Visitors Guide to
Lock and Dam No. 19
Keokuk Riverfront
Keokuk, Iowa
319-524-6363

Accessible Parking Accessible Iowa Historical Site Accessible Scenic View Accessible Wildlife Viewing

Keokuk is located at the site of the Des Moines Rapids. These rapids were 12 miles long and according to records had an average depth of less than 3 feet. The Des Moines Rapids comprised the first major obstacle to river traffic on the Upper Mississippi River since they were first scouted by the U.S. Army explorer Lt. Zebulon Pike in 1805. A number of different methods were use to circumvent the rapids beginning with a small fleet of keelboats that were used for “lightering,” where goods and passengers were transferred from steamboats to these smaller boats for carrying over the rapids. In 1866, Congress authorized the improvement of the rapids at Keokuk and Rock Island. Pressure by Keokuk city leaders resulted in a design for a 7.6 mile canal that would run parallel to the Mississippi. In 1877 the canal was opened providing unrestricted navigation.

In 1905 the U.S. Congress passed a bill granting the Keokuk and Hamilton Water Power Company the right to dam the river and construct a hydro-electric plant at the foot of the rapids and to build a new lock and dry dock to replace the canal which had become too small to handle the newer boats of the day. Construction on Lock and Dam No. 19 was started in 1910 and completed in 1913 with the cost being borne by the power company. The Keokuk Power House was the largest capacity, single powerhouse electricity generating plant in the world. The power house provided electricity for Keokuk and cities as far away as St. Louis. The power house also attracted a lot of industry to the Keokuk area.

In 1957, the lock was replaced and upgraded to measure 1,200 feet by 110 feet at a cost of 13.5 million dollars. The lock and dam obliterated the Des Moines Rapids and created Lake Cooper, named after Hugh L. Cooper, the designer of the Keokuk Dam. Lake Cooper is the largest pool in the series of dams with 240 miles of shoreline. With a 38 feet (11.6 m) difference between the normal pool above and below the dam, the lock has the highest "step" in the stairway of the Rock Island District locks and dams. Lock and Dam #19 is owned and operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The power house is owned and operated by AmerenUE, a privately owned utility company. The facility was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 2004.

Lock and Dam No. 19 is an excellent spot to look for Bald Eagles because the facility keeps the water free of ice and allows the eagles to hunt for fish.

Visiting Lock and Dam No. 19
Lock and Dam No. 19, as well as the rest of the river, can be viewed from a distance on the Observation Deck of the Keokuk Rail Bridge.
     Visiting Hours
          The Lock and Dam No. 19 can be viewed daily from dawn to dusk.
There is no charge to visit Lock and Dam No. 19.


Location: Lock and Dam No. 19 is located along Keokuk's riverfront. To reach the Observation deck from Main Street (US-136, US-218) in downtown Keokuk take N. 1st Street to Blondeau Street. Take Blondeau Street to N. Water Street. Parking for the observation Deck will be at the end of the old bridge and just north of the new bridge.


Regional Locks and Dams - Get more information on the Locks and Dams in the Middle Mississippi River Valley from Lock and Dam No.19 in Keokuk, Iowa to and Lock and Dam No. 27 in Granite City, Illinois just north of St. Louis.

Learn more about the Keokuk area.

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