McCLELLAN-KERR ARKANSAS RIVER NAVIGATION SYSTEM
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An Act of Congress (PL 91-469) January 5, 1971, designated the official name of the Arkansas-Verdigris Waterway as the McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System (MKARNS).
The MKARNS provides a variety of benefits: water supply, navigation, fish and wildlife conservation, recreation, hydropower generation, and flood control (when considered part of the Arkansas River Basin Project, which includes upstream reservoirs to control water flows).
The length of the system is 445 river miles. It takes a commercial tow (towboat and barges) about 5 days to travel the MKARNs; about 10 days to get to New Orleans from the Tulsa Port of Catoosa.
The system is entered via the White River; continued on the Arkansas Post Canal; then up the Arkansas River to Muskogee; and on to the Tulsa Port of Catoosa via the Verdigris River.
The system was channeled up the Verdigris to Catoosa from Muskogee, rather than up the Arkansas to Tulsa, because the Arkansas River at Tulsa is 110' higher in elevation than the Verdigris at Catoosa.
The Corps of Engineers maintains a minimum 9 foot channel depth on the system. The system has 18 locks and dams--13 in Arkansas, 5 in Oklahoma.
Each lock chamber is 110' wide and 600' long. The McClellan-Kerr was designed for 8 barge tows and can accommodate 15 barge tows using double lockage. Tow haulage equipment has been installed on the lower six locks in Arkansas, with plans to install the other locks in the future.
Federal cost of the system was $1.2 billion. The Corps of Engineers reports a 99% return on its investment. Billions of dollars in public and private investment has occurred along the MKARNS in Arkansas and Oklahoma. At the Tulsa Port of Catoosa alone, the waterway has generated investment of more than $1.15 billion, and over 2 billion dollars at Muskogee.
90+ industries and 6000 employees are located at the five public ports on the system . These public ports are located at Catoosa, Muskogee, Ft. Smith, Little Rock and Pine Bluff. There are approximately 50 private ports.
There are nearly 100 industries on the Oklahoma segment of the MKARNS. The segment between Catoosa and Muskogee provides direct employment for over 4,000 people and an annual payroll of more than $85 million. Indirect employment accounts for another 6,000 jobs and a payroll of $90 million.
Over the past 25 years, the MKARNS has created 54,000 direct jobs, paying $78 million annually; indirect payroll is well over $1 billion.
The waterway industry provides direct employment for approximately 180,000 American citizens.
There are three designated Foreign Trade Zones along the navigation system at the public ports at Little Rock, Muskogee and Catoosa.
Not only is the 2,000 acre Tulsa Port of Catoosa the largest port on the MKARNS, but also is the largest and most inland ice-free port on the entire 25,000 miles of the U. S. inland waterway system.
In 2004 total tonnage shipped on the system was12,896,887. 2005 is expected to produce an even higher figure.
Commodities shipped include: chemical fertilizer; farm products; sand/gravel & rock; iron & steel; petroleum products; wheat; and soybeans. A 1994 chart lists commodity percentages.
The 12,896,887 tons shipped on the Waterway in 1997 are equivalent (in tons) to: 8598 barges, 128,970 railroad cars, or 515,880 trucks.
The first large inland waterway movement of military equipment since World War II originated on the MKARNS by the Arkansas Army National Guard when it traveled to Camp Grayling, Michigan for training.
Inland barges carry approximately 15 percent of the nations freight at the lowest unit cost, while offering an environmentally-sound alternative to other land modes.
Inland waterway transportation provides competitive shipping rates, keeping truck and rail transportation costs low -- and ideal transportation environment for new or expanding industries. Comparisons:
* Cents per ton mile: barge 0.97; oil pipeline 0.78; railroad 2.53; truck 5.35
** BTUs per ton mile: barge 433; railroad 696; oil pipeline 1,850; truck 2,400
*Corps of Engineers Annual Report. **USDOT Maritime Administration.
Number of miles one ton can be carried per gallon of fuel: Inland barge 514 miles, rail 202 miles, truck 59 miles.
.One jumbo barge has the same capacity as 15 railroad cars or 60 semi-trucks. In 2004, 1,311 barges carrying 2,220,871 tons moved through the Tulsa Port of Catoosa - an equivalent of 19,665 railroad cars or 78,660 trucks. In other comparisons of cargo capacities:
One jumbo barge = 1,500 tons 52,500 bushels 453,600 gallons
One railroad car = 100 tons 3,500 bushels 30,240 gallons
One semi-truck = 25 tons 875 bushels 7,560 gallons
Emissions produced in moving one ton of cargo 1,000 miles equal (pollutants in pounds):
*Hydrocarbon: towboat .09, rail .46, truck .63
*Carbon monoxide: towboat .20, rail .64, truck 1.90
*Nitrous oxide: towboat .53 rail 1.83, truck 10.17
*Environmental Protection Agency, Emission Control Lab
The Jean-Pierre Chouteau Hiking Trail, located alongside the MKARNS from a point near Ft. Gibson, OK, is 60 miles long, has a total of 15 bridges spanning streams and six public use areas with camping and picnicking facilities, and is on the National Register of Trails.
In January 1986, the M/V Frauke, a West German cargo ship, traveled to the Tulsa Port of Catoosa via the MKARNS. The ship was the first international ocean-going ship to traverse the system.
* Thanks to the Oklahoma Department of Transportation and Tulsa Port of Catoosa for information used on this Fact Sheet.
Comments to The Arkansas
River Historical Society Museum