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Navigation Mission

Navigation is travel or transportation over water. Many different kinds of boats and vessels are used on rivers to move people and products from one place to another.

Navigation was extremely important for foreign and domestic trade and travel in the early days of our country before cars, trucks, trains and airplanes were invented. In those days, rivers were used as "roads" to connect inland settlements to river and coastal ports. Communities established at these ports became important economic, cultural and social hubs in the development of our nation.

Today, navigable inland waterways provide a cost-effective, fuel efficient means for moving major bulk commodities, such as grain, coal and petroleum. Inland navigation is a key element of state and local government economic development and job-creation efforts, and is essential in maintaining economic competitiveness and national security. For more information, view our brochure Inland Waterway Navigation Value to the Nation (PDF).

Navigation activities in the United States take place at thousands of ports and terminals along more than 25,000 miles of waterways. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is responsible for facilitating safe, reliable and economically efficient movement of vessels, and it does so by constructing and maintaining navigation channels and harbors, and regulating water levels on inland waterways.
Navigation Channel
Sedimentation in the channel is caused by the normal cycle of silt movement, erosion from high water or heavy rains and changes in river currents. To maintain the 9-foot navigation channel, material that settles in the channel area must be removed. Mechanical or hydraulic dredging are methods for the removal of that material. This material is placed in designated areas along the river. Some of these areas are beneficial use placement areas.

Beneficial use of dredged material is the productive use of the material by the public or private sectors. Examples of common beneficial uses of dredged material in the St. Paul District are upland habitat development, wetland creation, aquatic habitat enhancement, creation of areas for bird nesting, beach nourishment, winter road maintenance, levee repair and improvement, aggregate for concrete, lining fly ash pits, bank protection and general purpose fill. The district is responsible for maintaining 243.6 miles of navigation channel to a depth of at least 9 feet on the Mississippi River from Minneapolis at river mile 857.6 to Guttenberg, Iowa, at river mile 614.0, and 40.6 miles on three tributaries: the Minnesota, St. Croix and Black rivers.

Locks and Dams
The Corps of Engineers maintains navigation channels, much like road crews maintain highways, and builds breakwaters or jetties to protect public property from shoreline erosion. A 9-foot navigation channel is maintained on the Upper Mississippi River, so river vessels can transport their goods north of St. Louis.

To achieve a 9-foot channel in the Upper Mississippi River, the construction of a system of navigation locks and dams was authorized in 1930. Dams are built on rivers to hold back water and form deeper navigation "pools." Most pools in the United States are maintained at a constant minimum water depth of 9 feet for safe navigation.

Dams make it necessary for river vessels to use a series of locks to "step" up or down the river from one water level to another. Additional benefits from the locks and dams include adding river recreational areas for public use, providing water supply for several river communities and serving as nesting grounds for migratory birds. The St. Paul District has jurisdiction over the 13 uppermost structures, from No. 10 at Guttenberg, Iowa, to Upper St. Anthony Falls Lock and Dam in Minneapolis, as well as 1,300 wing dams and 200 revetments.

For more information on how to use the lock and dam system, see:

The key to use of Navigational Locks (pdf document)
The St. Paul District provides daily updates for water levels and flows at various points on the St. Croix, Minnesota and Upper Mississippi rivers on its River Information Line, 651-290-5861.

Advantages of Inland
Waterways Transportation

Navigation News

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Corps extends navigation season due to warmer weather

ST. PAUL, Minn. – The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, St. Paul District, is extending the navigation season on the Upper Mississippi River a few extra days due to the continued warmer weather. [Read More]
Published: Nov-17-15

Corps of Engineers schedules work for Mississippi Locks 4 and 5

ST. PAUL, Minn. – The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, St. Paul District, awarded a $740,000 contract to Tunheim Construction of Moorhead, Minnesota, Sept. 30, to make repairs to Mississippi River Locks and Dams 4 and 5 next spring [Read More]
Published: Nov-17-15

Corps to close Lock and Dam 9 Dec. 7 for maintenance

ST. PAUL, Minn. – The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, St. Paul District, is reminding all navigation interests that Lock and Dam 9, near Lynxville, Wisconsin, is scheduled to close for winter maintenance Dec. 7. [Read More]
Published: Nov-09-15
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Dredging Notices

Dredging Notice 15-41 Pine Bend Landing

NOTICE DATE: November 4, 2015
Proposed Dredging Date: November 4, 2015
DREDGE CUT NAME: Pine Bend Landing
RIVER MILE: 824.0 – 824.5
Published: 11/5/2015

Dredging Notice 15-40 Lock and Dam 4 Aux Lock Chamber

NOTICE DATE: Oct. 23, 2015
Proposed Dredging Date: Oct. 27, 2015
DREDGE CUT NAME: Lock and Dam 4 Aux Lock Chamber
RIVER MILE: 752.6 - 752.8
Published: 10/23/2015

Dredging Notice 15-39 Pine Bend

NOTICE DATE: October 21, 2015
Proposed Dredging Date: October 23, 2015
RIVER MILE: 822.7 – 823.6
POOL: Pool 2
Published: 10/21/2015

Dredging Notice 15-38 Freeborn Light

NOTICE DATE: October 15, 2015
Proposed Dredging Date: October 16, 2015
DREDGE CUT NAME: Freeborn Light
RIVER MILE: 818.2 – 818.8
POOL: Pool 2
Published: 10/15/2015


U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
St. Paul District

Fountain City Service Base
431 North Shore Drive
Fountain City, WI 54629-0397

Channels & Harbors




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