In 1891, the Corps began building a six-foot deep navigation channel along the Missouri from the river’s mouth to Kansas City. In order to constrict the Missouri’s channel area and deepen the stream to six feet, Army engineers erected thousands of pile dikes and revetments along the river’s bank line. It took the Corps over four decades to complete that navigation channel. On June 27, 1932, in a ceremony at Kansas City’s waterfront, the bombastic Secretary of War, Patrick Hurley, declared the channel open to barge traffic. But barge operators stayed clear of the Missouri. The railroads and highways between St. Louis and Kansas City carried products cheaper and faster than the river route.
In the mid-1930s, the Roosevelt administration authorized and funded the extension of the six-foot navigation channel northward to Sioux City. Federal officials believed a longer navigation channel, which extended further inland and opened a larger market area to river traffic, would surely attract barge operators to the stream. In 1940, the Corps completed the navigation channel to Sioux City. But the hoped-for barge traffic still did not materialize because the railroads continued to provide a cost-effective alternative. Continue Reading »