You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘Mississippi watershed’ category.

I should add here that small craft will vary in location along this very long river as well as in season.  Of course, the same is true anywhere with some semblance of seasons.  In this case, I saw all these boats about two-thirds of the distance between New Orleans and Saint Paul MN, i.e., the south Upper Mississippi.

I’m guessing the boat below is a commercial fishing vessel, river style.  I’d seen a similar boat traveling on a trailer down the street an hour or so earlier and wondered about that tank forward of the cockpit.  I’m not surprised the two crew are as bundled up as they are, given the temperature was well below freezing.  

A couple days later I saw this and assumed they were fishing again, until

they came closer and I read the USGS sign on the side.    Hydrographic survey maybe?

Another USGS survey boat was operating a dozen miles to the north in Montrose IA.

Now this one still puzzles me.

The helmsman here drifted along the shore while another person was on the bow, but 

what are the rings holding thin rods in the water?  Only once was the net used, and that was to scoop out a “dead” or stunned fish but then after some examination, the crew member returned the fish to the water.

All photos and all questions, WVD.

Related:  I love this 1981 documentary on life on the Ohio . . . produced by the University of Pittsburgh. 

I caught sight of Theresa L. Wood in the fading light as she was about to transit the Fort Madison Bridge.  More on that double-decker bridge here.

Note the wake pattern.

See the lights both on the towboat and the motor vehicles waiting on the bridge.  I’m told one person operates this bridge at a time, both managing the swinging truss and collecting the tolls.  Being accustomed to automatic tolling, I was caught off guard by having to hand over some cash;  fortunately, I had bills in my pocket.

John D. Nugent came up on lock 19 through the mist of midday.

Wood is currently in the Marquette Transport Company fleet;  Nugent in the American Commercial Barge Line fleet;  both MTC and ACBL are huge.  

Here Nugent passes under the 1985 toll-free bridge.  Prior to 1985, automobile traffic crossed on the top of the double-decker bridge just north of the one depicted.

The following day I drove up to lock 18, just as Nugent was approaching.

Note the lock crew in chartreuse and the Nugent crew calling out distances on VHF.




All photos, any errors, WVD.

Theresa L. Wood:  1979.   140′ x 42′.   6140 hp

John D. Nugent:  1975.   138′ x 52′  (or 134′ x 48′??).  6140 hp

Related through ACBL:  an 11,000 hp ACBL towboat

Not all boats I saw at Mississippi lock and dam #19 were line haul boats.  MarySue with Connie L were good examples.

They do pose something of a mystery, though.  According to ID painted onto the vessels, they’re of the Michels fleet, although on database sites like gltugs and tugboatinformation, they don’t show up.  

Yes, I understand that updating is a never ending task.  Since registry shows Milwaukee, I assume these boats got here via the Illinois River.

City of Joliet has an interesting history, as elaborated here.  

This is not the best photo, but her numbers are as follows:  130′ x 44′ and her Wartsilas propel her with 3600 hp.

Donna Rae appears to be a Fort Madison boat, 56′ x 22′ and 800 hp.

A local boat, Sir James seems based in Keokuk.  

Here are the numbers:  52′ x 18′ and 730 hp.

All photos, any errors, WVD.


The longer I’m here, the more I understand that my initial words are wrong.  First, it was “tugboat.”  I changed that, as marked by the asterisk.  Then take “Mississippi” in the title;  what’s navigating the Mississippi now, might be on the Ohio or the Illinois next month.  It’s true that if you’re not always learning, you’re not really alive.

Keokuk IA has an unusual one, the Geo. M. Verity, said to be one of three steam-powered towboats still extant.  She was built on the Mississippi, went into service in 1927, and has been a “dry-docked” display since 1961.  Any guesses on dimensions?  See end of post.

She was built for the Inland Waterways Corporation, a federal entity.  I’ve never seen a herringbone style paddlewheel quite like this.

The boat was closed, so I didn’t get to tour the boat, but here’s more info.

Here’s a view of the push knees of light

Mary K Cavarra.  See her numbers below, but guess first, right?

She’s built in St Louis and registered in Cincinnati. 

Any guesses on the number of barges in this tow?

