By Associated Press - Sunday, March 21, 2021

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - The first Mississippi River towboat has marked the unofficial start of the 2021 navigation season.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers officials say the Motor Vehicle R. Clayton McWhorter passed through Lock and Dam 3 near Welch on Friday afternoon.

The tow, which originated in the Quad Cities of Iowa and Illinois, was pushing 12 barges en route to St. Paul. It had earlier passed through Lake Pepin, which borders Minnesota and Wisconsin. The lake is the last major barrier to spring navigation because its ice is the last part of the river to break up.

Although navigation season has started on the Upper Mississippi, it will be limited through the end of the month because of construction south of Lock and Dam 25 near Winfield, Missouri, the St. Paul Pioneer Press reported.

A 15-barge tow can move as much bulk commodities as 1,050 semis or more than 200 rail cars, according to the Corps of Engineers, whose St. Paul district operates 12 locks and dams from Minneapolis to Guttenberg, Iowa.

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