banner

Waterways

  • Iowa has 491 miles of navigable waterways bordering the state in the Mississippi (312 miles) and Missouri (179 miles) Rivers.
  • Both navigable rivers are designated as part of America’s Marine Highway Program. The Upper Mississippi River from St. Louis, Missouri to St. Paul, Minnesota is designated as the M-35 Marine Highway and the Upper Missouri River from Kansas City, Missouri to Sioux City, Iowa is designated as the M-29 Marine Highway Connector. This program is dedicated to expanding the use of the nation’s navigable waterways in order to relieve landside congestion, reduce air emissions, and generate other public benefits by increasing the efficiency of the surface transportation system.
  • These rivers are vital segments of the Inland Waterway System, providing an economic transportation link from the upper Midwest to the lower Mississippi Valley and the Gulf of Mexico.
  • There are 11 navigation locks and dams on the Mississippi River border Iowa. Eight of the locks have a single chamber measuring 110 feet by 600 feet. Locks 14 and 15 have main chambers of that size with auxiliary locks measuring 80 feet by 320 feet and 110 feet by 360 feet, respectively. Lock 19 is the only facility bordering Iowa that has a chamber size of 110 feet by 1,200 feet.
  • The majority of these locks are nearing 80 years of age, nearly 30 years past the designed life span.
  • As of 2012, there were 60 barge terminals in Iowa, 55 on the Mississippi River and five on the Missouri River.
  • In 2012, over 6.2 million tons and $5.2 billion worth of commodities were shipped on the waterways to, from, and within Iowa. This included 1.25 million tons and $2.9 billion moving to Iowa; 4.5 million tons and $2.1 billion moving from Iowa; and 484,000 tons and $173.3 million moving within Iowa.
  • Agricultural products, cereal grains, gravel, nonmetallic minerals, and machinery represented the majority of tonnages and values being shipped to, from, and within Iowa.
  • Iowa’s primary trading partners for waterway shipments (including commodities shipped to and from Iowa barge terminals) are Illinois, Minnesota, and Louisiana.
  • View the cargo capacity chart depicting a comparison among modes of transportation.