Boats & Barges

W. Red Harris Opens Upper Mississippi Navigation Season

The mv. W. Red Harris, owned by Marquette Transportation, broke its way through the ice of Lake Pepin March 21 to become the first boat to kick off the unofficial start of the 2022 navigation season on the Upper Mississippi River. The W. Red Harris has passed the mv. Aubrey B. Harwell.

The tow pushed by the mv. W. Red Harris originated from St. Louis, Mo. The boat was pushing nine barges en route to St. Paul, Minn. It passed through Lock and Dam 3, near Welch, Minn., at about 2 p.m. March 21.

The tow is the first vessel of the 2022 navigation season to pass through Lake Pepin, the last major barrier for vessels reaching the head of the navigation channel in St. Paul. The lake, located between the Minnesota cities of Red Wing and Wabasha, is the last part of the river to break up because the river is wider, and subsequently the current is slower there than it is in other parts of the river. If a tow can make it through Lake Pepin, it can make it all the way to St. Paul. The Army Corps of Engineers measures ice thickness on Lake Pepin throughout the spring to report to towing companies about the impending ice-out.

The twin-screw W. Red Harris was built in 1974 by Dravo Corp. in Neville Island, Pa., and rebuilt in 2001 by Kody Marine in Harvey, La. Its former names include the Enis M. (Thomas Marine Company), Kathy N (Apex Towing Company), Midwest Pioneer (Midwest Marine Management Company), Teresa Beesecker (Northstar Navigation Inc.), Capt. Russell Simpson (Ozark Transportation Company) and David L. Griggs (Marquette Transportation Company). It acquired its current name in 2018.

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This timing of this year’s first tow was about average. In the last 30 years, the average opening date of the navigation season has been March 20; last year, it was March 19. The earliest date for an up-bound tow to reach Lock and Dam 2 near Hastings was March 4 in 1983, 1984 and 2000. The latest arrival date in a non-flood year was April 4, 2008. Historic flooding in 2001 delayed the arrival of the first tow until May 11.