This is the latest stop in the series 101 Things To Do. We took a break from weekly stops due to the pandemic, but we will highlight outdoor activities that don't conflict with health and safety recommendations.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers operates locks and dams up and down the Mississippi River. Two are within a short drive.
The visitor viewing platforms at U.S. Lock & Dam No. 2 in Hastings and No. 3 near Red Wing are open to the public, but the lock and dam offices and grounds are gated and restricted.
From the visitor platforms, it is easy to watch as pleasure craft or barges approach and enter the locks. Depending on the size of the boats and their timing, one or more boats may enter the chamber at a time.
Boats use the same lock whether going upstream or downstream and traffic continues 24 hours a day from mid-March to the beginning of December, according to Tim Tabery, lockmaster at U.S. Lock & Dam No. 3.
The amount of time to fill or drain a lock depends on the difference in depth above and below the lock and dam. For pleasure boats, it usually takes about 10 minutes, but for a barge it may take as much as two hours to move through the lock.
Tabery explained that a series of tunnels allows water to drain into or out of the lock chamber.
“If we are dropping, we close the upper valves and open up the lower valves,” Tabery said. “There are tunnels all the way up and down and the water goes through these tunnels, one on each side, and it discharges on the lower end. It is gravity fed. It is like pulling the plug on a bathtub.”
If you go...
Name: U.S. Lock & Dam No. 2
Address: 1350 Dam Road Hastings, MN 55033-1145
Directions: Lock and Dam 2 is just upstream from the bridge near downtown Hastings. Signs on Second Street West direct visitors to Lock and Dam Road, which leads directly to the parking area. From the parking area, the visitor platform is visible and a very short walk away.
Name: U.S. Lock & Dam No. 3
Address: 4330 Lock & Dam Road, Welch, MN 55089-9644
Directions: From Red Wing, drive northwest on Highway 61 to Goodhue County Road 18. Turn right and head north to Sturgeon Lake Road. Turn east and drive past Treasure Island Resort & Casino and continue south past the Prairie Island nuclear plant to the end of the road.
From Hastings, go south on Highway 316 to County Road 18 to Sturgeon Lake Road and follow the above directions past Treasure Island.
At the end of the road is a large parking lot with restrooms. Walk toward the main gate and on the right side of the main gate is a path leading to the visitor platform.