Army Corps to cease lock operations for recreational users in Alabama
Update: Locks on Alabama River will only remain open until October 7. Up-to-today's information about Alabama River Travel is this:
  • River Oaks Bed & Breakfast is not open for business.  
  • The Paradise Point Marina is  rarely to never open.  
  • There are no cabins other than Roland Cooper State Park.  Gas is available by appointment at Millers Ferry.
  • Gas is available at Montgomery Marina.
  • Campgrounds at Gunter Hill, Prairie Creek, Millers Ferry, and Isaac Creek will be open.  
  • The locks will be open until October 7th.

Below: So easy a dog can do it. People and pets paddle through Robert F Henry Lock and Dam on the Alabama River in 2009 near Benton.

Yesterday, on August 28, 2012, I received a memo from the Atlantic Regional Command of the US Army Corps of Engineers. I have been dreading the memo for months; we knew the recent droughts, low levels of commercial river traffic, and especially Corps budget and personnel cuts were going to have an impact on lock usage in the state, but we didn't know what exceptions would be made for powerboaters and kayakers. In thie recently-received memo, our worst fears were well founded. Commercial traffic on the rivers will pass through the locks by appointment only (and since the locks won't operate, no monies will be allocated for dredging the channels, so commercial traffic can't reach the locks, so... you get the picture) and recreational traffic will be banned altogether.

With the stroke of a pen, the rights of public usage that were used as a reason to permit the dams in the first place are now gone, something to tell your granschildren about. Fortunately for paddlers, the Alabama Scenic River Trail worked with the USACE prior to the ASRT's public opening to establish portages around the Millers Ferry, Robert F Henry and Claiborne locks and dams (those portages are detailed at Unfortunately for powerboaters, the footpaths that accomodate kayaks and canoes around these dams will not accept motorized traffic.

The Alabama river is not the only river affected. All Class 6 locks and dam traffic will be curtailed, and this will include the Chattahoochee River. The plans do not affect recreational lockages of the Black Warrior & Tombigbee rivers, at least at this point.  They are still open for lockages 24/7 365 days a year.

Our US Army Corps of Engineers contacts that are local to these problems, those under the Mobile District jurisdiction, seem to think that this is a decision made in Washington and that bypassed public opinion in the areas affected. Would it make a difference if you voiced your opinion? I believe it could. The first and best thing you can do is to let your local and state political leaders know that this is happening. This probably won't be headline news to anyboady but boaters and the fishing public, so you need to send a message upstream that Alabama needs to fight for its rights to our rivers.

Loss of of public access to water, a right that is often obliterated by growth and success, is today in danger of being obliterated by failure. Make it your objective to make one phone call per week and one email per day until this matter at least gets the airing it deserves before this valuable little piece of life in Alabama is gone.

Jim Felder
Executive Director
Alabama Scenic River Trail