It’s a Big Dam Country — Day 14

It was a long dam day. 

My trip back west has begun. For the first few days I will be fol­low­ing the Ohio Riv­er from it’s ori­gin at the con­flu­ence of the Alleghe­ny and the Monon­ga­hela in Pitts­burgh to it’s end at the Mis­sis­sip­pi near Cairo Illi­nois. All told it is 981 miles long. I’ll be par­al­lel­ing it for most of it’s length. So call it three days trav­el with a day or two break for more fam­i­ly visiting.

There are a total of 21 sets of locks and dams on the Ohio Riv­er. I can’t man­age to vis­it all of them but I’m look­ing for­ward to pho­tograph­ing a good number.

First up — a boat ramp. This is typ­i­cal of Ohio riv­er boat ramps in the Pitts­burgh area. A res­i­den­tial street stoops under the rail­road tracks and dead ends at the river.

boat ramp at sewickley
boat ramp at sewickley

I took a lot of indus­tri­al pic­tures today. Here’s an exam­ple form some­where near Glas­gow, PA.

industrial landscape
indus­tri­al landscape 

There are some amaz­ing stretch­es of indus­tri­al scenery. Often the plants are so big that they sim­ply strad­dle the road. Usu­al­ly with no room on either side of the road for a shoulder.

The first dam of the day was Pike Island lock and dam at Clearview, WV

The lock gates are impres­sive. Can you imag­ine hav­ing to tight­en that turnbuckle?

lock gate at pike island
lock gate at pike island

There was water flow­ing over just one of the spillways. 

spillwya gates at pike island
spill­wya gates at pike island

I took quite a long walk on the rails-to-trails bike path next to the dam. By the time I got back there was a fel­low wear­ing a nifty Army Corps of Engi­neers t‑shirt who was very inter­est­ed in my odd hob­by of trav­el­ing about the coun­try tak­ing pic­tures of dams. We chat­ted about the dams I had pho­tographed in the West and even­tu­al­ly he decid­ed that I was harm­less enough. He told me which of the next 7 or so dams were worth get­ting a good look at and which side of the riv­er was best for each. 

The weath­er today was less than won­der­ful. The (real­ized) threat of rain kept the top up all day and the humid­i­ty was wicked. I felt stu­pid dri­ving around wear­ing a sweat­shirt to stay warm enough because I had to have the Ac on despite it being only 72 degrees out­side. At a cou­ple of spots the down­pours were so harsh and the stand­ing water on the roads so deep that I pulled into park­ing lots and sat it out.

some times it's better to just wait it out
some times it’s bet­ter to just wait it out

The clouds do make for some dra­mat­ic light­ing effects. I think this is a coal fired pow­er plant. There are a lot of sim­i­lar places along the riv­er and they fre­quent­ly accom­pa­ny Alu­minum plants. (It’s hard to put names to plants when they are so dang big that you can’t find the entrance.)

power plant - i think
pow­er plant — i think

The next dam was Han­ni­bal at Han­ni­bal, OH. Here’s a por­tion of the upstream side show­ing the gate mechanism.

spillway at hannibal
spill­way at hannibal

And a lift­ing hoist on the lock wall.

hoist on the lock wall at hannibal
hoist on the lock wall at hannibal

This is a Maneu­ver­boat 35. Clear­ly out of place on the grass. Steam​boats​.org has a anoth­er pic­ture and some infor­ma­tion about the boat and the wick­et dams that it was used to maintain. 

maneuverboat 35
maneu­ver­boat 35

One of the hap­py bits of get­ting lost in a lit­tle town like Sis­ter­ville, WV is that you might take a wrong turn and dis­cov­er this:

the ferry is coming to pick me up
the fer­ry is com­ing to pick me up

Dri­ve to the riv­er, park, and flash your lights. Get on the fer­ry, pay your $4, and putt away to the oth­er side. 

looking at the ohio shore
look­ing at the ohio shore

The big guy with the cig­ar will tell you to go ahead and get out out of the car to get a bet­ter picture.

friendly ferry pilot
friend­ly fer­ry pilot

It’s an awful­ly clever fer­ry. The car deck stays point­ing the same way all the time and the engine piv­ots around to push from either direc­tion. Sort of like this:

facing the shore you're leaving from
fac­ing the shore you’re leav­ing from
pivoting the engine
piv­ot­ing the engine
most of the way there
most of the way there
facing the shore you're heading to
fac­ing the shore you’re head­ing to

Now I was on the Ohio side of the riv­er trav­el­ing on hwy 7. It moves a bit faster than hwy 2 on the West Vir­ginia side.

The next dam was Wil­lows Lock and Dam. This one was hard to get a good view of because the ACE puts 8 foot chain-link around every­thing and there was no high spot to stand on and see over. This view of (I think) a piece of spill­way gate sit­ting on top of the lock wall will have to do.

gates at willows dam
gates at wil­lows dam

There were three more dams between Wil­lows and Hunt­ing­ton, WV where I planned to spend the night. Luck­i­ly I had the advice of the Corps itself and skipped Belleville and Racine stay­ing on Hwy 7 rather than fol­low­ing the much small­er hwy 124. Turns out it was a good plan because most of 124 was detoured on to 7 anyway. 

The final dam of the day was Byrd. For­mer­ly Gal­lipo­lis which I dis­cov­ered is pro­nounced as odd­ly in WV as Ver­sailles is in PA. (That’s North Ver-sails, thank you very much.)

I was tempt­ed to grab a quick shot from the road and head to a hotel. But the turn-out was nice­ly marked and the park­ing lot lev­el and not too bumpy. Good idea. The light was fab­u­lous. Dusk com­bined with storm clouds to make some drama.

spillway at the bryd dam (upstream side)
spill­way at the bryd dam (upstream side)
spillway at the bryd dam (downstream side)
spill­way at the bryd dam (down­stream side)

Good day…

Route for Day 14:

View It’s a Big Dam Coun­try — Day 14 in a larg­er map

About the Author

Lara Harriger