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U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
St. Paul District
Public Affairs Office
332 Minnesota St., Suite E1500
St. Paul, MN 55101

Phone: (651) 290-5807
Fax: (651) 290-5752 


Corps urges recreational boaters to be alert around barges

Published July 3, 2012
ST. PAUL, Minn. – The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, St. Paul District, reminds the public to practice safe boating when recreating on the Mississippi River this holiday weekend.

Commercial navigation traffic, like barges and towboats, are common users of the Mississippi River. Recreational boaters must remain vigilant when boating near commercial traffic because barges can be surprisingly quiet and cannot easily steer out of the way of danger. A barge can take up to one-and-a-half miles to come to a stop.

Pay attention to where towboats are when boating near commercial traffic and know the danger signals – five short whistle-blasts mean immediate danger. If you cannot see the pilot house, the towboat captain cannot see you. A captain’s blind spot can be several hundred feet in front of and to the sides of the barges.

Towboat engines can have more than 5,000 horsepower and often have multiple propellers. The propeller wash created by towboats is very turbulent and extends hundreds of feet behind the towboat. The propellers also churn debris from the bottom of the river that may be hazardous to boaters.

Even parked barges can be dangerous. River currents can be strong enough to pull swimmers and boats into and under barges.

You are responsible for your safety. Remember to use good judgment around towboats and barges this holiday and always remember to wear your life jacket. The Corps encourages everyone to continue using caution in areas where water levels are still high as well as be aware of potential debris hazards.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, St. Paul District, serves the American public in the areas of environmental enhancement, navigation, flood damage reduction, water and wetlands regulation, recreation sites and disaster response. It contributes around $175 million to the five-state district economy. The 700 employees work at more than 40 sites in five upper-Midwest states. For more information, see


Release no. 12-078