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A short 'history' of the Upper Miss lock system

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Old 06-15-2009, 07:15 AM
Join Date: Apr 2006
Location: Rock Island, Illinois mile 480 UMR
Posts: 3,865
Default A short 'history' of the Upper Miss lock system

A while back the Today in History noted the passing of the first boat through L&D 26 at Alton. In searching for a photo of that, which I did not find, I ran across an entire album of photos of lock and dam construction on the Upper Mississippi, which has inspired this brief 'treatise'. I'll break it up into several postings, one after the other rather instantaneously.
1837 Lt. Robert E. Lee surveyed the Des Moines Rapids near Keokuk and the Rock Island Rapids between Moline and LeClaire
1864 all time low water mark
1865 The St. Louis Merchants Association organized a Committee on Improvement of the Mississippi River and Tributaries. The 2 major concerns were the rapids and the construction of bridges.
1866 A convention was held in Dubuque to get Congressional approval to overcome the obstruction of the 2 rapids.
1866 Congress appropriated money for the rapids and for an eventual 4 foot channel from St. Louis to the Falls of St. Anthony.
1867-1907 Excavation of Rock Island Rapids
1867-1875 Construction of a lateral canal and 3 locks at the Des Moines Rapids (291 x 78 ft.)
1877 The Des Moines Rapids Canal opened, the first boat being the sidewheel snagboat MONTANA
1878 The 4 1/2 foot channel was adopted, to be achieved by wing dams, and eventually to go to a 6 foot channel.
1883-89 The construction of the Corps' DMR Canal Dry Dock and Canal Shops at Keokuk
1905 Authorization of the Moline Lock to bypass the RI Rapids
1907 Moline Lock opened
1907 Authorization of the 6 foot channel
1913 New lock and dam at Keokuk opened
1914 Authorization of the LeClaire Canal at top of RI Rapids
1922 LeClaire Lock opened (320 x 80 ft.)
1930 9 foot channel was authorized, which included the building of 26 locks and dams, the locks to be 600 x 110 feet. This is the current system, with a few upgrades
1930-40 26 locks and dams were built
1934 Lock and Dam 15 in Rock Island opened, the first of this system.
1953 Chain of Rocks Canal and L&D 27 opened (2 locks: 1200 x 110 ft. and 600 x 110 ft. )
1957 New Keokuk lock opened (1200 x 110 ft.), with the largest lift on the UMR at 38 feet.
1989 Mel Price L&D 26 opened below Alton (2 locks, 1200 x 110 ft. and 600 x 110 ft.)
1990 Old L&D 26 removed
In this system there is no L&D 23, but there is a 5A. The Corps built the locks in the order according to the greatest need for navigation improvements. So the order of completion in the Rock Island district, for instance is: 15 20 18 16 11 10 12 21 22 13 17 14

Picture 1 shows the remains of the canal wall which bypassed the RI Rapids. This is the tree-line going under the I 74 bridge at Moline. This canal extended up to LeClaire Iowa.
Picture 2 The Corps had developed a canal and 3 small locks at Keokuk, but in 1913 the Keokuk Power company built the dam to facilitate the making of electricity and with it a new bigger lock was built. That is the power company building under construction. I don't know the name of the boat.
Picture 3 Here is the excursion boat WW and barge in the lock.
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