The shipping season has re-opened on the Mississippi River. It was NOT an exceptionally cold winter, and the river didn’t freeze. Nonetheless the lock-and-dam system closes down every midwinter, and this week they open up again. Trains of barges lashed together and pushed by tugboats resume sailing the river, from the ports of St Paul to the Gulf of Mexico. Two years ago the start of the season was delayed by snowmelt and heavy rains that caused torrential flooding. But this spring, despite rain this week and recent warm temps that melted a lot of snow, the creeping drought has things so dry, National Weather Service maps show the river below flood stage all along its length. Now the barges will sail downriver carrying fertilizer produced in New Orleans, and load up here with last fall’s grain harvest to float southward to the gulf ports.