It didn’t look like it at first, but she’s got 1000′ of barges with the length of the towboat added to it.  Five rows three wide makes 15 barges.  Since one dry cargo barge carries the equivalent of 58 trucks, this 15-barge tow can move the equivalent of 1050 trucks.   Other numbers follow.

For this tow in this lock, it’ll be another double-lockage.

All photos at locks 18 and 19, WVD.

Geo M  Verity.  1927.  163′ x 41′. I’m not sure what the hp is.

Mary K Cavarra.      1977.  170′ x 45′.  6120 hp

Prairie Dawn.    1968.  164′ x 40′.   5400 hp


As best I can find out, the other two remaining steam-powered towboats are Lone Star and W. P. Snyder Jr.Has anyone visited either of those?

From a distance and this angle, the tow looks modest as it approached lock 18.

But as it lined up, it was clearly going to need to double lock.

Keeping in mind that these standard size barges are 200′ x 35′, there’s 1000′ of barges, 105′ wide. Add to that, 145′ of towboat.  That means this tow will be double-locked through.  More on that later in the post.

I take it the poles on the bow of the barges here are depth sounders.

The power cord is the giveaway.  Is that a ratchet bar?  If so, I’m guessing its there to keep the transponder in the water.

This tow was made up of a mixed set of barges.  I saw no container barges, but I know they exist.


Dirt?  Fertilizer ingredients?

When the first three rows of barges are in, the lock chamber is filled.  So the tow is split, as the deckhand there is doing.  Then the towboat will move along with the two rows of barges closest to the towboat.

The first part of the tow is raised, and then a cable and capstan clears them out of the lock.

The towboat pushes those barges in, and they all get raised.

Note the cabling pattern.  Any guesses on numbers of this towboat?


Once she’s up, the two portions of the tow get cabled back together, and

M/V Samuel B. Richmond powers them all out and upriver.

The lock is then prepared for the next two.  Note a down bound tow waiting.

All photos, any errors, WVD.

M/V Samuel B. Richmond.  1982.   145′ x 48′.     6000 hp 




Now that my towboat v. tugboat terminology is corrected, I will post more Mississippi River photos in the next days.

The barges looked somewhat unusual.

Fortunately I caught it exiting lock 19 in Keokuk IA.

The two barges are Kirby 21853 and 21854.

The warning placard identified the cargo as anhydrous ammonia, which means pure ammonia.  Maybe someone out there has information on uses of this product besides fertilizer.   I also have questions about the temperature and pressure conditions for this product.

For some numbers on this 2016 Kirby boat, click here for the “Birk files.  

The livery on Kirby’s inland fleet and offshore fleet is the same;  boat design, however, is mostly different.

More towboats from the Upper Mississippi soon.

All photos, any errors, WVD.

Note the shift in the title.  I don’t want to be stubborn.  Besides, I’ve resolved this for myself over a decade ago here and here.   Thx for writing me about the title.

While I’m at it, let me suggest you check out this blog written by a river engineer.  I especially like the “secrecy” post from November 2022.

As New Dawn approached the Fort Madison city front the other day, I was hoping for a shot with

a white pelican passing.


the pelican had other ideas,  took wing, and headed away.

Note the silo complex over on the Illinois side by Nauvoo.

Any guesses on the numbers for New Dawn?



All photos, any errors, WVD.

New Dawn.  1974.  140′ x 42′.     6000 hp


I’m still in the SE Iowa area along the Mississippi.  See the “welcome to Illinois” sign just ahead of those BNSF engines?

Guess the numbers on Ronald E. Wagenblast heading upriver here through the Route 61 bridge?

She’s got curves.  She’s pushing 5 rows 3 wide, which translates to 1000′ long x 105′ wide, too.   

The Fort Madison Toll Bridge, aka the Santa Fe Swing Span Bridge–a double decker with automobile traffic level above a rail level–has been operating since 1927! Anyone know the width of the channel with the span open?

Soon after Wagenblast was precision-guided through the opening, 

Lindsay Ann Erickson came through.

She was also pushing 15 barges, making the payload 1000′ x 105′ as well.  

Note that the towboat lacks the curves of Wagenblast.  Take that into account as you guess her numbers, which you’ll find below.

HFL Mariner appears here for the second time now. 

