Sheep Pen Lock
The Hocking Canal Opens For Trade
Ohio Historical Marker Transcription
The twelfth lock on the Hocking Canal, the Sheep Pen lock, underscores Southeast Ohioians’ efforts to open their region to the world during the mid-nineteenth century. Built as a guard lock, it was intended to permit slackwater navigation of the Hocking River by regulating water depths where [the] river and canal met. Those plans were later abandoned and the mechanism was converted to a lift lock, which raised and lowered boats as required by changes in the canal’s elevation.
Stretching from Carroll to Athens, the Hocking Canal opened in 1843. The canal stimulated the growth of Lancaster, Logan, and Nelsonville, and opened the Hocking Valley to trade. Its major exports were salt, coal, and iron. Imports included goods from the East, such as cloth, shoes, and dishes. The advent of the railroads in the 1850s meant the beginning of the end for canals. In 1894, the Hocking Canal was abandoned.
Visiting the Ruins of Lock Number 12
It was a beautiful fall day in the Hocking Hills. Perfect for a quick visit to canal lock number 12, the Sheep Pen lock. Located on Dupler road, just outside of Rockbridge and Enterprise, Ohio.
The canal ruins are a testament of early settlers’ efforts to plug the area into the budding state and national economies. The canal was constantly congested with traffic and the boats only had an average speed of 4 miles per hour. Sometimes in the winters the canal would freeze over. When that happened, they stopped shipping all the cargo on the canal. As a result, local exporters of salt, lumber, coal, and many other products became frustrated with the slow pace of the canal.
The boats would be pulled by a mule that was on land. Traffic was horrific which is what led to such a slow pace. Upkeep and maintaining the canal was another problem. Flooding tore up the canal to the point of disrepair. The canal was abandoned in 1894. The Hocking Valley Railway proved to be the more efficient option for importing and exporting cargo.