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Locking through history at Lock & Dam Park

Lock & Dam Park

The other day, desperate for some outdoor time away from the strictures of social distancing, I decided it was time to gas up the truck and go a-wandering – a little open-road therapy, if you will.

But where to go? How about…say…Lock and Dam Park at Mayo’s Bar on the Coosa River near Rome?

Lock and Dam Park lets you peer back into the late 1800s and early 1900s, a time long before interstate highways and the easy transportation that we take for granted today. Rivers were the interstates of the day, and one of those rivers was the Coosa which flows from Georgia into Alabama.

Back then, the Coosa was a busy thoroughfare carrying barge and riverboat. It made a good highway, too, except for several significant rapids and shoals that blocked the way.

By the late 1800s, those shoals had become such a problem that construction began on a series of locks and dams. One of those projects was constructed at Mayo’s Bar, a serious set of shoals not far from Rome. Construction there began in 1910, and the project was complete and open for business in 1913. The lock and dam remained in operation until 1941.

Today, the lock and dam is the centerpiece of a 73-acre regional park, a site which features a variety of amenities including picnicking, a playground, hiking, a river overlook platform, and of course the remains of the lock itself.

Of course, the star of the show is the old lock. You can walk right out onto it and stand just yards from the spot where boats one rose or fell as the gates were closed and the lock was filled or drained. As you do, it’s easy to imagine long-ago riverboats passing through. Wouldn’t it have been neat to see that?

Want to explore the river yourself? A good starting point is the park’s boat ramp, which offers easy access to the Coosa below the old lock and is a favorite put-in for anglers fishing for crappie, striped bass or white bass.

Years ago, when I taught journalism at Berry College, I got to know a fellow in the math department who enjoyed fishing as much as I did. That was good, particularly because he had a boat! In the spring, during those magic weeks in March and April when the white bass are making their annual run up the river from Lake Weiss, we would make the short drive from the school to the park and then launch his boat and fish the river below the lock and dam. On every trip, we confirmed that the Coosa River below the old lock is one of Georgia’s best white bass fisheries.

Those were good times, with no pandemics to mess things up. But pandemics don’t last forever, and I remind myself that there will again come a time for fishing with friends on the river.

Meanwhile, I’ll just have to go it alone. Maybe, once spring rolls around, I’ll toss the tent in the truck and head Romeward again and spend a few days here – especially once the white bass run gets going. Maybe I’ll camp in the Lock & Dam Park campground, which offers more than 30 RV-ready campsites with water, power picnic tables and grills.

That sounds like it could be fun — and some pretty good therapy in these interesting times.

Lock & Dam Park is located at 181 Lock and Dam Rd SW,

Rome, GA. There is a $2 daily parking fee and a $3 feel to launch a boat. Check with the park for camping rates and availability. For more info, contact the park at (706) 234-5001.