Licking River Locks and Dams

On November 27, 1899 citizens of Licking Valley Improvement Club requested of Congress that there be created locks and dams on the Licking River to make it navigable.  The persons signing the report for the Club were S. M. Loomis, J. R. Williams, L. McD. Garrard, and S. M. Loomis.   The request was routed to the War Department, who oversaw the U. S. Army Engineers, which investigated, surveyed, and wrote their own report, submitted on April 17, 1900,  on the feasibility of the request, and which concluded that they “did not consider such improvement's worthy of being undertaken by the United States at the present time.”   This is the map of the Licking that was part of their report.  Note Trapp’s Limestone Quarry at mile 45. 

map map map

( As usual, clicking on the small image will get you bigger pictures.
Falmouth's to the left; Newport's to the right.)

The person writing the report, a Major Bixby, notes that there were several prior attempts to make the Licking navigable.  To wit: “Projects were made and actually undertaken to improve navigation up to Falmouth by the construction of five locks and dams, the locks having dimensions of 31 feet width, 150 feet length between gates, 17 feet average lift, and 6 feet depth on the miter sills.  Contracts made by the State of Kentucky for these five locks below Falmouth and two others above Falmouth in 1837 and 1839 were suspended in 1840, and abandoned in 1842.”   Bixby cites the drop of the Licking, at low water, to be 80.6 feet, from Falmouth to the Ohio River, an average of 1.55 feet per mile, but the last three miles before the Ohio counted for 9 feet of the drop.  Bixby is concerned about what he calls the “Three Mile Ripple,” which you can see on his map.  It’s about three miles up the Licking from the Ohio River, near where Kenton County’s Banklick Creek flows into the Licking.   The ultimate reasons Bixby thought the request was inadvisable was:   The proposed number of locks and dams would have to be greater than requested.  His estimate was 10 locks between Falmouth and the Ohio for navigation, and 6 locks and dams above Falmouth, to maintain water supply to the lower Licking in times of low water.

He had reservations about the lock and dam at the Three Mile Ripple because of a proposed dam on the Ohio.  That dam would be between Taylorsport, Kentucky and Saylor Park, Ohio, and would be known as Fernbank.  (Don Prout’s Cincinnati Greetings has all kinds of images of Fernbank, here.)  Bixby reasoned that when Fernbank was built, the Ohio and Licking River waters would back up past the three mile ripple making a dam a hindrance.