Arkansas Waterways Association
Melanie Baden, Executive Director
(870) 672-1425
10600 Industrial Park Drive
Little Rock, AR 72206

Mississippi Valley Flood Control Association
Rob Rash, Director
(901) 398-1613
1196 Poplarview Lane South, Suite 3
Collierville, TN 38017

White River Coalition
Harvey Joe Sanner
(870) 256-4766
Box 950
Des Arc, AR 72040


NEW! FOR EDUCATORS “Let’s Make Waves” lesson plan with activities – Identifying counties of Arkansas and major rivers from the Arkansas Department of Parks & Tourism.

  • Lesson Plan PDF
  • Map worksheet PDF
  • Answer Key PDF

Visit the Arkansas River Historical exhibit at the Arkansas Inland Maritime Museum. Tell them you found it here!

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    Workhorses of Industry



    Self contained vessels that push the barges. Power varies from 500 to more than 6000 horsepower.

    Covered dry cargo barge


    195 feet long, 1500 ton capacity
    Carries: grain, soybeans, coffee, salt, sugar, paper products, packaged goods

    Deck barge


    200 feet long, 2000 ton capacity
    Carries: sand and gravel, construction equipment, prefabricated buildings, military equipment, oil rigs, spacecraft

    Open hopper barge


    195 feet long, 1500 ton capacity
    Carries: coal, steel and ore, sand and gravel, lumber

    Liquid cargo (tank) barge


    297 feet long, 1 million gallon capacity
    Carries: petroleum and petroleum products, liquid fertilizers, industrial chemicals, orange juice


    A towboat connected by wire cable to a number of barges. The typical number of barges varies by river, but can be two to 40 barges.

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    Why Waterways?

    Waterways: Working For You

    Waterborne transportation requires significantly less fuel than rail or trucks. Freight transportation is often measured in ton-miles. A ton-mile is equivalent to a ton of freight moved one mile. Air pollution resulting from water transportation is negligible. As a precaution, the waterway industry is installing vapor control systems to capture any emissions.

    Fuel Efficiency


    The number of ton-miles per gallon of fuel by barge is 514 miles, by train 202 miles and, by truck 59 miles.

    Barge traffic does not add to the noise pollution or congestion that is common with other modes. It is the safest type of transportation to move chemicals and toxic materials.

    Compare the Costs


    The cost per ton mile for a barge is only .97¢, compared to 2.53¢ for rail, and 5.35¢ for trucking.


    Other benefits include an improved natural environment for fish and wildlife, parks and recreational areas, generation of clean and renewable hydroelectric power, reduced soil erosion and flood reduction.

    Saving Money

    The benefits realized from lower fuel consumption, less pollution, and economy of scale combine to make barge transportation the most economical of the major modes. Where waterborne transportation is available, rail and truck costs are lowered. An economical and sustainable transportation link to world markets provides American producers with a competitive advantage.

    Benefitting You

    American Consumers

    Prices for consumer products remain reasonable. Water related recreational opportunities are available. Cities have a reliable water supply for cities, farms, and industry. People are protected against flood and have low-cost energy due to hydropower generation. All of these are added benefits to citizens because navigation is available on our waterways.

    American Workers

    Miners, farmers and other workers earn more because waterborne transportation allows their company to reduce transportation costs. In fact, industries which use barge transportation typically pay higher than average wages.


    Raw material costs remain low because inexpensive transportation is available and allows manufacturers to distribute products in a less expensive manner.

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    Inland Waterways System

    America’s Inland Waterways System

    12,000 Mile Delivery Route

    The inland waterways of the United States are a unique resource shared by only 24 states. These waterways provide direct access for international markets and are ideal locations for industry and distribution centers.


    Fifteen percent of all cargo is carried on the inland waterway system. The inland waterway transportation industry moves cargo worth nearly $2.4 billion, provides hundreds of jobs and contributes $2.4 million in state and federal payroll taxes each year.

    Major products that move on Arkansas waterways are grains, steel, fertilizers, petroleum and petroleum products, aggregates, paper, coal, chemicals and wood products. American jobs depend on economical transportation of raw materials to fuel the economy of the nation. Waterways provide that means.

    Ports, or Maritime Multimodal Industrial Centers, are natural industrial sites for concentrating basic industries to minimize movement of heavy cargoes over highways and railroads. Receipt of raw materials, manufacturing, warehousing, intermodal transfers and distribution can all occur within port areas.