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First Mississippi River towboat kicks off 2024 navigation season

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, St. Paul District
Published March 18, 2024
Updated: March 18, 2024
Towboat at night in Lock and Dam 2

The first tow of 2024 goes through Lock and Dam 2 in Hastings, Minnesota, on March 17.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, St. Paul District, locked the Motor Vessel Joseph Patrick Eckstein with 12 barges through Lock and Dam 2, in Hastings, Minnesota, March 17, en route to St. Paul, Minnesota.

The St. Paul District considers the first tow to arrive at Lock and Dam 2 as the unofficial start of the Mississippi River navigation season, because it means all of its locks are accessible to commercial and recreational vessels. The earliest date for an up-bound tow to reach Lock and Dam 2 was March 4, in 1983, 1984 and 2000. The average start date of the navigation season is March 22.

The first tow in 2023 arrived on March 12, when the Motor Vessel Phillip M Pfeffer with six barges passed through Lock and Dam 2. The last tow of 2023 happened on Dec. 5, when the Motor Vessel Thomas Erickson departed Lock and Dam 10 near Guttenberg, Iowa.

This winter, four locks and dams were closed for maintenance, including locks 2, 3, 4 and 7, and that work was completed March 16.

The St. Paul District maintains a 9-foot-deep navigation channel and operates 12 locks and dams to support navigation from Minneapolis to Guttenberg, Iowa. Keeping this system open is vital to the nation’s economy. On average, agricultural producers save around $1 per bushel on corn and soybeans by using the river to ship their commodities rather than other transportation methods. The commercial navigation industry estimates an annual average savings of nearly $400 million by using the inland waterways instead of overland shipping methods. In addition to the economic savings, navigation reduces the stress on our roads and bridges. A 15-barge tow can move as much bulk commodities as 1,050 semis or more than 200 rail cars.


Public Affairs

Release no. 24-013