Skip to main content

Muskingum River

The Muskingum River is a tributary of the Ohio River, approximately 111 miles long, in southeastern Ohio. It is the largest river in Ohio with a watershed larger in area than the State of New Jersey. An important commercial route in the 19th century, it flows generally southward through the eastern hill country of Ohio. The river is navigable for much of its length through a series of locks and dams.

The Muskingum is formed at Coshocton in east-central Ohio by the confluence of the Walhonding and Tuscarawas rivers. It flows in a meandering course southward past Conesville and Dresden to Zanesville, and then southeastward past Lowell. It joins the Ohio River at Marietta which was founded in 1788 as the first permanent settlement in the Northwest Territory.

In the mid-19th century the Muskingum was an important commercial shipping route, with dams and locks controlling the water level to allow boats to travel up and down the river. With the decrease in use of water-based transportation in Ohio by the 1920s, the locks fell into disrepair. Since the 1960s, the locks have been repaired to enable pleasure craft to travel the entire navigable length of the river. The Muskingum waterway is one of the few remaining systems in the US to use hand-operated river locks. The navigation system has been designated a national Historic Civil Engineering Landmark. In 2006, it was designated "An Ohio Water Trail;" this designation provides for increased canoe access on the river.

Muskingum River - Lowell Lock and DamLocated north of the Mason-Dixon Line, the Muskingum River was a major Underground Railroad route used by fugitive slaves escaping from the South on their journey north to Lake Erie and Canada.

3RQ river water quality monitoring samples are collected in Lowell, Ohio where there was once a covered bridge over the river built in 1881. It was one of 10 such bridges over the river built between 1820 – 1887. The bridge connected Lowell, on the north side of the river with the railroad which ran along the south side of the river.


Red Horse Environmental logo
Duquesne University logo
Colcom Foundation logo
Foundation for Pennsylvania Watersheds