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List of locks and dams of the Ohio River facts for kids

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This is a list of locks and dams of the Ohio River, which begins at the confluence of the Allegheny and Monongahela rivers at The Point in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and ends at the confluence of the Ohio River and the Mississippi River, near Cairo, Illinois.

Ohio River Locks and Dams Navigation System
A map and diagram of U.S. Army Corps of Engineers operated locks and dams on the Ohio River.

Evolution of navigation on the Ohio River

In the early days of steamboat navigation on the Ohio River the major physical hurdle that delayed travel was the Falls of the Ohio near Louisville, Kentucky. Steamboats could only maneuver over the falls during times of high water, which were not consistent. It was more practical for the steamboats to drop off passengers and freight on one end of the falls and transport them over land to the opposite end of the falls to another steamboat. This resulted in Louisville becoming a customary last stop for vessels on both legs of the Ohio. If a steamboat desired to travel unimpeded through the falls without waiting for high water, a canal and lock system was needed in order to circumvent the falls.

In 1825, construction began on that canal, and by 1830 the privately financed Louisville and Portland Canal was finished. The canal was constructed by hand tools with the help of animal-drawn scrappers and carts. The completed canal was two miles long with three locking chambers that created a total lift of 26 feet.


The amount of coal transported down river from Pittsburgh jumped greatly following the Civil War. The size of the tows also grew with the amount of coal hauled. Due to the escalating coal trade, the US Army Corps of Engineers began studying methods to produce a reliable navigation depth on the Ohio. The Corps launched an international study to analyze other navigation projects worldwide. They determined that building a system of locks and dams to form pools was the best solution to the problem.

Following the opening of the lock and dam at Davis Island in 1885, the venture proved to be worthy. In 1910, the Rivers and Harbors Act was authorized by Congress. The Act allowed the production of a system of locks and dams along the Ohio. In 1929, the canalization project on the Ohio River was finished. The project produced 51 wooden wicket dams and 600 foot by 110 foot lock chambers along the length of the river.

During the 1940s, a shift from steam propelled to diesel powered towboats allowed for tows longer than the 600 foot locks on the river. This meant barges had to be locked in two phases. This operation was dangerous and time-consuming. It backed up river traffic and increased expenses for the towing industry. The Corps initiated the Ohio River Navigation Modernization Program in the 1950s. The program's purpose was to replace the system of outdated wicket dams and small locks. The new dams were non-navigable and made of concrete and steel. Each dam has two adjoining locks, one 600-foot by 110-foot chamber, and a 1,200-foot by 110-foot chamber to accommodate fifteen barges that can lock through in one maneuver.


Emsworth lock and dam
Emsworth, Dashields, and Montgomery lock and dams

      Dam produces hydroelectricity.
      Replacement lock/dam facility.
      Locks and/or dam are in the process of being replaced.
      Locks and/or dam have been removed.

RDB Right Descending Bank
LDB Left Descending Bank

Downstream, Pittsburgh to Olmsted

Locks & Dam Location Coordinates River Mile Lock Side Lock Lift/Drop
(in feet)
Pool Elevation
(feet above sea level)
Pool Length


Emsworth Locks and Dam Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 40°30′15″N 80°05′20″W / 40.50427°N 80.08892°W / 40.50427; -80.08892 6.2 RDB 18 710 6.2+
Dashields Locks and Dam Coraopolis, Pennsylvania 40°32′56″N 80°12′21″W / 40.54892°N 80.20592°W / 40.54892; -80.20592 13.3 LDB 10 692 7.1
Montgomery Locks and Dam Monaca, Pennsylvania 40°38′55″N 80°23′08″W / 40.64857°N 80.38546°W / 40.64857; -80.38546 31.7 LDB 18 682 18.4

OhioWest Virginia

New Cumberland Locks and Dam Stratton, Ohio 40°31′40″N 80°37′39″W / 40.52766°N 80.62763°W / 40.52766; -80.62763 54.3 RDB 21 664 22.6
Pike Island Locks and Dam Wheeling, West Virginia 40°08′59″N 80°42′04″W / 40.14983°N 80.70115°W / 40.14983; -80.70115 84.2 LDB 21 644 29.9
Hannibal Locks and Dam Hannibal, Ohio 39°40′01″N 80°51′55″W / 39.66706°N 80.86534°W / 39.66706; -80.86534 126.4 RDB 21 623 42.2
Willow Island Lock and Dam Newport, Ohio 39°21′38″N 81°19′13″W / 39.36048°N 81.32041°W / 39.36048; -81.32041 161.7 RDB 20 602 35.3
Belleville Lock and Dam Reedsville, Ohio 39°07′08″N 81°44′33″W / 39.11881°N 81.74244°W / 39.11881; -81.74244 203.9 RDB 22 582 42.2
Racine Lock and Dam Letart, West Virginia 38°55′02″N 81°54′42″W / 38.91735°N 81.91162°W / 38.91735; -81.91162 237.5 LDB 22 560 33.6
Robert C. Byrd Lock and Dam Gallipolis Ferry, West Virginia 38°40′54″N 82°11′18″W / 38.68156°N 82.18829°W / 38.68156; -82.18829 279.2 LDB 23 538 41.7


Greenup Lock and Dam Greenup, Kentucky 38°38′49″N 82°51′39″W / 38.64684°N 82.86077°W / 38.64684; -82.86077 341.0 LDB 30 515 61.8
Captain Anthony Meldahl Locks and Dam Foster, Kentucky 38°47′50″N 84°10′14″W / 38.79720°N 84.17050°W / 38.79720; -84.17050 436.2 RDB 30 485 95.2


Markland Locks and Dam Warsaw, Kentucky 38°46′28″N 84°57′54″W / 38.77446°N 84.96487°W / 38.77446; -84.96487 531.5 LDB 35 455 95.3
McAlpine Locks and Dam Louisville, Kentucky 38°16′58″N 85°46′53″W / 38.28280°N 85.78130°W / 38.28280; -85.78130 606.8 LDB 37 420 75.3
Cannelton Locks and Dam Cannelton, Indiana 37°54′00″N 86°42′21″W / 37.89990°N 86.70590°W / 37.89990; -86.70590 720.7 RDB 25 383 113.9
Newburgh Lock and Dam Newburgh, Indiana 37°55′51″N 87°22′20″W / 37.93090°N 87.37220°W / 37.93090; -87.37220 776.1 RDB 16 358 55.4
John T. Myers Locks and Dam Mt. Vernon, Indiana 37°47′37″N 87°59′27″W / 37.79350°N 87.99090°W / 37.79350; -87.99090 846.0 RDB 18 342 69.9


Smithland Lock and Dam Hamletsburg, Illinois 37°09′56″N 88°25′51″W / 37.16560°N 88.43090°W / 37.16560; -88.43090 918.5 RDB 22 324 72.5
Lock and Dam Number 52 (Removed) Brookport, Illinois 37°07′35″N 88°39′12″W / 37.12644°N 88.65331°W / 37.12644; -88.65331 938.9 RDB 12 302 20.4
Lock and Dam Number 53 (Removed) Grand Chain, Illinois 37°12′12″N 89°02′31″W / 37.203398°N 89.041941°W / 37.203398; -89.041941 962 RDB ≤17 290 23.7
Olmsted Locks and Dam (Replaced 52 and 53) Olmsted, Illinois 37°11′02″N 89°03′49″W / 37.18380°N 89.06350°W / 37.18380; -89.06350 964.4 RDB ≤30 -- 46.0
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