September 26, 2016

Standing on the banks of the Mississippi River you can see the convergence of 41% of continental North America’s waterways and its associated traffic.  Barges carrying commercial freight constitute a large portion of this traffic. Their flat bottoms help to maximize carrying their capability and ensure that they can navigate the varying depth of inland waters. The fact that barges are not self-propelled separate them from other watercraft. Barges on inland waterways are moved in groups pushed by a towboat. A single barge can carry as much cargo as 15 rail cars or 58 tractor trailer trucks. That’s a lot of cargo.

Although slower than other shipping options, shipping by barge is much cheaper and offers better fuel economy, less air pollution and  lower noise pollution. In addition to lower emissions than other transportation options, barges traveling along less populated routes helps reduce the concentration of pollution in urban centers. More remote routes and slower traveling speeds make this mode of transportation less risky. Therefore, the likelihood of losing cargo or endangering lives is reduced.

Despite how similar they may look, barges come in a variety of forms based on their purpose. Checkout some of the different types below.

Hopper Barge


photo credited to


photo credited to

Hopper barges are used to carry bulk commodities such as coal, grain, or stone. Hopper barges with bottom dumping doors are ideal for carrying dredging materials because they can unload directly into the water. Notice that three of the hopper barges are covered, and those closest to the tow boat sit lower in the water due to the weight of their cargo.

Deck Barge

photo credited to Judith Carter


photo credited to Judith Carter


photo credited to Riverfront Development Corporation

Deck barges’ flat pontoon styled concept equip them for carrying rail cars, vehicles and other equipment. They can be used for work stations or many other purposes depending on what is added on top of them. The Memphis Fire Department retrofitted a deck barge to become a fire-fighting vessel which was debuted at Beale Street Landing this past May.

Tank Bargetank-barge-photo-credit-conrad-instustries

photo credited to Conrad Industries

Tank barges are used to carry liquids such as petroleum, fertilizers, chemicals or hazardous waste. They can be very specialized depending on what they are carrying and can even hold pressurized or liquefied gas.

Barracks Barge or Houseboat


photo credited to Linda M. Bagley

A barracks barge is built to be a house on the water. They are normally kept stationary and can be much more popular on waterways other than Memphis’s riverfront.

Shale Barge


photo credited to

Shale barges are used to collect and properly dispose of byproducts of oil production. They consist of a deck barge topped with containers similar to those on a hopper barge.


Feature photo credited to

Sources: (n.d.). Barges. Retrieved September 22, 2016, from
McDonough Marine Service. (n.d.). INLAND BARGES. Retrieved September 22, 2016, from

Miller, R. (n.d.). Types of Barges. Retrieved September 22, 2016, from

American Duchess docking

Monday, January 29th 4:00 am

Greenbelt Park

The American Duchess will arrive in Memphis at Greenbelt Park at 4:00 a.m. and will depart the that day at 5:00 p.m. The American Duchess is the first all-suite paddlewheeler on U.S. rivers. The paddlewheeler, created from a 1995 hull, was completely reconstructed to feature single-seating main dining and entertainment venues, soaring ceilings, and all […]

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