Muskingum River (SE)
543 E Riverside Drive
McConnelsville, OH 43756
Contact & Mailing Address
Dillon State Park
5265 Dillon Hills Dr
Nashport, OH 43830
Call or reserve online: 866-644-6727
National Register of Historic Sites
The area has been placed on the National Register of Historic Places and will be recognized as the Muskingum River Navigation Historic District.
The Muskingum River Parkway and its 160-year-old navigation system were designated a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark by the American Society of Civil Engineers in July 2001. Along with such majestic institutions as Hoover Dam, The Empire State Building and the Golden Gate Bridge, the Muskingum River’s 10 hand-operated locks are now recognized as one of America’s great engineering accomplishments.
In its day, the system of locks and dams that extends 112 miles through southeastern Ohio, helped open the state and the entire Midwest to trade and development. Today, it serves the needs of more than 7,000 recreational boaters each year who come to fish, picnic and play in the scenic Muskingum Valley.
A trip on the Muskingum River Parkway is not complete without going through one of the ten locks. These manually-operated locks are similar to those built throughout the United States before the turn of the century. Contact the park office for current fee rates when planning your trip.
When approaching the locks, boats must stay between the red and green buoys which mark the river’s navigable channel. Boats approaching the lock must give a signal of one long whistle blast followed by one short blast at least 800 feet away from the lock. Boats must stay at least 300 to 400 feet clear of the lock until signaled by the lockmaster that they may enter. When entering or departing a lock, speed should be reduced to produce no wake and possible damage to other boats.
After entering the lock, boaters must secure their craft to mooring cables on the lock walls. The lockmaster will assist this procedure. Boaters must stand by to take in or let out the mooring line in relation to the water level. Each boater must provide their own mooring line of at least 75 feet.
The lowering or raising of the pool level will begin only after all lines are secure. By opening the upriver valves, water is allowed to flow slowly into the lock chamber bringing the water and boats up to the required height. When opened, the downriver valves allow the pool level to drop slowly.
After the lock pool has reached the desired level, the lock gate is opened. The lockmaster will signal that all is clear and the pilot may move his boat from the lock. The lockmaster is in complete charge of the operation and control of the locks and may determine the number of watercraft to lock through.
Arrangements to turn the railroad bridge at Zanesville Lock #10 can be made by calling 740-622-7390, or 740-662-0090 if there is no answer.
Nature of the Area
The Muskingum River is formed by the confluence of the Walhonding and Tuscarawas rivers in Coshocton, Ohio. From there, it flows south through Zanesville where it is joined by the Licking River until it eventually drains into the Ohio River at Marietta. This mighty river travels 112 miles in all, traversing the scenic hill country.
The rich floodplains of the Muskingum provide suitable conditions for walnut, elm, cottonwood and sycamore. Dense paw-paw thickets line the banks of the river. A rich diversity of bird life and mammals share the wooded shores. The Muskingum provides a remarkable fishery including catches of huge shovelhead catfish. The mighty Ohio muskellunge was once abundant in the Muskingum and its tributaries, but its population has declined in recent years. A number of rare fish share the waters such as sanddarters, northern madtoms, mooneyes and channel darters. The Muskingum and its tributaries have long supported large and diverse populations of freshwater mussels. Dissolved limestone in the river is used by the mussels in constructing their shells. The Muskingum River system supports the last remaining Ohio populations of mussels such as monkeyface shell, fan shell, Ohio pigtoe and the butterfly shell.
History of the Area
The Muskingum River, because of its size and location, has played an important role in Ohio’s history. Its watershed drains 8,036 square miles, an area equal to one-fifth of the entire state. It remains the longest continually navigable river traversing Ohio, due to the series of locks and dams that date back to 1841.
Missionaries settled along the headwaters of this picturesque river in 1761. The first permanent settlement in Ohio was established in 1788 at Marietta. One of the city’s founders, General Rufus Putnam, recognized the economic potential of the Muskingum River for transporting raw materials to eastern markets and brought in New England shipbuilders. In 1824, steam-powered paddle wheelers joined the flatboat and keelboat traders, generating public support for river navigation.
West Point graduate Major Samuel Curtis designed a system of 10 dams and 11 locks to connect the Muskingum River to the Ohio and Erie Canal at Dresden. Opened in 1841, the system provided navigable waterways from Marietta to Lake Erie.
The area we drain is 5,051 sq. miles, according to an EPA report done last year.
- Ellis Lock #11
- 20 non-electric sites
- Located at 1390 Ellis Dam Road, Zanesville, OH
- Water, picnic tables, fire rings and latrines are provided
- Pets are permitted in this camping area
- Luke Chute Lock #5
- 8 boaters-only, primitive campsites
- Download the Campground map
- It is suggested that prior to departing for a boat trip on the Muskingum River, boaters contact the park office to check on river and lock conditions
- Boats with unlimited horsepower motors, house boats, pontoon boats, canoes and rowboats travel the river
- Public launch ramps are provided at Locks 4, 5, 6, 7 and 11
- Private ramps are located near Locks 2, 7 and 10
- The Muskingum River is navigable from Dresden to Marietta
- However, Lock #11 Ellis is closed until further notice and the river channel from Dresden to Ellis is unmarked and difficult to follow
- Information on navigation charts can be obtained at the parkway office
- Some of the tributaries which empty into the Muskingum River are also navigable for short distances and provide excellent fishing
- The Licking River, which joins the Muskingum River in Zanesville, is navigable only by canoe or rowboat
- Print the lock operating schedule
- Check for water quality advisories
- Boating laws and information
- All three species of black bass (largemouth, smallmouth and spotted), saugeye and various species of catfish swim the river
- Bass are also found in several tributaries
- Fishing is permitted from boats and at each of the lock sites • However, fishing is prohibited from the lock walls
- Valid Ohio fishing license is required
- There are 10 picnic areas with picnic tables, grills, latrines, and drinking water available at most locks except Lock 9 at Philo in Muskingum County
- There is a picnic shelter between Locks 6 and 7 along State Route 376, First-come, First-served
- Visitors are requested to build fires only in the grills provided and to dispose of all litter properly
- Blue Rock State Park and State Forest, east off State Route 60 on Culter Lake Road (CR 45), is between Philo and Rokeby • Camping, fishing, hiking, swimming, boating and picnicking are available
- Approximately 6 miles above the mouth of the Licking is Dillon State Park, off State Route 146 • Campsites, cabins, fishing, hiking, boating, swimming and picnicking are available
- The Wilds, located 17 miles southeast of Zanesville, contains a 9,154-acre wild animal preserve open to the public • Entrance fee required, hours vary by season • For details call 740-638-5030
- For more information on area attractions, visit