Pickwick Lock

Nashville District
Published Jan. 11, 2024

Pickwick Navigation Lock

Pickwick Lock is approximately 12 miles south of Savannah, Tennessee.  It is just north of the Mississippi state line.

Located at Tennessee  River mile 206.7, it is 52.7 miles below Wilson Lock and 184.7 miles above Kentucky Lock.

Navigation in the Muscle Shoals

The area called Muscle Shoals extended from Elk River to Florence, Alabama and featured a series of rapids, islands, reefs, and bars.  It divided the Tennessee River into two sections and presented the single greatest obstacle to river navigation. 
In 1827, Congress authorized a survey of Muscle Shoals.  A canal was begun around the Big Shoals in 1830, but it could not overcome the many obstacles which made its operation impractical.  This was a pattern followed by many later projects.
Another canal was opened in 1890 by Capt. George W. Goethals, builder of the Panama Canal.  It included Riverton Lock, a 26-foot lift over Colbert Shoals.  In Spite of the lock being the highest ever built up to that point, towboats still could not negotiate the area safely.
Tennessee Canal was to be the first canal around Big Muscle Shoals.  It was 14.5 miles, 60 feet wide, and 6 feet deep. It contained 17 locks and cost $644,594.71.  It's construction was abandoned in 1837 due to lack of funding.
The second canal around Big Muscle Shoals was 14.5 miles long also.  It had 9 locks and a total lift capacity of 85 feet.  The system included another canal at Elk River Shoals and a navigation channel at Little Muscle Shoals.  The Elk River Canal was 1.5 miles long.  It had 2 locks and a total lift of 23 feet.  The entire project cost was $3,191,726.50.
Railways established routes around the shoals to provide shippers of produce located above the shoals with access to the Mississippi Valley.  These connections helped provide transportation variety.
After the creation of TVA, the Corps of Engineers plan to develop the Tennessee as one river system was carried out.  The Pickwick project , along with Wheeler and Wilson, eliminated the dangers of the shoals from river navigation.

Lock History

Construction on the first lock was completed in 1937 by TVA. They completed a new, larger lock and put it into operation in July 1984.

(Go to the Tennessee Valley Authority Pickwick Reservoir web page for more information about this project)