I Found Lock 38!

Those of you following along on this little adventure probably remember that it was a nearby geocache that got me wondering about locks from the Miami Erie Canal that might be in the area.   After a bit of searching, I learned that while the cement structure I spotted on that geocache hunt wasn’t a lock, there was, or perhaps is, a lock nearby.   That would be Lock 38 located in the long gone town of Rialto.  You can read my first post about it here.

I decided that when I was in the area again with a few minutes to explore, I would see if I could locate the remains of the lock.  As luck would have it, I had need to visit a consulting client in West Chester today.  Having finished with plenty of daylight left, I decided it was time for a bit of exploring.

From my research using the original plat maps from the canal and comparing that to present day maps of the area, I learned that the canal followed what is now Port Union Rialto Rd.  Specifically that the road was probably built on the tow path.   According to the plat maps, the lock appeared to be in the area where the canal turned from flowing south east to due south at about the area of what is now the intersection of Port Union Rialto Rd and Rialto Rd.

Since I was less than a mile from that point, I headed that way.   As I reached the intersection I rode slowly, looking around and hoping to catch a glimpse of the cement structure.   Based on a picture I had seen of the lock from the 80’s, I expected the lock to be overgrown in the woods.


Rolling through the intersection, I looked left and damn near wrecked the wing.  Rolling over a culvert, I could see that what I though was a culvert, was really the remains of the canal and 50 yards down a gravel drive was the massive lock.

Not only was it not overgrown, the current owners of the property have obviously made an effort to preserve the remains of the lock.   It is clean and clear of debris and the vegetation around the lock is obviously maintained.    The historical inventory mentioned in my previous post reports that the house near the lock is actually the lock-keepers house.   I don’t know if this is true, but it appears that it could be of the proper vintage.   I spent more time looking at the lock proper.

According to the historical inventory, the east wall of the lock is on private property, which is where the gravel drive is.  The west wall is still owned by the state.   I headed down the gravel drive and immediately headed for the house to see if they’d mind if I looked around and took some pictures.  Unfortunately no one answered the door.   I did take a few pictures, featured below, but I didn’t stay long.   At some point in the future, I’ll go back for permission and do a more detailed photo essay.

If all of this wasn’t amazing enough, moments after I arrived, a minivan with several occupants pulled down the gravel drive behind me.   Imagine my surprise when I learned that it was several volunteers from the Cincinnati Museum Center who were also looking for the lock.   If I understood them correctly, they are working on a education program on the canal which apparently includes a tour.

I told them the whole story about my exploits, research and interest in the canal system.   They want me to volunteer for the Museum Center.  Imagine that!   Not sure I have time for it, but it would be cool to do some lectures.  🙂  I guess we’ll see how that plays out.

For those of you that know what a GPX file is and what to do with it, you can download a GPX with the lock waypoint in it here.  Note that you’ll want to right-click and save-as.  Chances are, your browser isn’t going to know what to do with a GPX.

Lastly, remember:  this lock is at least partially on private property.  If you decide to visit, make sure you have permission before you go tromping around in their front yard.

Enjoy the pictures!

[Not a valid template]

Miami Erie Canal Lock 38

One of the things I love about geocaching is that so many of them are hidden in areas of historical interest.  Earlier today I made a visit to a geocache on a bike trail that was constructed on the tow path for the Miami Erie Canal.  This particular cache is in West Chester, near the locations of the old towns of Rialto and Port Union.  You can read the write-up on this cache here.

One of the things I noticed while walking along the path were the remains of a cement stucture to the south at the point where what is now a creek crosses the remains of the canal and the towpath.   The cement structure appeared old enough and of the relative size and shape to have been part of a canal lock, leading me to wonder if in fact it was.

After doing some research, I learned that in fact, lock #38 was in the area.  Unfortunately for my speculation though, it appears that lock 38 was actually in the area that once was Rialto and based on map features, was probably in the area near where Port Union Rialto and Rialto Road meet.   Here’s a map of the area if you’re curious.  I’m basing my assessment on a review of the original canal plat maps I found on a DNR site.  I’ve saved the map that covers that area, but it’s a bit big to put up here.

So, being interested in such things as canals and canal locks, I did a bit of research on lock 38.  Apparently, based on this picture and information, the remains of the lock are still visible at least as of 1983.  I’m sure you can guess what comes next!  I’m planning on doing some exploration to see if perhaps the remains are still visible and accessible.  I’ll report back when I do, with pictures of course!  Wouldn’t that be a cool place to put a geocache?

So, what of my cement structure?  I don’t know.  Based on the plat maps, the structure I found is northwest of what was Port Union and probably corresponds with some canal features on the map I haven’t figured out yet.  It isn’t a lock however.   For the moment, that is still a mystery.   Perhaps, when I go seek lock 38, I might make a side trip and wade in the creek for a closer look at this structure too.


Hot-diggity 🙂   With a bit more research, I found that the lock shows up on a “historic inventory” of Union Township.  The good news is, since it’s on such a list, it would have been on the radar for protection in the event of development in the area.  Further, the site links to the actual form that was filled out when the inventory was conducted.  Pretty cool!  The form also confirms the location I suspected.  Field trip!