The Ohio River is an iconic waterway, serving as a vital boundary between several US states. For centuries, its numerous dams have been providing essential services such as supplying drinking water, controlling flooding, and producing hydroelectric power. These structures are quite impressive, with some of the largest located on the river.
There are hundreds of dams scattered across the main stem, plus its tributaries. This article will explore the why, what, and how of these dams as well as 10 interesting facts about the Ohio River. Let’s get started!
List of Dams on the Ohio River
The Ohio River has been an integral part of life and commerce for countless generations throughout its history, serving as a major source of transportation, sustenance, and leisure.
Its many dams are essential for regulating water levels and controlling flooding, but their utility stretches even further: providing clean hydroelectricity for homes, businesses, and factories. Key among them are the following well-known examples:
Constructed in 1891, the Harmar Dam is one of the oldest dams on the river and is located near Marietta, Ohio.
New Cumberland Dam
Located near New Cumberland, West Virginia, this dam was built between 1956 and 1961.
Built in 1959, this dam is located near Hannibal, Ohio.
Constructed in 1965 near the town of Belleville, West Virginia.
Built in 1967, the Montgomery Locks and Dam is located near New Martinsville, West Virginia.
Constructed in 1934, this dam is located near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and regulates water levels between the Allegheny River and the Ohio River.
This dam was built in 1952 near the town of Dashields, Pennsylvania
Built in 1965 near Addyston, Ohio, this dam is used for navigation purposes.
Located near Greenup, Kentucky, this dam was built in 1968.
Constructed in 1959 near Warsaw, Kentucky, the Markland Dam regulates water levels between the Licking River and the Ohio River.
Ohio River Dams Water Levels
The Ohio River is an incredibly important waterway for the region, and its dams play a key role in managing water levels throughout the year. Recently, there has been concern about the current water levels at Ohio River Dams due to extended periods of both wet and dry weather.
The Army Corps of Engineers has been keeping a close eye on these dams as they try to balance safety concerns with providing enough access to the river for recreational activities such as fishing and boating.
Fortunately, thanks to careful monitoring and management, most of these dams have managed to maintain normal operating water levels despite fluctuations in precipitation.
Why Are There Dams on the Ohio River
The Ohio River has long been a vital source of transportation, industry, and entertainment. The dams present on the river serve numerous purposes; they are used to keep flooding at bay, safeguard the banks from erosion and generate hydroelectricity. Additionally, they act as navigational aids, allowing ships to move safely along the waterway.
By controlling water levels, pollutants are prevented from rising too high and damaging the environment. In this way, these dams play an essential role in protecting those living alongside the Ohio River.
Largest Dams on the Ohio River
The mighty Ohio River boasts some of the largest dams in the country, the most renowned of which is the colossal Emsworth Dam near Pittsburgh, PA. Standing at a towering 225 feet, this impressive structure was constructed in 1934 and has a capacity for nearly 300,000 acre-feet of water.
It provides hydroelectric power to local areas, in addition to facilitating recreational activities such as fishing and boating.
The Montgomery Dam near New Martinsville, WV is another magnificent structure on the Ohio River. At 294 feet tall, it was built in 1967 and stores over 200k acre-feet of water for energy production and navigation support.
To defend against flooding, the New Cumberland Dam near New Cumberland, WV was built between 1956 and 1961 and stands over 300 feet tall. Its reservoir is the largest on the river, with a capacity of approx. 350k acre-feet.
Additional substations along the Ohio River include Hannibal Dam near Hannibal, OH; Meldahl Dam near Addyston, OH; Dashields Dam near Pittsburgh, PA; Greenup Dam near Greenup, KY; and Markland Dam near Warsaw, KY. All of these dams are essential for regulating water levels and providing power to nearby communities.
How Many Dams Are on the Ohio River and Its Tributaries?
The Ohio River is a vital part of the United State’s natural resources, and its health is sustained by the 1,518 dams that line its path and those of its tributaries. Of these, 119 are large dams reaching heights of 25 feet or higher, while the remaining 1,399 are smaller structures.
These dams provide a multitude of functions, from flood control to water supply and hydroelectric power generation. Not only that, but they also bring with them the opportunity for recreation- fishing, boating, swimming, and more. The Ohio River is an essential part of our national landscape, and its many dams serve as its backbone.
10 Facts About the Ohio River
- The Ohio River is the largest tributary of the Mississippi River, by volume. It drains a watershed that covers more than 15 states, including Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia.
- The Ohio River is 981 miles long, making it the 15th longest river in the United States.
- The Ohio River was formed by the joining of the Allegheny and Monongahela rivers at Pittsburgh in 1758.
- The river flows from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to Cairo, Illinois where it empties into the Mississippi River.
- The river has been used for transportation since antiquity, with Native Americans using canoes to transport goods on the Ohio River.
- There are more than 60 dams along the length of the river, controlling floods and maintaining navigability.
- The Ohio River is home to a variety of fish species, including largemouth bass, flathead catfish, walleye, and muskellunge.
- Ohio was an important part of the Underground Railroad for escaped slaves in the 19th century.
- The Ohio River Valley was home to many Native American tribes and is full of archaeological sites related to their history.
- Pollution and runoff from agricultural activities have severely degraded water quality in parts of the river, leading to a decrease in aquatic life. To combat this, conservation efforts are underway to restore the river’s quality and health.