COLUMBUS -Southeast Ohio’s Muskingum River and its navigation system of 10 hand-operated locks was recently designated a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark by the American Society of Civil Engineers.
The Ohio Department of Natural Resources operates and maintains the river’s 150-year-old system of locks and dams – the oldest of its kind in the country – as part of the Muskingum River Parkway.
“The Muskingum River’s unique navigation system carries great historic and economic significance for Ohio,” said Dan West, chief of Ohio State Parks. “Through this designation and creation of a permanent documented archive by ASCE, it is our shared hope that future engineers, researchers and historians will also be able to marvel at the level of accomplishment it represents.”
The Muskingum River Improvement project dates from 1837 when area pioneers, recognizing the potential of the river as a shipping route for steam-powered vessels, began to design a system of locks and dams that permitted navigation upriver as far as the Ohio and Erie Canal at Dresden.
That system was opened in 1841, providing a route to transport raw materials from the Midwest to markets in the East. Commercial shipping flourished on the river for 70 years, but was replaced by rail and motorized transportation after the turn of the century.
Still used today.
Today, it is mostly recreational boaters and anglers who use the hand-operated locks to navigate the river from a point just north of Zanesville to Marietta.
Recognizing the historic and engineering significance of the river’s locking system, the Central Ohio Section and the Ohio Council of ASCE nominated the Muskingum River lock and dam, slack water navigation system for the ASCE’s prestigious landmark designation.
Research and document preparation was contributed by engineers Daniel Hill and David Pritchard of of Columbus.
Plaques, illustrating the key role that the Muskingum River and its navigation system played in the economic development of the Ohio River Valley, will be erected at each lock site along the 112-mile length of the river.