McClellan–Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System

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McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System
Big Dam Bridge.jpg
Big Dam Bridge is a footbridge built atop the Murray Lock and Dam in Little Rock, Arkansas
(originally 17)
(Lock #11 was never constructed however Montgomery point, Lock 99, was added after construction was completed)
Original number of locks17
Navigation authorityCorps of Engineers
Construction began1963 - 1971
Date of first useJanuary 1971
Date completed1970
End pointTulsa Port of Catoosa
Branch(es)Arkansas Post Canal
Inland waterway system with McClellan-Kerr Navigation System in red Kerr-McClellan map.png
Inland waterway system with McClellan-Kerr Navigation System in red
Map of McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System Map of McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System.jpg
Map of McClellan–Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System

The McClellan–Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System (MKARNS) is part of the inland waterway system originating at the Tulsa Port of Catoosa and running southeast through Oklahoma and Arkansas to the Mississippi River. The system was named for two Senators: Robert S. Kerr (D-OK) and John L. McClellan (D-AR), who pushed authorizing legislation through Congress. The system officially opened June 5, 1971. President Richard M. Nixon attended the opening ceremony. [1] It is operated by the Corps of Engineers. [2]

Inland waterways of the United States

The inland waterways of the United States include more than 25,000 mi (40,000 km) of navigable waters. Much of the commercially important waterways of the United States consist of the Mississippi River System—the Mississippi River and connecting waterways.

Tulsa Port of Catoosa

The Tulsa Port of Catoosa (TPOC) is near the city of Catoosa in Rogers County, just inside the municipal fenceline of Tulsa, Oklahoma, United States. Located at the head of navigation for the McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System, it handles shipping loads through its waterway access to the Arkansas River via the Verdigris River. TPOC offers year round, ice-free barge service with river flow levels controlled by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. It encompasses an area of 2,500 acres (10 km2) and employs over 4,000 people at over 70 companies in its industrial park. The port ships manufactured goods and agricultural products from Oklahoma to the rest of the world. Designated a foreign trade zone, it is a major economic engine for the region with over 2.7 million tons of cargo shipped through the Port in 2013 alone.

Oklahoma State of the United States of America

Oklahoma is a state in the South Central region of the United States, bordered by Kansas on the north, Missouri on the northeast, Arkansas on the east, Texas on the south, New Mexico on the west, and Colorado on the northwest. It is the 20th-most extensive and the 28th-most populous of the fifty United States. The state's name is derived from the Choctaw words okla and humma, meaning "red people". It is also known informally by its nickname, "The Sooner State", in reference to the non-Native settlers who staked their claims on land before the official opening date of lands in the western Oklahoma Territory or before the Indian Appropriations Act of 1889, which dramatically increased European-American settlement in the eastern Indian Territory. Oklahoma Territory and Indian Territory were merged into the State of Oklahoma when it became the 46th state to enter the union on November 16, 1907. Its residents are known as Oklahomans, and its capital and largest city is Oklahoma City.


Though it primarily follows the Arkansas River, it also follows portions of the Verdigris River in Oklahoma and the White River in Arkansas. It also includes the Arkansas Post Canal, a short canal named for nearby Arkansas Post National Memorial, connecting the Arkansas and White Rivers.

Arkansas River major tributary of the Mississippi River, United States

The Arkansas River is a major tributary of the Mississippi River. It generally flows to the east and southeast as it traverses the U.S. states of Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Arkansas. The river's source basin lies in the western United States in Colorado, specifically the Arkansas River Valley, where the headwaters derive from the snowpack in the Sawatch and Mosquito mountain ranges. It then flows east into the Midwest via Kansas, and finally into the South through Oklahoma and Arkansas.

Verdigris River Tributary of the Arkansas River in Kansas and Oklahoma, USA

The Verdigris River is a tributary of the Arkansas River in southeastern Kansas and northeastern Oklahoma in the United States. It is about 310 miles (500 km) long. Via the Arkansas, it is part of the Mississippi River watershed.

Canal Man-made channel for water

Canals, or navigations, are human-made channels, or artificial waterways, for water conveyance, or to service water transport vehicles.

Through Oklahoma and Arkansas, dams artificially deepen and widen this modest sized river to build it into a commercially navigable body of water. The design enables traffic to overcome an elevation difference of 420 feet (130 m) between the Mississippi River and the Tulsa Port of Catoosa. [2] Along the section of the Arkansas River that carries the McClellan-Kerr channel, the river sustains commercial barge traffic and offers passenger and recreational use and is a series of reservoirs. Total length of the system is 445 miles (716 km). [1]

Official Change of Significance

The U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) officially announced in early May 2015 that it had upgraded MKARNS from "Connector" to "Corridor" on the National Marine Highway. The announcement also added the Oklahoma Department of Transportation (ODOT) as an official sponsor. [3] [lower-alpha 1] [lower-alpha 2]

In 2015, the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers had increased its designation of the MKARNS from a moderate-use to a high-use waterway system. The high-use designation means that a waterway carries more than 10 million tons per year, having a value of more than 12 million ton-miles per year. [3]


The Arkansas River is very shallow through Arkansas and Oklahoma, and was naturally incapable of supporting river traffic through most of the year. To allow for navigation, construction was started in 1963 on a system of channels and locks to connect the many reservoirs along the length of the Arkansas River. The first section, running to Little Rock, Arkansas, opened on January 1, 1969. The first barge to reach the Port of Catoosa arrived in early 1971.

