North River Navigation News – March 2019

Ben Salem Lock


Ben Salem Lock

The NRN, our best preserved and most accessible jewel, is well known for Ben Salem Lock. This is a historically significant structure in Rockbridge County, VA. The condition of this lock should concern everyone for the locks future.   Ben Salem Lock and Dam is arguably the best known, and most visible feature of our canal, the North River Navigation.  This favorite picnic place and recreational site in the county, drawing thousands, is being compromised for lack of maintenance. 

When Rt 60 was made four lanes, a creek was redirected into the lock, and a dam installed, creating an attractive pool in the lock chamber. It needs to be recognized that this water had a purpose; to protect the wooden timbers on which the massive stone walls stand. The dam having been compromised, water no longer protects these timbers.  

Erosion along the cut stone walls of the lock has resulted in deep ruts; and as the stone dam is ready to fall, there is a significant hazard to anyone entering. Indeed the very stone walls of the treasured lock are in time, in peril.  

Reestablishing the pool is essential and will cost little now. Removal of a fallen treasure would be unfortunate, and at catastrophic cost. 

Erosion at the Great Boat LOCK on the has long been of concern. If allowed to continue, the walls are certainly in peril.   Things are looking brighter since Lyle Browning encouraged VDOT to do the right thing. We are hoping that repairs will be made by VDOT through a VHDR grant. 

Dam at Jordan’s Point

A pair of mill stones have been found below Jordan’s Point. These most likely were washed from the great mill on Jordan’s Point.  Following clean up, one is promised to The Miller’s House Museum, for display. This discovery came as part of a study of the river bed, necessitated by the impending removal of Jordan’s Mill Dam.

By Philip de Vos