Why we have to be careful navaigating in new waters

We are camp hosting at the Foscue Creek Campground at the Demopolis Lock and Dam maintained by the Corp of Engineers and located at the confluence of the Tombigee and Black Warrior Rivers in Alabama. Brandon Smith, one of the rangers offered to do a special ‘behind the scenes’ tour for us of the lock and dam system and we jumped at the chance to get a personal tour and better understanding of the locks and dams.

We had ridden our bikes down to the lower part of the dam earlier in the month, guessing the water drop at the dam to be about 10 feet. We even guessed you could even take a small boat over the dam safely —both assumptions were BIG wrongos – since the drop here at Demopolis dam is about 40 feet.

Both rivers have a series of locks and dams run by the Corp of Engineers with the goal of making the river more navigable (wider and deeper) for commercial barges. On the river each dam has different heights so it raises and lowers the boats different depths.   At Demopolis, the lock raises and lowers boats about 26 feet and handles 12 – 15 of commercial barges a day and other smaller boats. Up the river at Bankhead, it raises/lowers the boats 80 feet- equivalent to an eight story building.

We were able to watch a barge in the lock get lowered down to travel south on the river. When the lock system was built, barges were not the size they are now and so some of the boats only have a few inches on each side in the lock. Quite a challenge to park something the size of half a football field with thousands of pounds of freight in a small “parking space”.  Glenn had to make the comment that I can’t even get the Focus in between the lines at the store.

The Lockmaster filled the chamber especially for us so we could see how much water is pulled in and then discharged, causing huge whirlpools. Like a kid, I wanted so badly to throw something in the water and watch it get sucked down in the whirlpool.  I refrained since I’m officially an oldster and should know better:/

We captured as much as possible with our ‘camera-light’, but trust me it is impressive and helps you appreciate engineering talent.

 

Ship being lowered

Ship being lowered

Demopolis Dam

Demopolis Dam

Water markers showing how many feet raise/lower

Water markers showing how many feet raise/lower

Ship entering lock

Ship entering lock

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