Little Rock, Arkansas Capital of Arkansas

Little Rock is the capital and most populous city of the U.S. state of Arkansas. As the county seat of Pulaski County, the city was incorporated on November 7, 1831, on the south bank of the Arkansas River close to the state's geographic center. The city derives its name from a rock formation along the river, named the "Little Rock" by the French explorer Jean-Baptiste Bénard de la Harpe in the 1720s. The capital of the Arkansas Territory was moved to Little Rock from Arkansas Post in 1821. The city's population was 198,541 in 2016 according to the United States Census Bureau. The six-county Little Rock-North Little Rock-Conway, AR Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) is ranked 78th in terms of population in the United States with 738,344 residents according to the 2017 estimate by the United States Census Bureau.

Each lock measures 110 feet (34 m) wide and 600 feet (180 m) long, the standard size for much of the Mississippi River waterway. Standard jumbo barges, measuring 35 by 195 feet (59 m), are grouped 3 wide by 3 long, with a tug at center rear, to form a barge tow which can be fit into a lock. Larger barge tows must be broken down and passed through the lock in sections, and rejoined on the opposite side. [4]

The specifications for the channel itself are as follows:

Although Congress originally authorized USACE to dredge the channel to a depth of 12 ft (3.7 m) in 2005, it did not provide the funds to do so. ODOT says that the capacity of each barge could be increased by 200 tons for each foot of draft. [4] An article in 2010 stated that much of MKARNS is already 12 feet (3.7 m)deep, so that only about 75 miles (121 km) would need to be deepened. The article quoted Lt. Col. Gene Snyman, then deputy commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Tulsa District, as saying such a project would cost about $170 million (2010 dollars). [5]

Lock information

Map all coordinates using: OpenStreetMap  
Download coordinates as: KML  ·  GPX

The following tables list the features of the navigation system, from the Mississippi River to the origin at the Port of Catoosa. Except as noted, all locks are on the Arkansas River.

There is no lock 11; sequentially, it would have been in the middle of Lake Dardanelle. Per the animated system map (see "External links"), Dardanelle Lock & Dam (lock 10), which forms Lake Dardanelle, is the highest facility on the system (54 feet between upper & lower pools); Ozark-Jeta Taylor Lock & Dam (lock 12), just above that lake, is the third highest (34 feet). Thus, it is likely that those two facilities were redesigned, in terms of height and possibly location, so as to eliminate lock 11 as originally planned. The Mississippi River lock is numbered lock 99 as it was added to the system after it was completed.

