Floodwall Murals – Paducah, Kentucky - Atlas Obscura

Floodwall Murals

A collection of outdoor art by renowned muralist Robert Dafford depicts the history of a flooded city. 


Following the disastrous flood of 1937, a floodwall was built to protect Paducah, Kentucky from future rises in the Ohio River. Today, the concrete monolith is covered with a collection of over 50 detailed murals depicting the history of the city and its surroundings.

The murals were designed and painted by the renowned American muralist Robert Dafford, whose work also appears in countries like England, France, and Belgium. He completed the murals during the 1990s and early 2000s.

His paintings illustrate the city’s past, spanning from its pre-colonial days up until the 1950s, when a new uranium enrichment plant earned it the designation of an “Atomic City.” Each image has its own plaque explaining the impact the shown event had on the area’s history and development.

Now, nearly 20 years later, the paintings look almost as good as new (thanks to the yearly touch-ups by Dafford and Herb Roe, his main assistant on the 20+ year project). The soft-styled artworks still add a touch of beauty to a wall that was otherwise rather grim and foreboding. Walking along the barrier, which some say is the “poster child” for the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers’ river flood management programs, is like strolling along an outdoor gallery.

Know Before You Go

Across the street is the River Discovery Center. Well worth a visit when viewing the murals.

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