Bullitt County History

Corps of Engineers 1903 Salt River Report

In 1903 a Corps of Engineers report on the feasibility of making Salt River navigable upstream past Pitts Point toward Shepherdsville was presented for consideration. It was determined that it was not economically feasible at that time. The report is transcribed below.


[Printed in House Doc. No. 203, Fifty-eighth Congress, second session.]

War Department,
Office Of The Chief Of Engineers,
Washington, December 1, 1903.

Sir: I have the honor to submit herewith report dated February 5, 1903, by Maj. Geo. McC. Derby, Corps of Engineers, on preliminary examination of Salt River, from its mouth to Shepherdsville, Ky.. ordered by the river and harbor act of June 13, 1902. Major Derby considers the locality worthy of improvement by the General Government, and his report is forwarded bv the division engineer, Col. G. J. Lydecker, Corps of Engineers, with favorable recommendation.

The Board of Engineers for Rivers and Harbors has reviewed this report under the provisions of sections 3 and 14 of the above-mentioned act. The locality has been visited and a public hearing has been held to afford interested parties an opportunity to express their views. The Board concludes, for reasons given in its report of May 21, 1903, that it is undesirable at this time to undertake this improvement, and in this conclusion I concur.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

G. L. Gillespie,
Brig. Gen., Chief of Engineers, U. S. Army.

Hon. Elihu Root,
Secretary of War.


United States Engineer Office,
Louisville, Ky., February 5, 1903.

General: I have the honor to submit the following report on the preliminary examination of Salt River, Kentucky, from its mouth to Shepherdsville.

An examination of this river, and a survey from its mouth to Pitts Point, were made in 1887, in compliance with the provisions of the river and harbor act of August 5, 1886; the report upon it is published in House Executive Document No. 184, Fiftieth Congress, first session. At that time Salt River was found worthy of improvement, and a project and estimate were submitted contemplating a lock and dam at Keys ripple to give navigation as far as Pitts Point, with a least depth of 5 feet, and for a distance of 3 miles farther up Salt River and 2 miles up Rolling Fork with a least depth of 2.5 feet.

The map of this survey is on file in this office, and serves the purpose of a preliminary examination from the mouth of the river to Pitts Point, a distance of 11.9 miles. The stretch of river from Shepherdsville to Pitts Point, about 12 miles, I traversed in a skiff at a stage of river about 2 feet above low water. The slope of this part of the river is quite steep, and rapids were crossed in two places. The banks are, however, high, and the situation seems generally favorable for slack-water navigation. It is probable that two locks and dams would be necessary to carry navigation to Shepherdsville, and any improvement that would enable vessels to pass the rapids at that point would also make available some 10 miles of navigable river extending above Shepherdsville.

Salt River flows through a rich agricultural country, and the town of Shepherdsville is the county seat of Bullitt County, and has a population of about 500 inhabitants. A small steamboat now navigates the river, ascending as far and as frequently as the stage of the river will permit, usually about 3 miles above Pitts Point. Some produce is also shipped out by barges. The present traffic on the river and the amount of commerce that will probably be benefited by its improvement are set forth in the two tables of statistics herewith, which were kindly furnished me by Mr. Charles Carroll, president of the Salt River Improvement Association.

I am of the opinion that Salt River from its mouth to Shepherdsville is worthy of improvement, and I would recommend that a survey and estimate be made to determine whether an adequate improvement can be made at a cost commensurate with the probable benefits to commerce. I would estimate the cost of such a survey at about $1,500.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

G. McC. Derby,
Major, Corps of Engineers.

Brig. Gen. G. L. Gillespie,
Chief of Engineers, U. S. A.
(Through the Division Engineer.)

[First Indorsement]

Engineer Office, U. S. Army, Central Division,

Cincinnati, Ohio, February 7, 1903.

Respectfully forwarded to the Chief of Engineers, United States Army, concurring in Major Derby's recommendation for the proposed survey.

G. J. Lydecker,
Colonel, Corps of Engineers,
Division Engineer, Central Division.

[Second indorsement.]

Office Chief Of Engineers, U. S. Army,

February 14, 1903.

Respectfully referred to the Board of Engineers for Rivers and Harbors, constituted by Special Orders, No. 24, Headquarters, Corps of Engineers, series of 1902, for consideration and recommendation, as required by section 3 of the river and harbor act of June 13, 1902.

A copy of House Executive Document No. 184, Fiftieth Congress, first session, is herewith.

By command of Brig. Gen. Gillespie:

A. Mackenzie,
Colonel, Corps of Engineers.

[Third indorsement.]

