The three locks on the Cape Fear River are in need of repair, but until there’s money to do the work, the U-S Army Corps of Engineers says they’ll stay closed.
A corps spokeswoman says the locks and dams were built at shallow places along the river in the early 20 th century to foster commercial navigation between the port at Wilmington and Fayetteville . Barges loaded with what-have-you were either pushed or pulled up and down the river. It was about ten years ago, that the last barge floated downstream. River shipping, while cheap, is exceedingly slow, and has fallen out of favor.
While no longer commercially viable, the locks are used often by recreational boaters. Each of the lock-and-dam sites has grassy areas with limited picnic facilities, and ramps for the launching of small boats. The locks have also been used to encourage the migration of spawning shad in the river. The locks and dams and the attendant house and grounds are well-kept by the Corps of Engineers, and, in the summer when everything is lush and green, they’re actually pretty. The dams with their spillways are impressive and noisy. But the locks are kaput. And likely—until someone turns the money-fountain on again—they’ll stay that way.