Pre-1800 - 1800s - 1900s - 1920s - 1930s - 1940s - 1950s

- 1960s - 1970s - 1980s - 1990s


1540 Spanish explorer De Soto traveled the length of the Coosa and at least part of the Alabama River
1650 – 1763 French and English navigated the Alabama, Coosa, and Tallapoosa seeking to dominate trade with Indians and European outposts
1717 Fort Toulouse built by French near confluence of Coosa and Tallapoosa
1763 Treaty of Paris ceded ACT Basin territories to England
1775 First settlers, other than trappers and traders, arrived
1775 – 1783 England, Spain, and the American colonies contended for control of area
1783 English influence waned after defeat by colonists
1795 Spain surrendered claims to Americas
1795 – 1840 Increased population demanded more supplies and goods

  • Flatboats ferried goods over rapids and obstructions of Coosa
  • Traffic tended to be southbound only


1819 Alabama entered the Union
1821 Steamboat Harriet made first trip from Mobile to Montgomery
1823 Alabama Legislature established The Coosa Navigation Company

  • To improve the communication between waters of Tennessee and Alabama
  • Congress approved the idea, but never funded it
1826 Congress appropriates $10,000 for improvements to Mobile Harbor
1827 Corps of Engineers made first survey of Coosa “to improve the navigation” and “its connection with the Tennessee waters.”
1842 First steamboat on the Upper Coosa

  • Major trade between Rome, Georgia, and the Gadsden-Greensport area of Alabama
  • Rapids and rocks prevented steamboat travel on Lower Coosa
1864 Captain Cummins Lay piloted steamer Laura Moore across rapids of Lower Coosa at high water to Mobile in escape from Union forces at Rome

  • First and only time a boat of that size had made that journey
1865 – 1900 Steamboat traffic is impacted due to rail and road improvements

  • River traffic still heavy, but all movement on the Upper Coosa is into Georgia
1866 Captain Cummins Lay piloted Laura Moore from Wetumpka through rapids and shoals of Lower Coosa to Greensport and on to Rome

  • First and only pilot to make that trip in a steamer
1867 State Legislature authorized a survey of the Coosa from the state line to Wetumpka to determine if the river could be made navigable

  • Recommendation: 25 ten-foot high dams and 25 locks, each 210 feet long and 25 feet wide
  • Plan never materialized
1870 – 1872 Federal survey of Coosa recommended 31 low-lift dams

  • Suggested modifying existing 2.5 ft channel to 3.0 ft
  • Subsequently changed to a 4.0 ft channel
1871 Survey of potential 50-mile canal, five feet deep, between Guntersville and Gadsden kept dream alive of a connection with the Tennessee River

  • In 1873, economic depression ended this dream
1875 Revised Alabama Constitution prohibited state from making internal improvements of any kind, including to the locks and dams
1876 Rivers and Harbors Act commited to build dams and a four-foot channel from Rome to Wetumpka

  • Authorized construction of locks and dams at sites 1, 2, and 3 and lock at Wetumpka
1877 – 1880 Improvements to Upper Coosa between Rome and Greensport improved commercial traffic
1878 4-foot channel in Alabama River from mouth to Wetumpka authorized
1879 Congress approved construction of dams and locks 1, 2, and 3 below Greensport
1886 Locks 1,2, and 3 essentially completed

Dam near Riverside, Alabama completed

1887 Convention in Montgomery to organize efforts for continued Congressional support of navigation on the Coosa and Alabama Rivers. William Patrick Lay conceived idea of harnessing water flow to produce electricity
1890 Coosa-Alabama River Improvement Association founded in Gadsden

  • Objective to pursue further Federal funding
  • William Patrick Lay elected President

Locks 1,2, and 3 opened to navigation

Federal government approved $300,000 for work on Coosa, including Lock 31 at Wetumpka

1891 Work began on walls, floor, and sills of Wetumpka Lock 31
1892 Lock 4 completed.
1896 Wetumpka Lock 31 walls finished, but work halted until upstream navigation channel can be assured

  • Never completed

6-foot channel authorized for Alabama River

1899 William Patrick Lay publishes a memorial for construction of high dams to provide navigation and hydropower on Coosa


1905 Federal Board of Engineers declared cost of building proposed locks and dams on Coosa did not justify the investment
1906 William Patrick Lay founded the Alabama Power Company in Gadsden with $5000 in capital
1907 Federal authorization to build first high power dam at site of Lock 12
1909 – 1910 Corps of Engineers survey recommended construction of high dams to improve navigation, develop potential water power, and exact measures of flood control
1910 – 1914 Alabama Power Company constructed first dam at site of Lock 12 near Clanton
1910 Mayo’s Bar Lock near Rome, Georgia authorized

A lock in the Riverside Dam, another dam near Riverside authorized

1913 Mayo’s Bar Lock completed
1914 Lock at existing Riverside Dam completed
1921 Construction began on dam at Duncan’s Riffle near Verbena (Named Mitchell Dam)
1923 Mitchell Dam completed near Verbena

