Locks and Dam No. 52 is located on the Ohio River about 1.5 miles downstream of Brookport, Illinois, at mile 939 below Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The locks are located on the Illinois bank of the river. The upper pool above the dam extends for 20.5 miles to Smithland Locks and Dam. Locks and Dam No. 53 is located on the Ohio River approximately 11 miles upstream of Cairo, Illinois. The locks are located on the Illinois side of the river approximately 962 miles downstream from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The upper pool above the dam extends upstream for a distance of 23 miles to Locks and Dam 52.
Modernization of the facilities at Locks and Dam 52 and Locks and Dam 53 were authorized under the provisions of the Rivers and Harbors Act of March 3, 1909. The original structure of 52 was completed in 1928 and 53’s original structure was completed in 1929.
Locks and Dams 52 and 53, in the lower portion of the river, are remnants of the original 1929 river navigation system. A temporary 1200‑foot lock has been built at each project to handle the traffic that moves through the lower portion of the river. These low-cost structures provide an immediate relief to the traffic jam (as much as a three-day wait) at each lock and dam. The temporary 1200-foot lock at Locks and Dam 53 was designed similar to an earlier structure built at Locks and Dam 52. The temporary 1200‑foot lock at Locks and Dam 52 was designed and constructed in just over a year. The structure won a Chief of Engineer’s Award for its many innovative technical features. Locks and Dams 52 and 53 are scheduled for replacement by the Olmsted Locks and Dam project.