Coast Guard closes Missouri, Illinois and Upper Mississippi Rivers to recreational traffic

Published April 25, 2013

St. Louis – The U.S. Coast Guard and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are urging recreational boaters to avoid going out on the water.


Large amounts of debris, fast currents, unmarked submerged objects and general dangerous conditions, the U.S. Coast Guard and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are urging recreational boaters to refrain from boating on the region’s three major rivers.  These conditions have already resulted in several barge breakaways throughout the region, sinking 200 ft. barges weighing up to 1,500 tons.


Due to extremely hazardous conditions on the Illinois River and the Upper Mississippi River between the Melvin Price Lock and Dam in Alton, Ill., and the Port of St. Louis, the Coast Guard has suspended recreational boating in these locations. In addition to the safety concerns, river conditions make rescue operations very difficult should someone get into trouble.  Inundated and nearly submerged levees are also susceptible to damage caused by passing vessel and boat wakes.


The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is actively supporting flood fighting operations along the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers, and has closed three of its locks to all navigation until flooding subsides. The locks were closed to preserve critical electrical equipment.


“Public safety is our first priority. Rivers are unpredictable and dangerous in a flood. Even if someone has lived along a river his whole life, he shouldn’t assume it will behave the same way during a flood,” said Col. Chris Hall, commander of the Corps’ St. Louis District. “It’s not a good time to be on or near the rivers.”


“Our preeminent concern is safety and currently none of the region’s major rivers are safe for recreational operation,” explained Captain Byron Black of the U.S. Coast Guard Sector Upper Mississippi River. “The debris fields are immense, the river current is twice its normal flow rate, and many unseen dangers exist under the water.”


The U.S. Coast Guard and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers join in urging all citizens to keep safety foremost in their minds, especially during this high water event:


  • Watch the situation around you especially if you live or work in flood-prone areas.
  • Stay in touch through the media for latest updates and warnings.
  • Have a “what if” plan if you live or work in a flood prone area.
  • Do not wade or swim in river waters.  They are especially treacherous now.
  • Never – never – drive into water on roads.  Retreat and take another route.  There is No Shortcut to Safety!


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Mike Petersen
Colin Fogarty

Release no. 13-032