Barkley Lock is located 30.6 river miles from where the Cumberland River joins the Ohio River at Smithland, Kentucky. The nearest community to the lock is Grand Rivers, Kentucky.
Barkley Lock was opened to navigation traffic in July of 1964. The lock chamber is 800-foot long and 110-foot wide. During normal lake levels, the lock will lift a boat 57-foot from the river below the dam to the lake above the dam. The lock releases over 37.5 million gallons of water each time is emptied.
Barkley Lock is open to pass navigation traffic 20 hours-a-day, 365 days a year. The lock is closed between the hours of 2 and 6 a.m. daily.
Barkley Lock is named for Alben W. Barkley. Alben Barkley was born in Graves County in Western Kentucky in 1877. He began practicing Law in Paducah, Kentucky in 1901. In 1913, he was elected to Congress, where he served until 1927. He was elected to the Senate in 1927 and served until 1948 when he was elected Vice President of the United States on the Democratic ticket with Harry S. Truman. After leaving the Vice Presidency in 1953, he returned to the U.S. Senate in 1955 where he served until his death in 1956.