In March of 1891, a year after the Muscle Shoals Canal opened, George Washington Goethals assumed control of all future river improvements between Riverton, Alabama, and Chattanooga, Tennessee. The US Army Corps of Engineers dubbed this new administrative zone the Florence District. From district headquarters in Florence, Goethals oversaw the continued maintenance of the canal. Section gangs repaired railroad tracks, linesmen ensured telegraph lines and posts remained standing, and a new shipyard and drydocks kept river vessels in good condition. The Corps of Engineers also constructed a machine shop, blacksmith shop, mule stable, and iron foundry along the canal. Goethals understood the power of publicity and frequently invited tourists, journalists, and other citizens to tour the facilities.
Another byproduct of the Florence District was a solution to the Colbert Shoals, which further restricted river travel below Florence. In 1893, Goethals convinced the Corps of Engineers that a 26-foot lock at the Colbert and Bee Tree Shoals would work. Construction was soon underway on a Riverton lock at the end of an 8-mile canal through the Colbert Shoals along the southern riverbank. As with the Muscle Shoals Canal, work on this project was slow. But, despite setbacks, it was completed and functional by December 1911. The lock remained in place until February 1938, when the TVA Pickwick Landing Dam flooded it.
The time and effort put into mitigating the Colbert and Muscle shoals speak to the importance of Tennessee River development in the 1890s. The Florence District was instrumental both to river navigation and the continued growth of the regional economy.