McAlpine Locks and Dam- Falls of the Ohio


McAlpine Locks and Dam Learn about McAlpine Locks and Dam near Falls of the Ohio

Some of this information may have changed since this review is a few years old. Also, during spring/summer 2020 – some of this may not be open. 

Last summer my family ventured over to Portland to find the McAlpine Locks and Dam at the Falls of the Ohio. I didn’t realize this area was federal property and has a park with a really cool bridge taking you over the locks and the small part of the Ohio River there. We drove over the bridge and realized we were near the Locks but not quite where I had heard you could walk around. Finally, we drove back over and noticed the brown sign pointing us toward the Visitor area. Here we parked our car and started to explore.

There is a lot of history surrounding the McAlpine Locks and Dam at the Falls of the Ohio.

The first canals and locks were built by the Louisville and Portland Canal Company between 1825 and 1830. Basically, they were built because of the natural condition of the Falls of the Ohio being an obstruction for Ohio River navigation. When you arrive at the pathway leading to the overlook, you can pick up a brochure detailing the complete history of McAlpine Locks. There are several recorded audio message kiosks you can listen to that go through several decades of years of the history. It’s a self guided tour and is perfect for older children who really want to hone in on the history lessons of this area.

My family and I were completely fascinated by the McAlpine Locks and Dam!

Although it’s possible to see barge tows passing through the locks, we did not see any. The structure is enormous and breathtaking to look at. I suggest discussing with your children the magnitude of it being built. The brochure has nice photos and it serves as a souvenir of your visit! We listened to the audio messages throughout the outdoor interpretive center and learned so much together. Next, we walked around the pavilion and spent time just looking and hoping to see some barges! The locks and dam are operated 24 hours a day, 365 days a year! Then, we went to the picnic area to see historical markers and statues and other art pieces.

Spend the day at the Locks

There are picnic tables scattered throughout the park-like area of the interpretive center. You could possibly bring a snack or light lunch and spend a couple of hours here. You could also spend time nearby at Falls of the Ohio National Wildlife and Conservation Area. The public fishing area is accessible from the fixed span high McAlpine Bridge. However, the rest of the property is strictly off limits to the public.

The McAlpine Locks and Dam Visitor Area is located at 805 North 27th Street, Louisville, KY 40212. Directions: from I-64 West from downtown, take the 22nd Street Exit for Portland. At the bottom of the ramp, turn right onto Northwestern Parkway. Head straight and turn right onto 27th Street. Look for 27th Street, and turn right about 5 or 6 blocks up. You will see a brown metal sign that says “McAlpine Locks and Dam” at 27th Street. Follow the road to the right and go through the levee and across the railroad tracks. Be very careful as you cross and watch for pedestrian and bike traffic along the Riverwalk (this is part of the Louisville Loop.) Follow the signs to the visitor area; McAlpine is accessible via the Louisville Riverwalk.

The interpretive center is open from May to October and closes at dusk each day.

For more information, visit

By guest contributor: Erin

Extend your fun by visiting the Portland Museum or the Interpretive Center at the Falls of the Ohio State Park in Southern Indiana. Review here

It's fun to share: