Missouri River System
The inland river system includes more than 25,000 miles of navigable waters inside the United States. Waterborne commerce connects the Upper Missouri River, the Lower Missouri River, and the Mississippi Rover through 19 states and into the global trade system.
The system spans the states of Arkansas, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Tennessee, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming. View more maps of the inland rivers.
Symbolically, the presence of waterborne commerce is vital. With approximately 5 million tons of cargo moving annually along the Missouri River, it is evident that the market supports this transportation industry. As of January 2012, the National Weather Service is reporting a depth of 11-feet in Kansas City; water levels are projected to remain constant and reliable.
Timeline of the Industry
- 1850’s: Heyday of the steamboat, the first major freight carrier on the river. These four-deck 250-foot vessels could carry up to 300 passengers and 700 tons of cargo.
- 1860’s: First stockyards established in West Bottoms.
- 1865: The arrival of the Missouri Pacific, which connected Kansas City to St. Louis. Later incorporated Kansas and Texas Pacific, becoming Union Pacific.
- 1880’s: Railroad lines developed in Kansas City and West Bottoms; the livestock market thrived with the installation of rail lines.
- 1903: Flood: 20,000 residents and workers within the West Bottoms district are evacuated.
- 1930’s: Municipal Wharf Freight Terminal Building constructed (still standing).
- 1935: Modern style traffic using diesel-powered towboats and barges began when the Federal Barge Lines (a federally owned corporation) pioneered commercial traffic.
- 1947: Mid-West Terminal begins its operations of the Municipal Wharf of Kansas City.
- 1951 Flood: 17,000 people evacuated.
- 1958: Commercial traffic season on the Missouri River amounted in 596,116 tons, consisting of iron and steel products, grains (including soybeans and alfalfa pellets), molasses, petroleum products, chemicals, and building materials.
- 1964-1968: Mid-West Terminal builds wooden structures (still standing) as storage facility infrastructure for goods including bulk fertilizers and agriculture.
- 1977: Tonnage shipped on the Missouri River peaked at 3.5 million tons. City Planning Commission designates area blighted.
- 1985: According to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, 776,835 tons of farm products, 611,180 tons of chemical and fertilizers, and 385,059 tons of food, vegetables, fruits and animal feeds were shipped up and down the river between St. Louis and Kansas City. Mid-West Terminal adds a structural dome and 3 cell cranes to operational infrastructure.
- 1990: Cement tops the list of Kansas City’s outbound products, accounting for 2/3rds of the freight barged out. Asphalt is the leading inbound commodity, amounting to 59% of good reaching the city by barge. The Missouri carries 2.2 million tons of commercial products, excluding sand and gravel. Mid-West Terminal operates on the City owned property with a long-term lease good through the end of 2020. Revenues in 1989 were $1.2 million, about 10% of that going to city coffers. Diverse businesses benefiting from the river traffic are:
- The Missouri-Portland Cement Co., operating a facility in Sugar Creek that supplies 120,000 tons of cement to Omaha, 70,000 tons to St. Louis and 12,000 tons to Memphis.
- Farmland Industries Inc., which relied on the Missouri and Mississippi to transport dry fertilizer into the region from the Gulf Coast of Florida.
- Chemtech Industries Inc. of St. Louis, which operated a Kansas City barge terminal for Shell Oil used to unload barges of asphalt coming primarily from Illinois.
- 2003: Tonnage shipped on the Missouri River dropped to 600,000 tons.
- 2007: Lease not renewed, property vacant.
- 2012: Port KC signs 15 year lease with the city of Kansas City, MO to operate the Port of Kansas City and starts rehabilitating port infrastructure.
- 2015: Port KC signs operating agreement with Kaw Valley Companies to operate on its behalf. In August, the Port of Kansas City welcomes its first barge load of freight since 2007.
- 2016: The port receives regular monthly shipments of fertilizer.
Existing Transportation System in Missouri
- 864 Million Tons of Freight through Missouri’s transportation system
- 462 Million Tons through Motor Carrier
- 40 Million Tons through River Ports
- 352 Million Tons by Rail
- 186 Thousand Tons by Air
Data Courtesy of MoDOT for 2016
Current Commercial Tonnage on Missouri River:
- 5 Million Tons Waterway Materials (Construction)
- Sand and Gravel
- Farm Products
- Food & Kindred
- Petro & Coke
- Stone, Clay, Cement
- Primary Metal
Exports from Kansas City
- Total Truck: 590,040 Tons
- Total Rail: 290,143 Tons
- Shiftable Freight from Truck to Barge: 42,480 Tons (2 Million tons of CO2)
- Shiftable Freight from Rail to Barge: 42,491 Tons (185K tons of CO2)
- Total Shiftable Exports: 84,971 Tons
Imports to Kansas City
- Total Truck: 889,118 Tons
- Total Rail: 487,200 Tons
- Shiftable Freight from Truck to Barge: 257,301 Tons
- Shiftable Freight from Rail to Barge: 34,200 Tons
- Total Shiftable Imports: 291,501 Tons