325 tons of earth in a single bite! The Big Muskie took that bite quite easily while mining over twenty million tons of coal in Muskingum County of Southeastern Ohio from 1969-1991. Today all that is left of the Big Muskie, one of the world’s largest draglines, is this bucket capable of holding many tons of earth.
On a crisp winter afternoon, the curvy, scenic road happened to meander past the site of the Miners’ Memorial Park in Morgan County, Ohio where the Big Muskie Bucket is the centerpiece of the park. While the ground was covered in a light snow and the gates were closed, the sign said : Walk-Ins Welcome. That was invitation enough to explore a little closer. My footsteps were the first to leave imprints in the snow this January afternoon.
Considered one of the seven engineering wonders of the world, this bucket weighs 460,000 pounds empty. If you look closely in the bottom left of the picture, a teddy bear can be spotted on the left hand side of the bucket…and it truly looks like “just a drop in the bucket”! When you consider this is only the bucket of the dragline…well, the magnitude overwhelms you. It has been estimated that twelve car garages could fit inside.
This massive mechanical wonder was last used by the Central Ohio Coal of American Electric Power, or AEP, in the rolling hills near Cumberland, Ohio. Lucky it was being used by AEP as this huge machine was run basically by electricity, using enough electricity daily to power over 27,000 homes. Big Muskie had a crew of five and worked around the clock to take advantage of the lower nighttime per kilowatt-hour rate. When you check out the first picture, knowing the size of the bucket, you then realize how gigantic the entire Big Muskie really was, actually twenty-two stories tall!
After the land was mined, it was beautifully reclaimed as can be seen in this picture. The ground was smoothed, trees were planted, and it was again an inhabitable place for animals. In fact, The Wilds, a haven for wild animals from all over the world, is located within a short drive and is where this picture was taken. If you look closely in the open range, you can spot a herd of buffalo grazing in the snow with a beautiful lake in the foreground. The Wilds is one of the largest wildlife conservation centers in the world with some type of safari available most of the year to explore nearly 10,000 acres of that reclaimed land.
Today, AEP maintains this Miners’ Memorial Park. It is a great place to relax, even on a quiet winter day, while strolling around the huge bucket. There are several areas available for picnics as well as a shelter, which houses displays on the Big Muskie when it was working as well as other information on the area. As land was reclaimed, many camping areas with lakes and fishing were included so it is a great place for family fun during the summer months.
Even though the Big Muskie is no longer in operation, coal mining is still an important occupation in these rolling hills. Warning: Watch out for fast moving coal trucks on every curve!
To visit the Big Muskie Bucket on your next visit to Ohio, travel I-77 and take Exit 25 in southeastern Ohio. Be certain you stay on Route 78 and after many bends and curves – a rollercoaster ride – of about 16 miles, you will arrive at the Miner’s Memorial Park. The area is open May – October, but you can walk in and explore at any time. Be sure to stop and scan the hillsides.