Due to the unusual amount of rain that fell in the month of April, the Muskingum River is higher than normal, full of debris and flowing very swiftly.
Still, Ohio State Parks officials say they are hopeful they'll be able to open the locks along the river on schedule.
"The (U.S. Army) Corps of Engineers is doing a good job maintaining the water levels the way they are but there are a lot of dams north of us holding back water and we will have to see those released and we will see that impact directly," said Mike Jarvis, assistant park manager of the Muskingum River Parkway Blue Rock State Park.
Devola resident Ron Cline, 61, casts his fishing line into the Muskingum River near Devols Dam Wednesday. The system of locks and dams along the river is expected to open May 14.
The Marietta Times
"We're basically waiting for the water to drop to see what we have to contend with," he said.
Devola resident Ron Cline, 61, cast his line into the fast moving water near the Devols Dam Wednesday.
"This is not your typical fishing when the water's like this," he said.
Locks and dams schedule for '11
Spring operating hours: 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays, May 14-22.
Memorial Day weekend hours: 9:30 a.m. to 8 p.m., May 27-30.
Summer operating hours: 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Fridays and Mondays; 9:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays; June 3-Sept. 12.
Free boating weekend: June 10-13 during normal operating hours.
Fourth of July weekend: 9:30 a.m. to 8 p.m., July 1-4.
Labor Day weekend: 9:30 a.m. to 8 p.m., Sept 2-5.
Fall operating hours: 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays, Sept. 17-Oct. 9.
Closed from 2 to 2:30 p.m. each day for lunch.
History of the Muskingum River locks and dams
1833 - The Ohio-Erie Canal opened, connecting Cleveland on Lake Erie with Portsmouth on the Ohio River. This made trade possible, resulting in economic growth and development.
1841 - Eleven locks and dams had been built from Marietta to just south of Dresden at a cost of $1.63 million, opening up the Muskingum River to trade. The dams that kept water flow steady and the hand-operated locks that bypassed the dams allowed boats to travel from Marietta to Zanesville and into the Ohio-Erie Canal year-round.
1880s - The locks and dams were in serious need of repair and state government was ignoring them. Citizens up and down the Muskingum Valley complained they had no rail line and they turned to the waters of the Muskingum River. Citizens successfully lobbied to have the federal government take over the lock and dam system. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers initiated many improvements and repairs.
1913 - The greatest flood in state history wiped out what was left of the canal system and completely knocked out the Muskingum River lock system. It took five years before the locks were opened again.
1918 -The Muskingum River's commercial traffic had just about died due to competition from the trucking industry.
1948 -The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers closed the locks completely, saying the system was not worth repairing.
1958 - A ceremony presided over by Gov. C. William O'Neill, a Marietta native, was conducted in McConnelsville, turning the lock and dam system back over to state government. Despite promises at that time to make repairs, the state took little action and the system continued to deteriorate.
1993 -A study of the lock and dam system showed that if the system is repaired and improvements are made, it could bring $21.6 million in recreational tourist dollars every year to southeast Ohio by 2039.
The owners of the Valley Gem sternwheeler, who have pushed back the start of their season due to the conditions of the water, are also keeping their eyes on the river.
"We were supposed to kick off our public tour season Sunday but the water was a little bit high, so we canceled that trip," said owner J.J. Sands.
According to Jarvis, if all goes as planned, the locks will be opened May 14, with the exception of lock 10 in Zanesville.
"Currently, the lock is closed due to a city storm drain that's been damaged and under construction to be repaired," he said. "Right now, we're playing it day by day to see when that project can be completed."
Jarvis noted that lock 10 will "definitely" be opened at some point this season, and it will most likely open by Memorial Day weekend.
Lock 11 on Ellis Dam Road in Zanesville, which has been closed for several years because it needs to be restored, will continue to be closed this season.
The hand-operated locks along the Muskingum River between Marietta and Zanesville are recognized as one of America's great engineering accomplishments and designated as a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark.
In its heyday, the system of 10 locks and dams, which extends 112 miles, helped open the state and the entire Midwest to trade and development. The different pools of water ensure adequate river depths for navigation. The locks, which are at each dam, allow boats to pass between each pool.
The local river system is the only one in the nation with a series of hand-operated locks still in operation. Today, the locks aren't used much for trade, but they still allow recreational boaters the opportunity to easily move from pool to pool. More than 7,000 recreational boaters pass through the Muskingum River lock system each year.
"We're seeing an increase in paddling groups - it's our fastest growing user group," Jarvis said.
He added that although gas prices are on the rise, he doesn't expect the number of people passing through the locks to decrease drastically. Jarvis said the fees for passing through the locks will be the same as they were last year.
"We anticipate the boat usage through the locks will drop a little bit, but on the other hand, people will be taking advantage of staying close to home and a lot of these big family vacations will be curbed and they'll stay home and utilize the river," he said.
Sands said he also believes high gas prices may result in people enjoying activities closer to home.
"I'm optimistic that instead of people driving 10 to 11 hours to go to the beach they might just take day trips," he said.
Sands said a Mother's Day cruise aboard the Valley Gem scheduled for Sunday is booked, with 98 people planning to attend.
"The bookings for private rentals are very, very strong," Sands added. "They look like they did two years ago, and we had a fantastic year in 2009."