Locking Through Illinois Waterway Locks and Dams

1. Stay between red and black buoys. They mark the river’s navigable channel.


2. When approaching a lock, wait for the lockmaster to signal for you to enter. Craft going upstream and downstream should stay in the clear, 400 feet from the end of the lock walls until the signal to enter is received. This is particularly true if large craft are about to leave the lock and are headed in your direction.


3. Vessels carrying a whistle and desire lockage shall signal one long blast of the whistle (4 to 6 seconds), at a distance of not more than 1/2 mile from the lock.


4. Small boats without a whistle may signal for lockage by using the small boat signal located near the end of the upper and lower lock walls.


5. Traffic signal lights and horns guide you at the locks:

Flashing red - Stand clear, do not enter.

Flashing amber - Lock is being made ready.

Flashing green - Enter lock

Flashing green, flashing amber - Enter lock with caution.

One long blast - Enter landward lock.

Two long blasts - Enter riverward lock.

One short blast - Leave landward lock.

Two short blasts - Leave riverward lock.


6. Carry at least 50 feet of mooring line on board. You will need it during lockage to tie your craft safely to the lock wall. Do not tie up to ladders along the wall.


7. Stand by to pay out or take in the mooring line as the water level in the lock rises or falls.


8. Make sure there is a mooring ring or similar device on your boat to which a mooring line can be tied.


9. Use fenders to save damage to your boat and to lock walls.


10. Turbulent water is created during the lockage. Passengers should remain seated in your boat. Turn off the motor during lockage.


11. Always wear a life jacket on deck.


12. The lockmaster has been given the same authority over your boat in the lock as traffic policemen have over your car at intersections. For your own safety you must obey their instructions.


13. Wait for the lockmaster’s signal before untying mooring lines to leave the lock. Travel at reduced speed on entering or leaving the lock. Fast speeds endanger your own boat, other craft, and the lock gates.


14. Lockage priority:

1. Vessels owned by the U.S.

2. Passenger vessels

3. Commercial vessels

4. Rafts

5. Pleasure craft


15. Know your location on the river with regard to the proximity of each dam and lock. Note Coast Guard mile markers to determine your location. Approach dam and lock along the bank next to the lock, and at reduced speed. No boating areas have been established immediately up and downstream of the dam. These areas are extremely hazardous. Loss of boats and lives have occurred by boater carelessness. Boats have been pulled into the dam by downstream currents as well.

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