The Upper Mississippi River is controlled by a system of 29 locks and dams to keep the river navigable by commercial traffic.
The 29 locks are in the 670 river miles between Minneapolis/St. Paul and St. Louis, MO. Past St. Louis (which is the delineation point between the Upper and Lower potions of the river) the Mississippi is fed by enough other rivers that the water level stays high enough to not need dams.
Taking the Dam Tour
Since locks and dams are such an integral part of the Upper Mississippi we wanted to visit one. Lock and Dam 15 in Rock Island, IL has a visitor center, so we found our way over.
Dam tour jokes ensued.
It wouldn’t be our first time at a Mississippi River Lock. We went through a lock when we rented a houseboat on the Mississippi a few years ago.
We were hoping for a slightly less traumatic experience just going to watch.
We arrived just as a tow was locking down and another was waiting to lock up.
The tows are too long to fit through all at once so they break them up into two pieces, lock each section through, and then reassemble the tow before heading off again.
We found it fascinating to watch. Between the bridge swinging aside, the tows moving through, and the lock filling and emptying of water, it was a slow-motion ballet of large equipment and civil engineering.
This is the where the first railroad bridge across the Mississippi was built (the bridge in the photos is not the original bridge). The steamboat operators sued the railroad company after a mishap and the railroad hired one Abraham Lincoln to defend them. Honest Abe won after going all the way to the Supreme Court.
When someone one Facebook mentioned Whiteys Ice Cream and how it was a ‘thing’ in the Quad Cities right when we happened to be there we took it as a sign from above to stop on the way home. We had to test out their claim of ‘Best in the Midwest’.
So - it was good (really, how often is ice cream bad?). But we have still not found an ice cream place we like as well as our home-town Captain Sundae.
Have You Locked?
Have you gone through locks in a boat? How did it go?