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Willow Island Locks and Dam



            Willow Island Locks and Dam rest in a scenic part of the Ohio Valley—with abundant agriculture on the Ohio side and industry on the West Virginia side.

            Located just off Ohio State Route 7, ten miles north of Marietta, the $76 million federal project was initiated by the Corps of Engineers in 1967.

            After relocating a portion of Route 7, construction of the locks began and the dam was started in 1971.  The visitors’ center has exhibits pertaining to the locks and dam, the Ohio River, and the Corps of Engineers.

            The project, operated 24 hours a day year round by civilian employees of the Corps, contains two lock chambers.  The large one is 1,200 feet long to accommodate modern river tows, and the auxiliary chamber is 600 feet long.  Both are 110 feet wide.

            The water level inside the lock chambers can be changed to raise a tow or boat headed upstream from the “lower pool” to the “upper pool” and vice versa for downbound craft.  Under normal conditions, the “lift” (vertical difference between the upper and lower pools) is 20 feet.  A lockage takes about 20 minutes.


            The main lock chamber, with the water at the level of the upper pool, contains 19,747,200 gallons—enough to fill 264,000 bathtubs.  The auxiliary lock contains 9,843,000 gallons.

            Miter gates are used to seal off the locks at both ends.  Each miter gate leaf weighs 200 tons and contains enough steel to produce a single railroad track 1.7 miles in length.

            The locks contain 421,000 cubic yards of concrete, and the dam contains 125,000 cubic yards. The total of 546,000 cubic yards is equal to 67 miles of four-lane highway.