Wicket Locks and Dams
Wicket Locks and Dams
Photos & Stories

The first Federal improvements for navigation on the Ohio River came in 1824 with the removal of snags and sandbars. These measures were effective, but they were only temporary—new sandbars would appear after every flood. They also provided no relief against low water, which stopped navigation almost every year. The construction of a dam with a stable pool and a lock bypassing the dam would have ended problems caused by low water, but the shippers who needed the full width of the river for maneuvering were opposed to a dam.
A compromise solution was a movable dam that could be raised in times of low water to create a pool and lowered when the flow was adequate for navigation. The dams finally built had a series of Chanoine wickets, invented by Frenchman Jacques Chanoine, extending across the river. A system of 50 movable dams was built on the Ohio River between 1879 and 1929, making the Ohio navigable for its entire length at all times.
Each dam actually consists of a row of 300 or more little dams, individually hinged to a foundation on the river bottom. The wickets are constructed of heavy timber about 4 feet wide and up to 20 feet long. Raising or lowering the wickets is done by a crew on a maneuver boat that moves along the upstream face of the dam. A bar is connected to the back of each wicket with the free end riding in a groove in the foundation. To raise them, a grapple hooks a wicket and pulls it from the bed of the river. The bar slides up the groove to a niche, where it catches and supports the wicket upright against the flow of the river.
The advent of the more powerful diesel tow-boat after World War II greatly increased the size of the tows operating on the Ohio River. The tows were longer than the 600-foot locks and had to be broken into two segments for locking, more than doubling the time necessary for a lockage. A modernization program was begun on the Ohio in the 1950s to replace the old dams and the undersized locks with higher dams and longer locks, making the locking operation faster and less frequent.
In 1929 everything at Lock and Dam # 50 was made on-sight.


Lock and Dam 50 Under Construction

By the end of World War II there was enough surplus in warehouses we did not need to make our own products any more.
In 1970 I was working at Lock and Dam #50 and we were noticing a decline in the structure and word from the office was that Smithland was soon to be built so do the best you can.
In 1980 a new policy of not warehousing our goods at the lock and dams was implemented. At lock 50 we bought and stored goods by the boxes to keep our warehouse full. We normally had what we needed to repair the lock and dam.
When I arrived at Smithland in 1980 there was no warehouse of goods on sight and what we needed was in town or to be ordered if approved in the budget. By the time I retired (2001) some of the products in the lock and dam were not manufactured any more.
In the Fall of 2016 Lock and Dam # 52 started to literally fall apart. Congress had been patting itself on the back for saving money by not funding the Corps of Engineers properly for the last 35 years. Industry had had enough and the pressure to finish Olmsted Lock and Dam was now a top priority.



Ribbom Cutting Olmsted



By 1977, all but the lowest four wicket dams had been replaced. 
It was at these old wooden dams that ice during the winter of '77
threatened structural damage.


Raising wicket dam soon to be a ‘lost art’
 By Katie Newton

In October

Wicket Folk

Left to Right Seated:
Eddie Nunn, Wicket Lock and Dam 50 & Smithland Locks and Dam;
Carl Ball, Wicket Lock and Dam 45 & Cannelton Locks and Dam;
Harvey R. Morton, Wicket Lock and Dam 45 & Uniontown Locks & Dam.
Left to right Standing:
James (Herschel) Belt, Wicket Lock and Dam 45, Wicket Lock and Dam 50 and Smithland Locks & Dam;
Tom Diaz, Wicket Lock and Dam 50 & Smithland Locks and Dam

Lawrence “Mac” McClellan (Left) -  Wicket Lock and Dam 51 & Smithland Locks & Dam
I. W.  ("Dub") Cook (Right) - Wicket Lock and Dam 50, Wicket Lock & Dam 52 & Smithland Locks & Dam

L to R Tom Diaz, Ron Kelly, Lockmaster LD53 (ret.), John Perryman, 1st Mate LRS (ret.),
Brian Holcomb, Project Engineer, Jay Davis, Assistant Operations Manager (ret.), Jeff Kelly, Smithland Lockmaster (ret.),
  Brad Stout Operations Manager.

I missed this years Christmas Party at Newburgh but here is a Christmas card that would make every one Happy



By 1977, all but the lowest four wicket dams had been replaced. It was at these old wooden dams that ice during the winter of '77 threatened structural damage.


Wicket Home Page

Hook Rods and Workboats


Keen Wicket Lifter

The Sergeant Floyd

2014 Fish Fry

Lock and Dam 2007 
Christmas Reunion at Newburgh Locks and Dam

Lock and Dam 2008 
Christmas Reunion at Newburgh Locks and Dam

Lock and Dam 2009 
Christmas Reunion at Newburgh Locks and Dam

Lock and Dam 2010
Christmas Reunion at Newburgh Locks and Dam

Lock and Dam 2011
Christmas Reunion at Newburgh Locks and Dam

Lock and Dam 2016 
Reunion at Newburgh Locks and Dam

Tom's Lock and Dam Stories
Tom's Lock and Dam Ice Photos
Lock and Dam 50 Highwater Photo
Lock and Dam 50 Photos and Stories
The Mississippi Queen at Lock 50
The Mississippi Queen Up Over the Pass at Dam 50

Lock and Dam 52 Photos and Stories
Page 2   Page 3     Page 4 Page 5    Page 6

Weston Photos and Stories by Bonnie Gass
Blowing up Lock and Dam 50
Lock and Dam 50 Today
A Time to Dredge
Ohio River 3 Day Forecast
Lock 50 Today Video
Lock and Dam 50 Under Construction




Web sites Created by Tom Diaz 

Crittenden County Coalition for a Drug-Free Community

 Wicket Locks and Dams(Also Named Dam 50)

Ohio River 3 Day Forecast 

NARFE Local Chapter 1373 Blog


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