Navigation is one of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' oldest missions and for the Memphis District, the mission revolves around the Mississippi River. Representing 500 million tons of shipped goods per year (according to the Port of New Orleans), the Mississippi River barge port system is significant to national trade – this is just one of the reasons why ensuring a safe and navigable river year around is a top priority.

Did You Know?

Have you ever wondered what would happen if Mississippi River shipping didn't exist?  We did some research, and below are just a few consequences of living without inland waterways shipping.

Without United States Inland Waterways Shipping Aka Transporting Goods Up and Down the Mississippi River:

  • About 75 percent of what used to be river-transport cargo would have to be transported by truck and/or rail, which would then cause more traffic and more pollution.
  • It would take 1,050 semi-trucks (and occupy space on U.S. highways by the way) to transport the same amount of freight that ONE standard river tow could move on the river. And if not by truck, it would take 216 rail cars and six locomotives (and a very long time at the tracks waiting for the train to pass).
  • Americans would see a huge spike in their electric bill – like more than 7 percent more.

Shipping/handling costs would increase drastically – and guess who ultimately pays for it? The consumer.... i.e., YOU.

BOTTOM LINE: We execute the navigation mission without fail 24/7, 365. We take it seriously because this country and its citizens’ livelihood depends on it.

That, to us, is the only reason that matters. And it’s the only reason we need.

Navigation Highlights


Since the US Congress first appropriated money in 1824 to improve navigation on the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers by removing sandbars, snags, and other obstacles, the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) has been responsible for the development and maintenance of navigable inland and coastal waterways, ports, and harbors throughout the United States.

Safe, reliable, efficient, and environmentally sustainable waterborne transportation systems are a major means of commercial transportation. In addition, they are important to recreation and integral to national defense. To accomplish these responsibilities, USACE staff collect, store, visualize, analyze, and distribute huge amounts of navigation-related data.

The Navigation Data Integration Framework (NDIF), which forms the basis of the USACE Navigation Portal, is an effort to establish a detailed methodology to link data and tools across the Navigation Business line and make them easily available to our stakeholders.

Included in our navigation responsibilities is maintenance dredging of ten harbors on the Mississippi River. These harbors serve as vital links to rail and highway transportation systems in the region, helping to deliver products and commodities to and from global markets.

Memphis District Harbors

  • Elvis Stahr Harbor - Hickman, Kentucky
  • Osceola Harbor - Arkansas
  • Wolf River Harbor - Tennessee
  • New Madrid County Harbor - Missouri
  • New Madrid City Harbor - Missouri

Memphis District Harbors

  • Helena Harbor - Phillips County, Arkansas
  • Memphis Harbor - McKellar Lake, Tennessee
  • Caruthersville Harbor - Missouri
  • Helena Harbor - Arkansas
  • Northwest Tennessee Harbor - Tiptonville, Tennessee

Ensley Engineer Yard

Ensley Engineer Yard is a full-service marine maintenance facility that keeps a variety of equipment, supplies and people ready to go on a moment's notice, whether for routine work or emergency response contingencies. Designed to support the navigation and flood control missions of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Memphis District, Ensley Engineer Yard has become more than just a marine maintenance center for the District. Ensley also supports other governmental agencies.

Primarily a shipyard, Ensley Engineer Yard includes repair shops, warehouses, storage yards and administrative offices. Flexibility, innovation and a strong commitment to meeting customer needs are all hallmarks of work produced by Ensley Engineer Yard and its staff of professionals. 

Dredging Season Photos