The history of the Louisville District encompasses more than two centuries. Contributions include frontier exploration and mapping, defense fortification during America’s major wars, the opening of Ohio Valley waterways, flood reduction, military construction, environmental cleanup and national disaster response.
The district’s history is rooted in the role it had in developing Ohio River navigation, notably at the Falls of the Ohio at Louisville, Ky., where the natural river dropped 26 feet in a little more than two miles. Year-round navigation was impossible, and moving over the falls was dangerous. Lives and cargo were routinely lost. The Louisville and Portland Canal Company, with the help of Army engineers, operated a canal around the Falls from 1830 to 1874 when Congress handed over full jurisdiction to the Corps. In 1875, the Corps began constructing locks and dams along the entire length of the Ohio River. Today, the district operates eight lock and dam systems along the Ohio.
The district acquired its flood damage reduction mission after Congress, spurred by the 1937 flood in Louisville, appropriated the funding for projects meant to reduce flood damage.
The district’s military construction mission began during the 1941 mobilization for World War II. It built camps, airfields, ordnance plants and training facilities in Kentucky, Indiana, Ohio and Illinois. The district lost its mission in 1972 only to acquire it back in 1982 during that era’s massive defense buildup.
The district received its nation-wide Army Reserve mission in 1994 and the Air Force Reserve mission in 1999.