River Power Days, a two-day preview of next year’s 100th anniversary celebration of the Keokuk powerhouse, lock and dam, is set from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, June 30, and Sunday, July 1, along the Mississippi River.
This event is being held 99 years from the powerhouse, lock and dam’s second year in construction and will be held rain or shine.
Working men from around the nation and the globe made their way to the Keokuk area for jobs provided by the mega building project, some putting down roots and making the Tri-State Area their permanent home.
When construction was complete in 1913, the Keokuk dam was the largest in the world. Mighty turbines installed in the powerhouse harnessed electrical power from river water rushing through the dam’s gateways.
“The lock and dam and powerhouse are taken for granted on a daily basis, but their impact is immense on river traffic, goods going up and down the river and on the Tri-State Area,” said Kirk Brandenberger, executive director of the Keokuk Area Convention and Tourism Bureau. “This event will serve as a real kickoff party to the 100th celebration on June 29, 2013, 100 years from the day of construction was complete.”
For the first time in the 21st century, next weekend the public will be allowed to cross over the lock and walk into the AmerenUE powerhouse.
The facility has been closed to the public since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack in New York City and Washington, D.C.
On the way to the lock and powerhouse, visitors will have access to museum-quality photographs documenting the construction of the lock, dam and powerhouse that have been enlarged and digitally adapted from the Herman Anschutz collection. Anschutz was hired a century ago to photograph the construction process.
The photographs will be displayed along the walkway on the north side of the lock.
Brandenberger believes that some of the actual tools that were used on the construction project also will be on display.
“Knowledgeable people will be along the way to answer questions and explain the photographs,” Brandenberger said.
Along the walkway to the power plant, visitors can take a close look at the old lock and dry dock as well as their gates and operating mechanisms. A birds-eye view of the spillways and Illinois shore where the work on the dam first started also is possible.
At the power plant, visitors will be able to view the generating room – 600 feet in length – and then walk through the forebay side of the powerhouse where the grates filter the water before entering the turbines. AmerenUE employees will be on hand for questions about the turbines and generating units.
Parking will be in Victory Park. People can either walk to the lock area or there will be three shuttle buses running continuously from Victory Park to the lock.
The tourism bus, a bus from Lexington Square and a bus from River Hills Village will be used to avoid traffic congestion.
“No cars will be allowed in the lock area,” Brandenberger said.
Lunch will be available at two riverfront locations: The United Presbyterian Church, 102 Main St., and the Keokuk Union Depot, South Water and Johnson streets.
A tourism welcome center/information tent will be set up inside the gate to the lock property. Shuttles will drop off visitors at the tent.
“I’m looking forward to hearing first-hand stories that have been passed down from people who actually worked on the dam,” Brandenberger said. “Stories will come out.”