Boating Safety Videos

Dam Safety: Stay Away, Stay Alive

A Lockmaster's Tips for Boating Safety Near Dams

How Tows Lock Through

How to Lock Through

How to Dock Like a Boss

Demonstration: Danger of Dams





Boating Safety in the St. Paul District

As one of the nation’s leading providers of outdoor recreation, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers encourages visitors at all Corps-managed recreation areas to be mindful of their own safety and that of others to help provide a safe outdoor recreation experience for everyone. 

Frequently Asked Questions

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 Q: Can I lock through on a canoe or kayak?   

A: Yes.

 Q: Can I lock through on a paddleboard, sailboard, or surfboard?   

A: No. Personal watercraft of the "stand-up" variety like paddleboards, sailboards, and surfboards that require the vessel to be moving for the operator to be out of the water, will not be accepted for lockage unless the craft is tied off to and locked through with an approved vessel, and the operator of the "stand-up" craft boards the approved vessel.

Operators of "stand-up" watercraft can also choose to portage around the locks. 

 Q: Can I use fireworks in Corps recreation areas?   
 Q: Can I land my small plane on Corps-managed river or islands?   

A: Yes. Please inform the nearest Lock and Dam ahead of time.

 Q: Can the Corps mitigate flooding on a river or lake? 

A: First, search online to see if the area is managed by the Corps, the Department of Natural Resources, or a local watershed district. 

If the area is managed by the Corps, you can contact the Hydraulics, Hydrology and Water Management Branch at or 651-290-5303.

Please be aware that the Corps operates the locks and dams on the Mississippi River for navigation, not flood control. The locks and dams create slack-water pools for navigation during periods of low- and moderate-level water. For each pool, there is a primary control point, where a predetermined water elevation must be kept for navigation to continue.

 Q: Does USACE have an app I can download? 

A: Yes. The "USACE Rock Island" app is available to download from your phone's app store.

It contain information on river levels, navigation charts, and vessel locations.

 Q: How do I lock through? 

A. You can schedule a lockage by:

1) Hailing lock staff on Channel 14 on a marine radio;

2) Calling the lock staff;

3) Pulling the signal cord on the lock's guide wall. The cord should be halfway down the lock wall, with a small sign above it that says “PULL SIGNAL CORD FOR LOCKAGE."

When calling lock staff by phone or radio, identify yourself as north or south bound pleasure craft wanting to lock through, identify your boat name, and ask for the approximate wait time. 

Slow as you approach the lock chamber for the no-wake zone.

Stay 400 feet away from the end of the lock wall to let other vessels exit.

Wait for the green light to enter the lock at no-wake speed. 

Pull up to the side of the lock and hang onto a mooring line with your hand, usually these are ropes that are thrown down to you.

Turn off your engine so you don’t get carbon monoxide poisoning from the gas fumes.

Do not exit the lock until you hear a short horn blast which gives you permission to leave.

Single-file follow each other out at a no-wake speed.

 Q: How do I schedule a source-to-sea journey? 

A: Please contact the St. Paul District Public Affairs Office at or 651-290-5807. 

 Q: How do I track when a tow will lock through?  

A: You can track tows through websites including: 

You can also call the appropriate lock and dam to ask for the lockmaster's estimate of arrival times, or download the "USACE Rock Island" app available in your phone's app store.

 Q: Is the river flooding?   

A: Check the National Weather Service's Hydrologic Prediction Service. You can also contact the National Weather Service at or 952-361-6650.

You can also contact the closest city to you to inquire whether the water meets flood stage levels.

 Q: What are the lockage service hours?  

A: Call the appropriate lock and dam.

Lock operation hours may vary by season, year, and staffing levels.

 Q: What do I do if my boat starts drifting towards a dam? 
  • A: Anchor your boat so you don't drift closer
  • Notify the nearest Lock and Dam to close the dam gates
  • If upstream, grab the rope lines hanging above the dam to get out of the water
  • Call 911
 Q: When do the locks close to navigation? 

A: The locks close to navigation during the winter when ice prevents tows from transiting the river. The closing of the navigation season varies depending on weather conditions. 

Barge companies with questions about winter lock closure dates can contact the Mississippi River Navigation Project Office Chief at 651-290-5986.

The locks also close to navigation when flow and elevation thresholds exceed safe levels.

 Q: Who do I contact with questions about the Great Lakes? 

A: Please contact the Detroit District Public Affairs Office at or 313-226-4680.

 Q: Where can I find the height/vertical clearance of bridges?  

A: Contact the St. Paul District's Geographic Information System office at 651-290-5491.

Some bridge clearance heights are also listed in the "USACE Rock Island" app available in your phone's app store. Clearance heights are listed under Lock Status, Bridge Clearance Calculator.

Useful Links

Contact Your Water Safety Representative

Mississippi Valley Division National Water Safety Products Advisory Committee Representative:


Contact Your Dam Safety Representative

For information on dams in your area, contact your Association of State Dam Safety Officials state representative.


Report A Concern