McClellan–Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System Locks and Dams
FeatureNavigational distance
from Mississippi River
Montgomery Point Lock and Dam
(Lock 99)
0.5 mi (0.80 km) White River 33°56′45″N91°05′13″W / 33.94583°N 91.08694°W / 33.94583; -91.08694 (Montgomery Point Lock and Dam) Dam Coffer.jpg |
Norrell Lock and Dam
(Lock 1)
10.3 mi (16.6 km)Arkansas Post Canal 34°01′10″N91°11′40″W / 34.01944°N 91.19444°W / 34.01944; -91.19444 (Norrell Lock and Dam) Norrell Lock and Dam, Arkansas.jpg
Lock 213.3 mi (21.4 km)Arkansas Post Canal 34°01′34″N91°14′45″W / 34.02611°N 91.24583°W / 34.02611; -91.24583 (Lock No. 2)
Wilbur D. Mills Dam 19 mi (31 km) Arkansas County /Desha County 33°59′20″N91°18′47″W / 33.98889°N 91.31306°W / 33.98889; -91.31306 (Wilbur D. Mills Dam) Wilbur D. Mills Dam.jpg
Joe Hardin Lock and Dam
(Lock 3)
50.2 mi (80.8 km) Jefferson County 34°09′49″N91°40′40″W / 34.16361°N 91.67778°W / 34.16361; -91.67778 (Joe Hardin Lock and Dam)
Emmett Sanders Lock and Dam
(Lock 4)
66.0 mi (106.2 km) Pine Bluff 34°14′49″N91°54′19″W / 34.24694°N 91.90528°W / 34.24694; -91.90528 (Emmett Sanders Lock and Dam)
Col. Charles D. Maynard Lock and Dam
(Lock 5)
86.3 mi (138.9 km) Jefferson County 34°24′46″N92°06′03″W / 34.41278°N 92.10083°W / 34.41278; -92.10083 (Col. Charles D. Maynard Lock and Dam)
David D. Terry Lock and Dam
(Lock 6)
108.1 mi (174.0 km) Pulaski County 34°39′58″N92°09′23″W / 34.66611°N 92.15639°W / 34.66611; -92.15639 (David D. Terry Lock and Dam)
Murray Lock and Dam
Lock 7
125.4 mi (201.8 km) Little Rock 34°47′25″N92°21′28″W / 34.79028°N 92.35778°W / 34.79028; -92.35778 (Murray Lock and Dam) Murray Lock.jpg
Toad Suck Ferry Lock and Dam
(Lock 8)
155.9 mi (250.9 km) Conway 35°04′35″N92°32′23″W / 35.07639°N 92.53972°W / 35.07639; -92.53972 (Toad Suck Ferry Lock and Dam)
Arthur V. Ormond Lock and Dam
(Lock 9)
176.9 mi (284.7 km) Morrilton 35°07′30″N92°47′09″W / 35.12500°N 92.78583°W / 35.12500; -92.78583 (Arthur V. Ormond Lock and Dam)
Dardanelle Lock and Dam
(Lock 10)
205.5 mi (330.7 km) Dardanelle /Russellville 35°15′00″N93°10′07″W / 35.25000°N 93.16861°W / 35.25000; -93.16861 (Dardanelle Lock and Dam) Dardanelle Lock and Dam (circa 2015).jpg
Lock 11Never Constructed
Ozark-Jeta Taylor Lock and Dam
(Lock 12) [lower-alpha 3]
256.8 mi (413.3 km) Ozark 35°28′17″N93°48′46″W / 35.47139°N 93.81278°W / 35.47139; -93.81278 (Ozark-Jeta Taylor Lock and Dam)
James W. Trimble Lock and Dam
(Lock 13) [lower-alpha 4]
292.8 mi (471.2 km) Barling 35°20′55″N94°17′52″W / 35.34861°N 94.29778°W / 35.34861; -94.29778 (James W. Trimble Lock and Dam)
W. D. Mayo Lock and Dam
(Lock 14)
319.6 mi (514.3 km) Fort Coffee 35°18′52″N94°33′33″W / 35.31444°N 94.55917°W / 35.31444; -94.55917 (W. D. Mayo Lock and Dam) 161102-A-IF821-182 L-n-D-14-1024x683.jpg
Robert S. Kerr Lock and Dam
(Lock 15)
336.2 mi (541.1 km) Sallisaw 35°20′54″N94°46′40″W / 35.34833°N 94.77778°W / 35.34833; -94.77778 (Robert S. Kerr Lock and Dam) USACE Robert S Kerr Lock and Dam.jpg
Webbers Falls Lock and Dam
(Lock 16)
366.7 mi (590.1 km) Webbers Falls 35°33′14″N95°10′02″W / 35.55389°N 95.16722°W / 35.55389; -95.16722 (Webbers Falls Lock and Dam) USACE Webbers Falls Lock and Dam.jpg
Chouteau Lock & Dam
(Lock 17)
401.4 mi (646.0 km) Wagoner (Verdigris River) 35°51′25″N95°22′14″W / 35.85694°N 95.37056°W / 35.85694; -95.37056 (Chouteau Lock and Dam) Chouteau Lock and Dam - Wagoner County, Oklahoma.jpg
Newt Graham Lock and Dam
(Lock 18)
421.6 mi (678.5 km) Inola (Verdigris River) 36°03′31″N95°32′11″W / 36.05861°N 95.53639°W / 36.05861; -95.53639 (Newt Graham Lock and Dam) USACE Newt Graham Lock and Dam.jpg
Port of Catoosa 445 mi (716 km) Catoosa (Verdigris River) 36°14′28″N95°44′15″W / 36.24111°N 95.73750°W / 36.24111; -95.73750 (Port of Catoosa) Aerial photo of the Tulsa Port of Catoosa taken May 5, 2008.jpg

Waterway traffic control

The growth of business along MKARNS has greatly increased congestion at the locks. The Secretary of the Army has directed the Corps of Engineers to establish the following priorities for admitting vessels to each lock:

There is no minimum size for watercraft using the locks. Craft as small as canoes, dinghies, kayaks have all been allowed to use the locks, either alone or with multiple other vessels at the same time. If commercial traffic is heavy, pleasure craft may be required to wait approximately 1.5 hours or may be allowed to lock through with commercial vessels. [7]