Board Of Engineers For Rivers And Harbors,

Washington, D. C, May 21, 1903.

Respectfully returned to the Chief of Engineers, United States Army.

The Board of Engineers for Rivers and Harbors has considered the within report upon "Salt River, from its mouth to Shepherdsville," Ky., the indorsement of the division engineer thereon, and all other data available. A committee of the Board visited Shepherdsville, Ky., on April 4, 1903, and there gave opportunity, at a public hearing, for the expression of views by interested parties.

The improvement contemplated in the act directing the preliminary examination would require the construction of at least two locks and dams. The resulting waterway would traverse a rich farming country for about 24 miles, connecting Shepherdsville, Ky., a town of about 500 inhabitants, situated on the Louisville and Nashville Railway 18.1 miles from Louisville, with the Ohio River at a point about 25 miles below Louisville.

The commerce to be benefited is local in character and of insufficient volume to justify at this time the expenditure that canalization would involve. The result of slack-water improvement of a number of rivers in the same section of the country has not been uniformly encouraging, even when the original promise of commercial growth had been much greater than in the case of Salt River.

In case at some future time the general improvement of the Ohio River shall involve the construction of a dam below the mouth of Salt River, which would increase depths in the lower section of the latter, consideration may be given to an extension of the channel toward Shepherdsville.

The Board is of the opinion that it is undesirable at this time to undertake the improvement of "Salt River, from its mouth to Shepherdsville."

For the Board:

Chas. J. Allen,
Lieut. Col., Corps of Enghirers,
Senior Member of Board.

The following chart combines the two charts named above. Commerce to be benefited by the improvement of Salt River, Kentucky is shown as anticipated quantity. Also shown is the approximate statistics for the year ending 31 Dec 1901.

Articles Anticipated
Average Price Value 1901 Quantity 1901 Value
Hay 20,000 tons $10 per ton $200,000 4,000 tons $40,000
Straw 10,000 tons $5 per ton 50,000 2,000 tons 10,000
Corn 100,000 bushels $0.35 per bushel 35,000 20,000 bushels 7,500
Oats 20,000 bushels $0.30 per bushel 6,000 5,000 bushels 1,500
Wheat 60,000 bushels $0.70 per bushel 42,000 20,000 bushels 14,000
Apples 25,000 barrels $1.50 per barrel 37,500 2,000 barrels 3,000
Potatoes 20,000 barrels $1 per barrel 20,000 3,000 barrels 3,000
Lime 2,500 barrels $0.90 per barrel 2,250 500 barrels 450
Cement 2,500 barrels $0.75 per barrel 1,875 500 barrels 375
Salt 10,000 barrels $1.25 per barrel 12,500 1,000 barrels 1,250
Lumber 5,000,000 feet $10 per 1,000 feet 50,000 1,000,000 feet 10,000
Hoop poles 2,000,000 $7 per 1,000 14,000 300,000 2,700
Ties 50,000 $0.30 each 15,000 25,000 7,500
Tan bark 3,000 cords $9 per cord 27,000 1,500 cords 13,500
Hogs 2,000 $8 each 16,000 500 4,000
Cattle 4,000 $20 each 80,000 1,000 20,000
Sheep 10,000 $3.50 each 35,000 1,000 3,500
Turkeys 5,000 $0.75 each 3,750 3,000 2,250
Chickens 5,000 dozen $2.50 per dozen 12,500 1,000 dozen 2,500
Eggs 50,000 dozen $0.12 per dozen 6,000 10,000 dozens 1,250
Butter 30,000 pounds $0.15 per pound 4,500 10,000 pounds 1,500
Fertilizer 3,000 tons $15 per ton 45,000 1,000 tons 15,000
Coal 10,000 tons $2.75 per ton 27,500 2,000 tons 5,500
Tobacco 200 hogsheads $100 per hogshead 20,000 50 hogsheads 5,000
Miscellaneous 50,000
Total 763,375 224,125

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The Bullitt County History Museum, a service of the Bullitt County Genealogical Society, is located in the county courthouse at 300 South Buckman Street (Highway 61) in Shepherdsville, Kentucky. The museum, along with its research room, is open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. Saturday appointments are available by calling 502-921-0161 during our regular weekday hours. Admission is free. The museum, as part of the Bullitt County Genealogical Society, is a 501(c)3 tax exempt organization and is classified as a 509(a)2 public charity. Contributions and bequests are deductible under section 2055, 2106, or 2522 of the Internal Revenue Code. Page last modified: 12 Jan 2024 . Page URL: bullittcountyhistory.org/bchistory/corps1903.html