Missouri’s rivers, primarily the Mississippi and Missouri, have played an essential role in commercial transportation since the start of the twentieth century. Once used by steamboats to transport people and freight, the Missouri and Mississippi rivers transitioned into commercial routes for transporting goods via barge around World War I. After the devastating 1927 Mississippi River flood, Congress directed the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to begin work on channelizing and stabilizing the Mississippi River for flood control and navigation. By 1931, barge traffic on the Mississippi was at least double that of steamboat traffic any year in the 1800s. In the early 21st century, large-scale barge traffic declined on the Mississippi River and nearly disappeared from the Missouri river after conditions like drought, economic recession, and political issues pushed shippers to switch to semi-trucks and trains. In recent years, the Missouri and Mississippi rivers have seen a cautious return to their role as transportation corridors with the resurgence of barge traffic carrying commodities like grain, corn, coal, salt, fertilizer, and petroleum.
Situated at the confluence of the Mississippi, Missouri, and Illinois Rivers with access to agriculture and industry, St. Louis has also reclaimed its roots as a major trade and transportation city in recent years. The Port of Metropolitan St. Louis is the second-largest inland port system in the country and has a 15-mile stretch of the Mississippi River known as the “Ag Coast of America.” This photo, depicting a barge floating down the Mississippi River past the Cargill Processing Plant, is now a familiar scene in East St. Louis.
Categories: Business & Economy
Subject: Transportation; Mississippi River; Missouri River
Contributing Institution: Springfield-Greene County Library District
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County: St. Louis
Region: St. Louis Metro
Photographer: Ben Divin