Construction began on dam at Cherokee Bluff near Dadeville (Named Martin Dam)

Alabama Legislature established State Docks Commission

1924 Work began on improving Mobile Docks
1926 Martin Dam completed near Dadeville

Work began on dam atop Devil’s Staircase near Wetumpka (later named Jordan Dam)

1927 Construction began on Yates Dam on the Tallapoosa at the site of the first hydroelectric generating plant supplying electricity to MontgomeryFirst steamship vessel to use Mobile State Docks arrived
1928 Jordan Dam completed near Wetumpka

Work began on Thurlow Dam at the site of an old textile mill on the Tallapoosa

1929 Dam at lock 12 named in honor of William Patrick Lay
1930 Thurlow Dam completed near Tallassee
1934 Corps of Engineers report recommended a system of locks and dams on the Alabama River and on the Coosa River above existing dams

  • Locks around existing dams on Coosa
  • A 9-foot channel from Mobile to Rome, Georgia
  • Coordination of navigation, flood control, hydroelectric power, and any other use of benefit.
1941 Flood Control Act authorizes construction of Allatoona Dam and Reservoir
1945 Rivers and Harbors Act authorized development of Coosa and Alabama Rivers for navigation, flood control, power development
1950 Allatoona Dam completed
1954 Public Law 436

  • Suspended authorization for Federal development of hydropower on Coosa River
  • Authorized Alabama Power Company to construct a series of dams on Coosa River for purpose of generating hydropower
  • Provided for future economic construction of navigation facilities by the Federal government
1955 Coosa-Alabama River Improvement Association incorporated in Montgomery
1958 Alabama Power Company began construction of dam at Leesburg, near Centre in Cherokee County (Later named Weiss Dam)
1960 House Document 320, 86th Congress

  • COE plan for Coosa River navigation
  • Calls for 9 ft x 150 ft channel from Wetumpka to Rome, Georgia, locks around each Alabama Power Company dam, and bridge clearance of 150 ft horizontally, and 35 ft vertically

Alabama Power Company began construction of dam near Vincent (Later named Logan Martin Dam)

1961 Weiss Dam completed
1962 Alabama Power Company began construction of dam at site of old lock 3, just below Greensport (Later named H. Neely Henry Dam)Federal government began construction of Carters Lake Dam
1963 Alabama Power Company began construction on Walter Bouldin Dam on a canal between Jordan Reservoir and
the Coosa below WetumpkaFederal government began construction of Miller’s Ferry Lock and Dam near Camden
1964 Logan Martin Dam completed
1965 Appalachian Report – Among other things, did the following

  • Shifted Coosa navigation channel from Jordan Dam to Bouldin Dam
  • Raised vertical clearance for bridges to 42.5 ft
  • Cited benefits of 1.1 to 1 and, if regional benefits included, 2.3 to 1
  • Report never submitted to Congress or President

Federal government began construction of Claiborne Lock and Dam in Monroe County

1966 H. Neely Henry Dam completed

Federal government began construction of Jones Bluff Lock and Dam

1967 Walter Bouldin Dam completed

Alabama Power redevelopment of Lay Dam raised reservoir by 14 feet

1969 Claiborne Lock and Millers Ferry Lock opened to navigation
1970 Hydroelectric power first generated at Millers Ferry
1972 Jones Bluff Lock opened to navigation
1973 Economic Restudy of Coosa Navigation Project

  • Benefits/Cost ratio of Montgomery-Gadsden leg recomputed at 0.95 to 1 and, with regional benefits, 1.1 to 1.
  • COE indicated general data used was not conclusive.
1974 Alabama Power began construction of Harris Dam near Lineville
1975 Dike at Bouldin Dam breaks and powerhouse floodedHydroelectric power first generated at Jones Bluff
1977 Revised Economic Study

  • Benefits/Cost ratio revised to 0.46 to 1, including regional benefits

Carters Lake Dam completed

1980 Walter Bouldin power generation back on line
1982 Jones Bluff Lock and Dam renamed in honor of Robert F. Henry, Sr.
1983 Congress placed Coosa Navigation Project on indefinite hold

  • Benefits did not justify costs
  • Competing development projects did not allow project funding

Harris Dam completed

1985 Congress authorized deepening of Mobile Bay Channel to 55 feet, but channel remains at 45 feet
1986 Congress modified Coosa River Navigation Project (Montgomery to Gadsden) to allow planning, engineering, and design only
1989 Corps of Engineers drew up plans to divert water from North Georgia sources (including the Etowah River) to the Atlanta area to meet growing metropolitan needs
1990 State of Alabama sued Corps of Engineers to stop diversion of water to Atlanta pending analysis of water resource demands and supply
1991 By executive order, governor established the Alabama Office of Water Resources
1992 Congress authorized a joint study of water resources in Georgia, Alabama, and Florida
1993 Alabama Water Resources Act officially established Office of Water Resources
1997 States of Alabama, Georgia, and Florida approve Interstate Water Compact to work toward shared use of water resources