Historic Markers Across Tennessee

Commercial Barge Traffic

Marker ID:  66
Location: Mud Island River Park, 125 N Front Street, Memphis, TN
County: Shelby
Coordinates: N 35° 8.968    W 090° 3.507
  35.14946666    -90.05845
Waymark: None


Commercial Barge Traffic
Panel #66 Mississippi Riverwalk

Barges first appeared on the Mississippi River after the U. S. Civil War, as river interest tried to compete with the railroads’ growing domination. The railroads won this transportation duel and tows practically disappeared from the river until WWI revived the need for river traffic. The industry has continually evolved since then and today’s sophisticated towboats and massive barges make up on the nation’s most economical transportation systems.
The first wooden barges were towed behind steamboats, but crosswinds and currents made the almost impossible to control. Through the name is the same, modern towing is really … Towboats push its group of barges, all to form a rigid unit. In the 1930’s steamboats were replaced by diesel-powered propellers. This arrangement is coordinated with the pick-up and delivery schedule, and sometimes the tow must during the trip in an intricate jigsaw puzzle fashion. The bow is lashed into a rigid unit using “wire” (2-inch steel cable) and “iron” (chains and lockhooks stretched tight). This hardwired is often called “river jewelry”.

Modern towboats are well-equipped and powerful-an average boat provides 8.500 horsepower and some can develop up to 16,500 horsepower. Like their steamboat ancestors they unusually have four decks, but modern pilots sit in padded swivel chairs surrounded by sophistical monitoring equipment. The familiar spoke wheel is a gone-a system of levers control both steering and engine power. Deckhands work two 6 hour shifts every 24 hours and get every other month off

River transportation has distinct economic advantages: it is dramatically cheaper than rail or trucks transport, and uses far less energy.

A photo of this marker can be found on HMDB.org


AHP - Above Head of Passes, this is the distance from the mouth of a river when measured along the course (navigable channel) starting at zero.