Restricted Area Warnings on the Rivers Near Locks and Dams

    The summer season means more boaters out enjoying recreation on the rivers, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Huntington District, is reminding those boaters to use caution when they’re near one of the locks and dams on the Ohio and Kanawha Rivers.

     The areas immediately upstream and downstream of navigation dams have been designated “Restricted Areas.” Accidents have occurred in the past when vessels violated existing regulations and entered those areas. 

     Boaters who enter these areas risk their lives and property and can affect necessary gate operations on the locks and dams.

     When navigating the waterways of the rivers, boaters should be aware of the dangers near the locks and dams. The restricted areas have signs posted that show where potential dangers are located. 

     Near the dams, strong reverse currents are present at the spillways, and whirlpools can also occur. These strong and unpredictable currents on both sides of the dams can cause immediate danger if approached too closely. Currents can rapidly carry a boat over the edge of the dam. Restricted area buoys are located at a safe distance from the area to keep boaters away from danger. 

     Some dams have hydroelectric power plants, and the turbines in the plant increase speed when more electricity is needed. During this time, the current and turbulence become more powerful and can increase the danger around the area.

     Boating near a spillway of a dam is dangerous because if large debris washes over the dam it could suddenly crash into your watercraft. Never anchor near the spillway of a dam because the strong, unpredictable water levels could pull your boat under.

     Even in the summer months, the cold water released during the locking process could send swimmers into shock. Areas and banks near the waterway may be slippery. If you fall into the water near the dam, you may be carried over the dam. The current near the top of the dam is very strong and even the best swimmers may not have the strength to get back to the edge of the water.

      When you navigate the rivers, pay close attention to the warning signs around the lock and dams. Neglecting to do so could result in injury, personal loss of watercraft and even death. Following the signs will keep you out of harm’s way.

      For more information, please contact the Public Affairs Office at 304-399-5353.

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