Keokuk IA is about 20 miles to the south of fort Madison, my adopted base for a few days. At Lock and Dam No. 19, there’s a remarkable powerhouse, which I failed to get a good photo of, but you can see one along with lots of other info about the infrastructure here.  If you just want to see an aerial shot, click here.  The lock chamber is 1200′ x 110′ and provides a lift of 38′.

While I was there, yet another Marquette Transportation Company (MTC) tow exited.


Recognize those birds in the foreground?  I got lots of photos, which I’ll post one of these days also. 

The bridge links Keokuk with Hamilton IL.


All photos, WVD, who has a few days in this area before taking segment 8 of 10 of my train journey.

Ronald E. Wagenblast.  1965.   164′ x 40′.  5000 hp

Lindsay Ann Erickson.  1982.    168′ x 40′  6400 hp

Jason W. Nyberg.  1980. 145′ x 48′. 6140 hp


A few days ago I’d posted “Random Nola Tugs 7” and asked what type of tugboat I’d omitted, and you came through.  As I address that omission, I realize it’s misleading to call these vessels “Nola tugs,” since they –like all vessels and other machines of transportation–move.  Period.  Even “Mississippi River tugs” is misleading because they can and do move into other waterways, other inland waterways like the Ohio, Missouri, Illinois . . . and more.   

Another complication is that many would call these towboats, not tugs.  For that reason, I added the *.

Let’s start in Nola and then, since I’m moving also, rejoin the river many miles upstream. The 1969 Carol McManus,  180′ x 50” 9000 hp, is an example of a line haul boat often  pushing a dozen or two or three barges up and down the “line” stopping during the long haul to drop or add barges at fleet ports.

In contrast, the 1972 Hiawatha is 60′ x 22′ and 800 hp.

The 2011 Orange is 78′ x 34′ and 2000 hp.  Hiawatha and Orange could be considered “local” boats.

Susan Johnson is another line haul boat, built 1975, 180′ x 52′ and 9000 hp triple screw.

That’s the froth of all those horses.

The boats above I saw from a 75-degree cityfront New Orleans two weeks ago;  the next set I caught yesterday in 18-degree weather from the southernmost port in Iowa, Fort Madison, which will be my base for a few days.  

The 2010 HFL Mariner is 166′ x 48′ and 6000 hp.

The 1967 Coral Dawn is 164′ x 40′ and 5400 hp.

Part of that lack of clarity is snow flurries AND a dirty window.  Yes, I mostly stayed indoors.

The 1977 Aubrey B. Harwell Jr comes in at 170′ x 45′ and 6120 hp.

All photos, any errors, WVD, who expected March to stay warm.  A few days ago, five inches of snow fell at the Rio Grande in Big Bend National Park.


“What do you like about New Orleans?”  A friend asked me that recently.  Different answers exist: ubiquitous and diverse music, unique architecture, history and present through all the senses, spicy and delicious food, free spirits, bons temps roulants…  this list can be even longer.  But for me, the traffic on the river is without rival .  . . that I know of.  That’s what calls me back.  I can even skip the music, merriment, and tastes, but the river always attracts and satisfies.  From my recent stay, here are some photos.

I’m thinking this may be a formerly Bouchard boat, but I really don’t know who this is getting spa treatment.

Any help?

Mary Moran was there too.  She’s of the same general class as Miriam and Margaret.

A. Thomas Higgins is not as new as I thought, but still, she’s not yet at the 5-year mark.  

Here’s a recent article on her from ProfessionalMariner, which among many other things mentions her namesake.  It makes me wonder if this Mr. Higgins is related to Andrew J. Higgins, the “new Noah”

Turquoise Coast, formerly Barbara E Bouchard, was in.

Rodney, the former Sheila Moran, came through with a barge, heading upstream.

Michael S I thought was newer, but she’s from 2009. 

More info can be found here

Know this unit?

A clue is the name . . . well, number . .  of the barge, 1964.

It’s Millville, the WaWa . . . THAT WaWa, tug, which I saw under construction in Sturgeon Bay in 2017, which seems like a lifetime ago.  My friend Jack caught the unit in Nova Scotia here,  as she was first headed into salt water.  Take a close look at the last photo in this post from 2017 . . . yup that was what would become 1964

All photos, WVD, who wonders if you’ve noticed what type of tugboat I’ve omitted here.  This is not-so-random a selection, as you’ll see in an upcoming post. 


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