ST. PAUL, Minn. -- The Motor Vessel Aaron F. Barrett, pushing 12 barges en route to St. Paul was locked through Lock and Dam 2, near Hastings, April 24, 2019.

The Corps considers the first tow to arrive at Lock and Dam 2 as the unofficial start of the navigation season, because it means all of its locks are accessible to commercial and recreational vessels. However, this spring's high flows continue to force lock closures in Iowa, Illinois and Missouri and could lead to additional lock closures within the St. Paul District, leading to delays in other tows reaching St Paul.

The earliest date for an up-bound tow to reach Lock and Dam 2 was March 4, in 1983, 1984 and 2000. The average start date of the navigation season is March 22. The latest arrival date unrelated to flooding was April 11, 2018. Historic flooding in 2001 delayed the arrival of the first tow until May 11.

The Corps would also like to remind boaters to "share the road." Commercial towboats with barges are less maneuverable and take longer to stop than recreation boats, and cannot move out of the main channel of the river. Before getting underway boaters should consider:

- Taking a safe boating course
- Wearing a life jacket at all times
- Leaving alcohol behind to reduce risk
- Checking the forecast
- Filing a float plan with a friend or family member

The first tow to reach Lock and Dam 2 in 2018 was the Motor Vessel Michael Poindexter. She was locked through April 11, 2018.

The St. Paul District maintains a 9-foot navigation channel and operates 12 locks and dams to support navigation from Minneapolis to Guttenberg, Iowa. Keeping this system open is vital to the nation's economy. The commercial navigation industry estimates an annual average savings of nearly $270 million by using the inland waterways instead of overland shipping methods.