Visitors to Jesse Owens State Park in southeastern Ohio can see what’s left of the engineering marvel, the Big Muskie and pay homage to Ohio’s mining heritage in the Miner’s Memorial Park.
Growing up, I spent many summers with my grandparents in their Cumberland, Ohio summer home. Pulling into their driveway season after season, we’d catch a glimpse of the Big Muskie at work in the distance.
My grandfather was always quick to point out the majestic machine, but as a child that had grown up accustomed to seeing this dragline as a regular feature of the surrounding landscape, I was unimpressed.
The full meaning of the terms “engineering marvel”, or “largest dragline in the world”, were unappreciated and lost on me. I’ll blame this on youth.
The Big Muskie- the Building of a Legend
Building the big muskie was no easy feat. After all, this was the biggest machine to ever walk on the face of the earth. Construction of the Big Muskie began in 1967. It took hundreds of rail cars and trucks to haul the parts from Milwaukee to the construction site just southwest of the tiny town. From there, it took over 300,000 work hours (nearly two years) to build the Big Muskie. When it was done, it had cost over $25 million dollars.
The end of an era and a new beginning
After years of operation, it was determined that there were more efficient ways to mine and with tightening environmental regulations, it became clear that the Big Muskie’s days were numbered.
The size of the dragline was prohibitive to relocating the machine. In 1999, after a public outcry to try to preserve this once constant landmark, the Big Muskie was dismantled and sold as scrap, leaving only the bucket as the focal point of the Miners’ Memorial Park located east of McConnelsville, about 25-30 minutes from I-77.
I don’t think words can clearly paint a picture of just how massive this beast of a machine is so I’ll give you a little glimpse to put it into perspective.
An entire high school marching band can fit inside the Big Muskie bucket, or two school buses side by side.
Nearly 8,000 visitors a year travel the curvy, scenic Route 78 to visit this park which is situated on reclaimed surface-mined lands, eager to see what remains of the Big Muskie dragline.
You could easily stop, step inside the bucket of the Big Muskie and be back on the road within minutes but I suggest that you plan ahead with a picnic lunch and enjoy the view from the picnic shelter or from one of the picnic tables scattered throughout the park. There are even camping spots for those who’d like to stay a bit longer.
While you’re there, take the opportunity to learn a bit about Ohio’s history by reading the displays in the kiosk and viewing the Wall of Honor which recognizes past and present employees of the Central Ohio Coal Company.
Big Muskie Stats:
- Weight: 27 million pounds
- 487 feet long
- 151 feet wide
- the bucket held 325 tons of dirt
- the boom could lift a load the equivalent of 33 stories- which is how I could watch it operate from 9 miles away!
Plan Your Visit to See the Big Muskie in Miners’ Memorial Park
Miner’s Memorial Park Address and Directions to get there: State Route 78, McConnelsville, OH 43756- The Big Muskie bucket sits 16 miles west of Caldwell. Take I-77 to exit 25 and drive towards (and through) McConnellsville until you arrive at the park. You can’t miss it.
Tip: The road is hilly and winds around- if you’re prone to car sickness, you may want to take a bit of motion sickness medication before you go.
Hours: Gates closed November – April but walk-ins are welcome and there is plenty of space to park when the gates are closed.
The Big Muskie Pictures
Special thanks to Bob Brown for reaching out and sharing some of the photos he has of the Big Muskie from his childhood. Like me, Bob grew up watching the Big Muskie walking across the hills of Southeastern Ohio. Bob was also disappointed to hear about the Big Muskie demolition in 1999.
Here are some of the things Bob had to say about growing up watching the Big Muskie at work.
“It was a big machine that would scare the average person when they saw it, especially up close, and if it was moving, or digging. I remember we used to sit on a hill close to where the operator was dumping his load of overburden, and it would shake the ground when he would dump it close to where we were standing.
The Muskie was very quiet in operation, being electric powered. You only heard the cable sounds from reeling in, and the fan sounds from the top of the main house, and when it dumped a load of earth, or sometimes when the bucket struck the ground when digging, as it was hitting and moving rocks. When it walked you heard the hydraulic pumps running down in the housings on top of the feet, if you were close enough to it when it was walking.
My Grandfather used to take many photos and motion picture of Big Muskie when we would go to visit it. I still have some good up close pictures of the Bucyrus Erie 4250w Big Muskie, and still have the motion pictures, home movies of it. Most of the pictures he took were made on slide type film to watch on the slide projector when we got back home.”
More things to do in the area:
If you plan a stop at the Miners’ Memorial Park, and have time to explore the area further, I highly suggest that you also visit The Wilds in nearby Cumberland. The Wilds is an animal conservation park that is located on land that has been reclaimed from the mining days.
Other area activities include:
Visit Salt Fork State Park.
Tour the boyhood home of the former astronaut and senator, John Glenn.
Tour the National Road Museum.
Stop in McConnellsville to see the stunning Opera House and while you’re there check out the Big Fish on the Ohio Art Corridor.
If you’re looking for more ideas of things to do in Ohio, you may find my Ultimate Bucket List for those who want to Explore Ohio helpful.
Where to Stay Near the Big Muskie
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Monday 13th of September 2021
Hi Tonya, Thanks for posting this great article! I'm a student in the central Ohio area currently working on a project about the Big Muskie and the Wilds. I would love to hear more about your experience seeing the Big Muskie when it was in motion. Please feel free to let me know if you're interested either through the comments section or by email. Thanks again! All the best, Sarah
Monday 20th of September 2021
Hi Sarah, I'll send you an email!
Thursday 10th of September 2020
Several of us guys used to ride trail bikes out to watch the Big Muskie work. We would travel haul roads (illegal at the time) and try to avoid any authorities to get to a location where we could watch it work. Then at nite we would camp out in a stripped area using leftover pieces of coal for a campfire that would burn all night. All you could hear was the far away low-pitched hum and sometimes the heavy chains clanking of the Big Muskie working all night.
Monday 20th of September 2021
Hi there! My name is Sarah and I'm a student in the central Ohio area working on a story about the Big Muskie. I already reached out to Tonya about this, but I would love to hear more about your experience with the Big Muskie as well. This is an absolutely amazing story that you shared. Feel free to comment or send me an email if you're interested!
Thanks so much, Sarah
Saturday 12th of December 2020
I apologize for just seeing this comment! Thank you for sharing your memories! It sounds like you had some good times traveling those haul roads and camping out. I can only imagine how incredible your view of the night sky would have been then. Sounds awesome!
Sunday 5th of May 2013
That thing is enormous! But forgive my ignorance - what exactly IS it?
Thursday 9th of May 2013
Hi Lynsey, This was part of an iconic dragline, used for coal mining. It's pretty impressive, especially when you realize the bucket was tiny compared to the rest of the machine.
Friday 3rd of May 2013
I've never heard of the Big Muskie before. After reading your post and seeing the photos, I'm amazed! Your photos did an excellent job at showing how large the structure is, but I still want to see it for myself!
Friday 3rd of May 2013
The Big Muskie is amazing but even though the bucket is massive, I still can't fathom how massive the entire machine must have been close-up. I hope you're able to visit. It's pretty remarkable.
Saturday 27th of April 2013
WOW that's enormous! I'm glad that at least the bucket was left intact. Fun to see remnants of the past like this.
Monday 29th of April 2013
It really was a fun stop, of course I am partial to road side attractions!