel water tank. In the 1930s, three additional two-story brick houses were added.

The lock was rendered obsolete when Captain Meldahl Lock and Dam was completed downstream in December 1964. 1 2 The lock chamber and wicket dam were demolished soon after Meldahl opened.


Ohio River Lock & Dam No. 32

Lock & Dam No. 32, constructed from 1919 to 1922, was built with a box cofferdam and was founded upon wood piles driven to refusal. 3 Thirteen pneumatic steel caissons were designed, fabricated, and erected by Dravo’s Engineering Works Division of Pittsburgh and towed 372 miles to the dam site.

The lock was rendered obsolete when Captain Meldahl Lock and Dam was completed downstream in December 1964. 2 3 The lock chamber and wicket dam were demolished soon after Meldahl opened.


Ohio River Lock & Dam No. 34

Lock & Dam No. 34 was constructed between 1914 and 1925. Work on Lock & Dam No. 34 began when 14 acres were acquired by the federal government, but most of the construction of the dam and buildings did not begin until 1924 when workers from the National Construction Company were hired. Construction crews installed wooden cofferdams to work unimpeded while installing the wooden wickets. 4 Costing $3.336 million to complete, the new lock and dam was dedicated on October 6, 1925. 4 5

It featured a two-story powerhouse flanked by nine houses, an eight-bay garage, maintenance shed, paint locker, and other support structures. 4 5 The dam consisted of 200 wickets that could take several hours to raise or lower by hand. The single lock chamber measured 600-feet long by 110-feet wide.

The powerhouse included two air tanks on the third floor, which stored air that was used to open and close the roller gates on the lock chamber. 4 It also featured equipment doors on the third floor that was used along with a pulley system to lift equipment into the powerhouse. During floods, residents of the dam used the doors and pulleys to lift their possessions into the building above the floodwaters.

The lock was rendered obsolete when Captain Meldahl Lock and Dam was completed downstream in December 1964. 2 3 Far larger, Meldahl allowed the Ohio River to maintain a normal pool of 37 feet. 3 The original locks and wickets were dismantled shortly after.






Further Reading


Sources

  1. United States. Dept. of the Interior. Ohio River Lock and Dam No. 31. Comp. Robert M. Polsgrove. Washington: National Park Service, May 1986. National Park Service. Web. 30 Jan. 2014. Article.
  2. “Captain Meldahl Locks and Dam.” US Army Corps of Engineers. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 Jan. 2014. Article.
  3. O’Bannon, Patrick W. “Caissons.” Working in the Dry: Cofferdams, In-River Construction, and the United States Army Corps of Engineers. Pittsburgh: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Pittsburgh District, 2009. 44-45. US Army Corps of Engineers. Web. 30 Jan. 2014. Book.
  4. Interpretative signage.
  5. Rains, Laura. “Unlocking memories: Chilo No. 34 Park visitors center, museum opens.” Ledger Independent [Maysville], 24 Aug. 2005.

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