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Waterways

  • Iowa has 491 miles of navigable river bordering its state, and it is the only state in the nation bordered by two navigable rivers.

  • The state of Iowa borders 312 miles of the upper Mississippi River. This area is a vital segment of the Inland Waterway System, providing an economic transportation link from the upper Midwest to the lower Mississippi Valley and the Gulf of Mexico.

  • In 2010, 10.5 million tons of commodities (mostly grain, coal and fertilizer) moved to, from and within Iowa. Grain comprised the largest quantity of this tonnage, totaling nearly 56 percent overall. Sand and gravel was the second largest commodity, totaling 9 percent of the tonnage, followed closely by chemicals and fertilizer which totalled 8 percent.

  • There were 60 barge terminals in Iowa that shipped and received tonnage in 2010 (55 on the Mississippi River and five on the Missouri River).

  • Iowa terminals shipped commodities by barge to 12 states and received commodities from 12 other states. Of those states, Louisiana received the most cargo, nearly 5.4 million tons. Most of this was grain (corn, soybeans, cereal grains and oilseeds) that was then loaded onto ships for shipment to the world market. (2010)

  • The leading state shipping by barge to Iowa was Louisiana, which transported 1.3 million tons of commodities such as chemicals, fertilizers, sand and gravel. Illinois shipments to Iowa were second at .08 million tons, most of which was coal (2010).

  • There are 11 navigation locks and dams on the Mississippi River bordering Iowa. Eight of the locks have a single chamber measuring 110 feet by 600 feet. Locks and Dams 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 and Dam 19 is a 110 feet by 1200 feet chamber built in 1957. The other structures were built in the 1930s.

  • An analysis of the waterborne commerce data for Iowa shows that 7.8 million tons of commodities were shipped from Iowa terminals on the river system. Almost 76 percent of this tonnage (5.9 million tons) consisted of grain, mostly corn and soybeans. (2010)

  • Terminals in the state received just under 3.5 million tons, with fertilizers, coal, and sand and gravel being the primary commodities. More than 0.8 million tons moved within the state. (2010)

  • Click here to view the cargo capacity chart depicting a comparison among modes of transportation.