McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River: Water Transport Asset to the World.
The McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System is a 445-mile waterway linking Oklahoma and the surrounding five-state area with ports on the nation’s 25,000-mile inland water transport system. In addition, the Tulsa Port of Catoosa’s easy access to the New Orleans and Gulf Intercoastal Waterway provides an extended reach to foreign and domestic ports across the globe. Because of its south-central location, water transport is available year-round, regardless of weather conditions.
The Tulsa Port of Catoosa, near Tulsa, Oklahoma, is located at the head of navigation for the system. The waterway travels 445 miles along the Verdigris River, the Arkansas River, the Arkansas Post Canal and the White River before joining the Mississippi at Montgomery Point. New Orleans is 600 miles south. In an average year, 13-million tons of cargo is transported on the McClellan-Kerr by barge. Numerous industries, including fertilizer companies and industrial gas suppliers, utilize water transport to ship bulk freight ranging from sand and rock to fertilizer, wheat, raw steel, refined petroleum products and sophisticated petrochemical processing equipment.
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There are 18 locks and dams on the McClellan-Kerr, which create a 440-mile “staircase” of water through a series of reservoirs. In addition to economical water transport, the waterway system provides beautiful lakes for recreation, sport fishing, hydroelectric power and municipal water supplies. Adequate water is assured year-round by a system of impoundment lakes that constantly feed water into the navigation system. These lakes also provide flood control.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers built the system 36 years ago, at a cost of $1.3 billion, and still operates and maintains it. Issues regarding safety, however, are the jurisdiction of the U.S. Coast Guard.