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The Kentucky River Museum, located within Fort Boonesborough State Park, preserves the history of Kentucky's early river navigation system. Between 1836 and 1917, 14 locks and dams were built along the Kentucky River; this was one of the most complicated engineering projects to have been attempted in the United States at the time. The museum also includes the John Walter House, the home of a former lock operator.


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

The Commonwealth of Kentucky began construction on what would eventually be a system of fourteen locks and dams along the Kentucky River in 1836. The commonwealth oversaw the construction of the first five, and the project was taken over by The United States Army Corps of Engineers in 1880. By the project's completion in 1917, the slack-water navigation system had become nearly obsolete, as rail travel had nearly replaced river travel. Despite this, the river system continued operation into the 20th century. The Corps of Engineers began to pass ownership of the system over to the commonwealth in 1986; in 1996, restorations of the individual buildings began.

The Kentucky River Museum, opened in 2002, seeks to preserve the history of Kentucky's river navigation. The museum includes restored lock buildings as well as the restored home of John Walter, former lockmaster. The John Walter House serves as a living history museum, showing life on the river in the late 19th century.

The River Museum, Fort Boonesborough Living History. Accessed November 12th 2020. http://www.fortboonesboroughlivinghistory.org/html/river_museum.html.