See also


  1. The Arkansas Department of Transportation had previously been designated as an official sponsor.
  2. According to Senator James Inhofe, (R-OK), The change of status will increase support for funding to ..."improve reliability in navigation, hydropower generation and flood risk reduction.” [3]
  3. The reservoir created by Ozark-Jeta Taylor Lock and Dam is named Ozark Lake. [6]
  4. John Paul Hammerschmidt Lake was created by the completion of James W. Trimble Lock & Dam. The lake is 26 miles (42 km) long with the dam and half its length in Arkansas and the other half of its length in Oklahoma. [6]

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Lake Dardanelle lake of the United States of America

Lake Dardanelle is a major reservoir on the Arkansas River in Arkansas, USA. and is an integral part of the McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System (MKARNS), which allows barge transportation from the Mississippi River to the Tulsa Port of Catoosa in northeastern Oklahoma. MKARNS went into service along its full length in 1971.

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Robert S. Kerr Reservoir

Robert S. Kerr Reservoir is located within the Cookson Hills, on the Arkansas River in Sequoyah, Le Flore, Haskell, and Muskogee counties in eastern Oklahoma, US. It is about eight miles south of the nearest major town, Sallisaw, Oklahoma. The reservoir is impounded by Robert S. Kerr Lock and Dam at river mile 336.2 on the Arkansas River, just a few miles below its confluence with the Canadian River. The lock and dam are part of the McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System, which provides for barge navigation on the Arkansas River and some of its tributaries. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers maintains the locks and navigation system.

Webbers Falls Lake

Webbers Falls Lake, also known as Webbers Falls Reservoir, is a reservoir created by a lock and dam on the Arkansas River in Muskogee County, Oklahoma. The normal elevation is 490 feet (150 m). It has 157 miles (253 km) of shoreline and a surface area of 11,600 acres (47,000,000 m2). The drainage area of the lake is 97,033 square miles (251,310 km2). It is an integral part of the McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System, which was completed in 1971.

W. D. Mayo Lock and Dam

The W. D. Mayo Lock and Dam on the Arkansas River is an integral part of the McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System (MKARNS). The dam is located at navigation mile 319.6, about 9 miles (14 km) southwest of Fort Smith, Arkansas. It is the first lock and dam west of the Arkansas-Oklahoma state line. It was named for a deceased Sallisaw, Oklahoma businessman who was also a civic leader and champion of fully developing the river. The number 14 designates this facility as the fourteenth in sequence from the start of MKARNS. It lies in LeFlore and Sequoyah Counties, Oklahoma.

Wilbur D. Mills Dam

Wilbur D. Mills Dam is a steel dam and generating facility located on the Arkansas River in Arkansas County and Desha County, Arkansas, United States.

Newt Graham Lock & Dam

Newt Graham Lock & Dam is the final lock and dam of the McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System (MKARNS) before reaching the western terminus, Tulsa Port of Catoosa on the Verdigris River. The lock and dam is 24.8 miles (39.9 km) downstream of the port.

Chouteau Lock & Dam

Chouteau Lock & Dam, also identified as Chouteau Lock & Dam 17, is 17th lock and dam of the McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System (MKARNS) from the Mississippi River to its terminus at the Tulsa Port of Catoosa, and is the first lock and dam on the Verdigris River in Oklahoma, just above the Three Forks junction with the Arkansas River. The lock is about 4 miles (6.4 km) northwest of Okay in Wagoner County, Oklahoma. Construction of this facility started in 1966 and was completed in 1970. The estimated cost of Chouteau Lock & Dam was $ 31.8 million.

John Paul Hammerschmidt Lake is a reservoir on the Arkansas River and an integral part of the McClellan–Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System (MKARNS). It was formed by constructing the James W. Trimble Lock & Dam 13 across the river, near the city of Barling, Arkansas and extends upriver 26 miles (42 km) to W. D. Mayo Lock and Dam, which is located inside the state of Oklahoma. Although the Trimble facility was completed in 1969, it was not allowed to pass commercial barges until 1971, when upstream facilities were completed.


  1. 1 2 O'Dell, Larry. Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture. "McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System."
  2. 1 2 U. S. Army Corps of Engineers Little Rock District. MKARNS at the Library of Congress Web Archives(archived 2003-03-29)
  3. 1 2 3 ["Oklahoma Waterway Takes Prestigious Step Up in National Status (PRESS RELEASE)". U.S. Department of Transportation. May 15, 2015.] Accessed June 16, 2017.
  4. 1 2 "McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System 2016 Inland Waterway Fact Sheet". Oklahoma Department of Transportation. 2016. Accessed June 16, 2017.
  5. Kramer, Kirk. "Going deeper – Deeper channel would boost business." Muskogee Phoenix. October 17, 2010. Accessed June 20, 2017.
  6. 1 2 Townsend, Jay, "11 Great Things about the Arkansas River in Arkansas." Pacesetter Live. November 17, 2015. Accessed December 21, 2017.