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The Kentucky River Museum is located in Boonesborough, Kentucky, in Fort Boonesborough State Park. Established in 2002, the museum occupies the former lock operator's home and storage and maintenance building for Lock 10, one of fourteen locks on the Kentucky River which were originally built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The ten uppermost ones (locks 5 through 14) are now operated by the Kentucky River Authority. Open April 1 thru October 31 daily 9am-5pm. Admission for the Kentucky River Museum is included with the fort admission.

  • Kentucky River Museum
  • Lock #10 at Ft. Boonesborough.
  • Corps of Engineers photo of lock.

Between 1836 and 1917 a slackwater navagation system of 14 locks and dams was built on the Kentucky River. The Commonwealth of Kentucky constructed the first five, from Carrollton to above Clifton and operated them until after the Civil War. The navigation was federalized in 1880 and The United States Army Corps of Engineers added nine more locks and dams, extending the network to Heidelburg near the confluence of the Three Forks at Beattyville.

In 1836 few engineering projects this large and this difficult had been attempted in America. It was completed over 80 years and cost over 5 million dollars for the construction alone. The railroads overtook river travel and the project was obsolete even before it was completetd but continued to operate into the 20th century. In 1986 the Corp of Engineers began to pass ownership to the Commonwealth of Kentucky. When Lock No. 10 came under the Commonwealth’s ownership in 1996 the lock buildings (called a reservation) were restored.

The museum includes copies of the log book kept by the lockmasters. It includes a daily look at the weather and the boats and travelers that came through the locks.

Today when you visit the River Museum you can see the restored buildings, learn about the rivers lock and dam system and view the restored house of the Walters family. John Walter came to work as a laborer here in 1906. He subsequently became a lockman then lockmaster as did his son John, Jr. The Walters family resided here from 1906 until John Jr. retired in 1975. 1

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