Belle of Louisville paddles through McAlpine Lock

September 23, 2012

Text by Angela Shoemaker/Special to The Courier-Journal

The Belle of Louisville embarked on an unusual sightseeing tour Sunday that included a trip through the McAlpine Locks on the Ohio River near Portland.

Bryan Fouts brought his son Ethan, 12, even though they taken a regular Belle cruise upriver a week earlier. When they found out about the special sightseeing tour, they decided a ride through the locks was too good to pass up.
“It was really great — something I won’t forget,” Fouts said of the four-hour trip, which included lunch.

The lock chamber is 1,200 feet long and 110 feet wide and contains up to 37 million gallonsof water. It can empty or fill in about 20 minutes, raising or lowering a boat about 30 feet, depending on the river’s level.

Chuck Parrish, the former historian of the Louisville District for the Army Corps of Engineers, was on hand to help passengers understand what they were seeing.

“The riverbed along the Falls of the Ohio drops approximately 26 feet in a distance of about 2.5 miles, and was considered the most serious obstacle to navigating the entire length of the river” before the locks were built, he said.

“Because of the Falls of the Ohio and the inability to navigate beyond the falls, that’s literally the reason for Louisville being here today — because of that impediment to navigation.”

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