Kentucky River Authority logo featuring trees and a river

Historical Information

Kentucky River History

"One of the largest tributaries that feeds into the majestic Ohio, the Kentucky River cuts a swath through the heart of the Bluegrass.  Its 255 miles have formed a living thread that binds the people and places of the state."

William Ellis, The Kentucky River

The Kentucky River has shaped the culture, economy, and identity of towns across the Bluegrass Region for many years.  With the "Main Stem" beginning in Beattyville, the Kentucky River spans northwest 255 miles until reaching the Ohio River near Carrolton and contains fourteen lock and dams.  The Kentucky River has served many purposes, none greater than the creation of the locks and dam system in the 1800's allowing barges to reach the lumber and coal rich region of eastern Kentucky. 

The publication, Kentucky River Development:  The Commonwealth's Waterway, is provided electronically by written permission of one of its authors.  We are sincerely grateful to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for allowing us to make available this publication detailing the history of the Kentucky River and its Locks and Dams.  Since this document was published in 1999, the Commonwealth of Kentucky has taken ownership of Locks and Dams 5 through 14.  Locks and Dams 1 through 4 are now in the process of being transferred to the Commonwealth.

Kentucky River Development: The Commonwealth's Waterway by Leland R. Johnson and Charles E. Parrish

Historical Photos

Locks and Dams