Lock #10 on the Muskingum River – Zanesville, Ohio - Atlas Obscura

Lock #10 on the Muskingum River

One of the last few period-correct, hand-operated canal locks in the country.  


Lock #10 on the Muskingum River in Zanesville, Ohio, is a place of tranquility and a step back in time. Located at the end of a historic canal, this working double lock still operates as it did when it was built 170 years ago.

The Muskingum River is a roughly 112-mile-long waterway in southeastern Ohio that was once an important corridor for business within the state and beyond. Commercial traffic on the Muskingum has long since faded away, but the river does have a devoted following of fishers and boaters who sail down it from all over the state.

Part of the fun is using the lock system to go (literally) up and down the river. Cruising into Lock #10 is like cruising into a different era, as the lock is still operated totally by hand. The massive doors and valves are cranked open by the lockmaster using a system of gears and levers. It is one of the only systems of its kind still in operation today.

Lock #10’s status as a double lock, with two chambers for raising and lowering boats, makes it unique in the region. The journey through the lock takes about half an hour, with approximately half a million gallons of water displaced by each chamber during the process.

In 1836, the state began building dams and locks on the river to improve its navigability. The dams made the depth of the river more uniform, but necessitated the use of locks to traverse them.

Zanesville’s lockmaster used to live in a house near the lock, and that house still stands on the elongated island between the main course of the river and the canal containing the locks. The house is now only used for storage, but the towpath island is a park where visitors can enjoy shaded picnic areas and speak with the lockmaster. A small shack right next to the lock contains historical information and maps of the area’s waterways.

Know Before You Go

Use of the locks during weekdays from May to October requires 48-hour advance notice, but the lock master should be able to accommodate your request between 9:30 a.m. and 6 p.m. without issue. The lock master is on hand during weekends from 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. As one lock master put it, in that case all you need to do is give a yell. Lock passes are between $15 and $50 for the season, but the site is free to visit by land.

The park with the lock is accessible from Zanesville's distinctive Y-Bridge though it's about a quarter-mile walk through the park to the lock itself. There is closer (on-street) parking at the corner of Hughes and Seventh St. The Pioneer and Historical Society of Muskingum County, with tons of historical information about the area (including its significant Underground Railroad activity), is less than a mile away. 

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August 16, 2018

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