“Provide safe, reliable, efficient, effective and environmentally sustainable waterborne transportation systems for movement of commerce, national security needs and recreation” - Corps Navigation Mission
This site provides information on Waterborne Commerce in the United States, including information on Inland Navigation broken down by state, locks, industry and basin profiles.
Navigation was the Corps of Engineers' earliest Civil Works mission, dating to Federal laws in the 1820’s authorizing and funding the Corps to improve safety on the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers by removing snags, debris, and other obstructions. These rivers and the coastal ports were the primary routes of commerce for the new nation.
This authorization set the nation on a course for the next two centuries of dredging channels, building locks and dams, wing dikes and other structures to create an Inland Waterways Transportation System for the movement of goods on the Nations Rivers. The system includes rivers such as the Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio, Illinois, Columbia, Tennessee, Arkansas, Monongahela and Kanawha. Other smaller rivers are also included along with the Gulf Coastal Intracoastal Waterway (GIWW)
Today the Inland Waterway Transportation system provides an important alternative to truck and rail. It is a highly cost-effective and energy efficient means for transporting commercial goods, especially major bulk commodities like coal, grain, and petroleum products. This system is also a key component of state and local economies and job creation efforts and is essential in order to maintain economic competitiveness.
What is a Lock and Dam and how do they work?
The US Inland Waterway system contains 12,000 miles of waterways, enough to stretch halfway around the world, with depths of at least 9 ft.
The US Inland Waterway system includes 239 lock chambers at 193 navigation lock sites; 227 lock chambers, at 185 sites, are operated and maintained by USACE.
The first complete lock and dam project built by the Corps of Engineers on the Ohio River was at Davis Island, a few miles below Pittsburgh. This lock and dam opened to traffic in 1885.
The combined lift all USACE locks is 6,791 ft. The highest lift is 113 ft at John Day L&D in Oregon, on the Columbia River.
On average, Ohio River L&D #52 moves the most volume of commodities through its locks with 85 million tons per year.
The US Inland Waterway system moves over 550 million tons of commodities annually.
Forty-one states, including all states east of the Mississippi River, are directly served by Corps ports and waterways (includes Great Lakes and coastal ports).
On average, a single covered hopper barge that is 200’ by 35’ can carry 1,750 tons of cargo. That is about the same as 16 hopper type rail cars or 70 trucks.