Along the Inland Waterway that stretches from Crooked River to Lake Huron there are 2 locks. We talked about the Cheboygan River Lock a couple of weeks ago, this week we discover the Crooked River Lock.

The lock was built by the Army Corp of Engineers to allow for passage between Crooked Lake and Crooked River. A weir is part of the structure and helps to control the water levels in the local watershed.

What is a Clam-Shell Style Lock?

The clam-shell style lock is located in the Crooked River in Alanson and offers a unique experience. The lock lowers boaters between 3 and 12 inches depending on the upstream and downstream water levels. A clam-shell lock operates by the the synchronized opening and closing of the two “metal clam shell” gates. 

Crooked River Lock is 60 feet long and 17 feet wide. The lock is only 7 feet deep. In a typical year 9,000 – 10,000 vessels go through the locks carrying over 40,000 passengers. The Crooked River Lock was the 3rd busiest recreational lock of all of the US Army Corps locks in the 2020 season. In 1969, the year the lock opened 9,151 vessels passed lock the locks.

 Multiple vessels can go through the lockage together depending on their size. The lockage can pass 4 speedboats or 2 pontoons through the lock together.

There is also a weir with the locks. The weir is a vertical steel sheet that was pile driven into the bedroom. It serves as a passive way of controlling water levels. Water is allowed to flow freely over the top of the weir and continue downstream. The lock became necessary after the completion of dredging in the mid-1950 to main the water levels in Pickerel and Crooked Lakes. The level dropped considerably because of the dredging.

Purchasing Passes to use the Lock

You may purchase annual, or day passes to use the lock. The only place to purchase passes are when you pass through the lock. Credit cards are not accepted, only cash or check. The Lock schedule is available online

The Emmet County Parks & Recreation Department operates the Crooked River Lock through the DNR who leases the facility from the US Army Corp of Engineers.

Inland Waterway

The Crooked River Locks along with the Cheboygan River Locks makes Inland Waterway accessible from Burt Lake all the way east to Lake Huron.

The Waterway includes 3 rivers and 3 lakes on the 42 miles between Cheboygan and Conway near Petoskey. There are boat launches located along the route as well as numerous marinas for fuel and supplies.

If you would like to experience the locks and the waterway but do not have a boat, there are many watercraft rentals in the area. Below are a few that provide rentals on the Inland Waterway.

Nor’East Outdoors – Indian River

Mullett Lake Marina – Cheboygan

Indian River Marina – Indian River

Ryde Marina – Alanson

Windjammer Marina – Alanson