Civil War Waterworks at Camp Nelson

In April 2016, we visited the location of the Camp Nelson waterworks, which was located on the banks of the Kentucky River to the west of the Camp Nelson Civil War Heritage Park. Dr. Christopher Begley and student Lucy Macfarlan accompanied Dr. Steve McBride to the site. They accessed the site from the east, overland, following the remnants of the trench which held the water line running from the pumping station to a reservoir up by the camp. The last part of the hike involved rappelling down a cliff face to the river bank.

The waterworks consisted of a structure, pictured below, which was powered by a steam engine. At the end of the Civil War, the structure was dismantled and the steam engine removed. Footers are still visible on the bank.

Our preliminary reconnaissance dives revealed evidence of intact structures in the river.The river level is higher now than in the 1860’s due to the construction of Lock and Dam 6 and 7 in 1891 and 1897. Locks and Dams 1 through 5 were put into operation between 1839 and 1842, but would not have impacted the river level at Camp Nelson.