Upper Mississippi River 9-Foot Channel Project, Lock & Dam 26, Alton, Madison County, IL
Significance: The Upper Mississippi River Nine-Foot Channel Project represents one of the largest and most ambitious river improvement projects ever constructed in the United States. The project's origins date to the 1920s and the efforts of Upper Midwest commercial interests to improve their access to markets. During the early years of the Great Depression, the project became transformed into a massive public works program intended to relieve local and regional unemployment. The locks and dams that comprise the project constitute seminal developments in the technological history of American river navigation projects. The project pioneered the use of non-navigable movable dams in the United States. Designers and engineers from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers committed themselves to a foreign technology, by their decision to incorporate roller gates into the majority of the project's dams and, more importantly, developed new and improved versions of the simpler and more reliable Tainter gate at such a rapid rate that, by the end of the 1930s, roller gates had become a passé' technology. The successful completion of the Nine-Foot Channel Project transformed the Upper Mississippi River into an intra-continental canal, providing a fully navigable interior river system throughout the Midwest. The project significantly altered the environment of the Upper Mississippi, but it also served as an impetus for the improvement of drinking water and sewage disposal systems in towns and cities located along the river. Additionally, the project provided new recreational opportunities to the general public.
Survey number: HAER IL-31
Building/structure dates: 1938 Initial Construction