As volunteers for the USACE we had the opportunity to visit Lock and Dam No. 8 in Genoa, WI. This was one of the first time I toured a Mississippi lock and dam from the land side.
Thirty years ago, I spent many summer weekends on the Mississippi traveling through the locks on a pleasure craft with my family. We would put in at the Camden boat launch in North Minneapolis and travel through five locks to Red Wing, MN.
The biggest difference from the view on land was the signage. In my mind, I recalled large signs on the river as we approached the lock and dam with dire warning about the dangers, but when I asked the lock and dam operators about the location of the warning sign, she pointed to the triangle with a cross.
I was told they also have bouys with markers located upstream and down of the dam and the symbol is from the U.S. Aids to Navigation System.
Orange double triangles or maybe it’s a diamond with a cross through the middle…no matter what the symbol is – it does not seem ominous or life threatening to me.
But of course this is a symbol of danger. In 2017 according to the US Coast Guard statistics there were 15 accidents and 11 deaths recorded at locks and dams.
The other item which caught my eye was the yellow blocks suspended above the roller gates. If someone was being swept towards the dams they could grab onto the yellow block before their boat got sucked under.
I did ask if anyone had drowned at Lock and Dam No. 8, but I forgot to ask if anyone had ever survived because they had grab the lifeline.
Unfortunately, the answer to loss of life was yes .
The dam portion of the structure has five roller gates and ten tainter gates positioned in between concrete piers. The purpose of the dams is to maintain the 9-foot deep navigational channel. The roller or the gates are positioned to either restrict the water flow near the top of the river or to increase the flow. The amount the gates are lowered or raised is determined by the dept of water in the navigational channel.
The mechanical wheel used to raise or lower the gate to create the water pools during periods of low and moderate water level.
The locks and dams on the Mississippi River are one of the many reasons I enjoy spending time on or near the water way. And someday, I hope to travel down the Mississippi through the locks on a paddle wheel boat.