March 10–The 2017 Mississippi River shipping season is now underway. And yes, that’s earlier than usual.
On Thursday, the Motor Vessel Stephen L. Colby, a towboat, passed through Lock and Dam No. 2 near Hastings and steamed upstream, pushing 12 barges, en route to St. Paul.
The occasion marked the first commercial shipping vessel to navigate through the lock, which annually marks the unofficial opening of the season, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which operates the Mississippi’s lock and dam system.
There are no ice cutters on the river, so it closes to shipping each year when ice covers enough of it this far north.
The average start date for the season is March 22, according to the Corps of Engineers. The earliest season opening is March 4, which occurred three times: 1983, 1984 and 2000.