Category Archives: History

History – Florence Barge Canals

While doing a little research at the library this week I ran across some history about Pickwick and the canal systems.

Before TVA took over the operations of the Tennessee River there were canals all up and down the river from Florence because of the Mussel Shoals also called Muscle Shoals. These were not navigational sections of the river because of the low water over these rocks and the rapid descent of this portion of the river.

After the dam was built and the shoals inundated there were a series of canals that were built up to Wilson Dam. When the original two stage lock was built the original canal shown in light blue below was used to get to the locks. But after the start of construction on the new larger single lift lock the canal was rerouted up to the original lock.

In the above photo you can see the all three canals that were used during the new lock construction. The canal colored yellow above is now closed on both ends and is in the middle of Patton Island. The one in blue is now the location of the Florence Port or what we called Fuzzy Feeds canal.In the above photo you can see where the canals were dammed off and the other canals rerouted.Here you can see a photo of all three of the canals in this aerial view photo. You can also see the construction of the new larger and longer single lift lock.

In this photo you can see where Dam #1 was located and also the new existing canal. If you notice you can see the old swing railroad bridge that was used for the trains crossing the river into Florence from Colbert County.

In this photo you can see that the Dam #1 was removed and the existing lift canal is still in place.

 In this final photo you can see that the swing bridge was replaced with the lift bridge for the railroads. This bridge was also removed and all railroad traffic was stopped crossing the river into Florence.

Wheeler Dam Locks

In this blog I’ll give you a little history about the locks at Wheeler Dam located on the Tennessee River.

This a photo of Lock #2 which is located above Wheeler Dam, which was part of the original canal system that ran from lock #1 at the mouth of First Creek all the way to the Riverton Lock at Waterloo. The above lock at the mouth of Second Creek is now under about 40’ feet of water.

Lock #1

Located two miles above Wheeler Dam, now submerged in about 45′ of water.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

The lock is located about 50 yards out from the mouth of first Creek in about 45 feet of water.  The GPS coordinates if you would like to look at it with your Side Image or Down Image units is N034.48.734 – W087.20.799.

The original lock at Wheeler Dam was started about 6 months prior to the forming of the Tennessee Valley Authority in 1933. The project was completed in 1936 and stood until the collapse in 1961.

In this photo you can see an old paddle boat going through the lock at Wheeler dam.

Collapse – June 2, 1961

History – Back in 1961 the original lock at Wheeler Dam had a structural failure. The side wall collapsed killing two people. The Corp of Engineers was in the process of constructing the new larger lift lock that is now in place. There was almost daily blasting to remove the side walls and to get down to the bedrock. Almost immediately after the failure the Corp got into high gear as all barge traffic on the Tennessee River came to a halt.In this photo you can see where the wall collapsed and you can also see where water from Wheeler Lake is rushing in through the lift gate. There was also flooding into the construction area where the Corps of Engineers were blasting for the new lift lock.

In this aerial view that was taken 5 weeks later you can see the full damage side wall collapse.

During construction some barge traffic was continued as you can see in this photo by unloading from below the dam onto barges on the up river side of the dam. This is a grain barge unloading it’s cargo of about forty five feet.

Photo of the down river view entering the new lock at Wheeler Dam, you can see the old original lock on the right after repairs.