A sure sign of spring, barge traffic along the Mississippi River is expected to start moving next week. Don Bardole, a park ranger at Lock and Dam 15 in the Quad Cities, says the familiar sight of tug boats, barges and all other manner of riverboats will soon be seen moving along the wide, muddy waterway.

Lock number-19 at Keokuk has been closed for the winter for maintenance and it’s scheduled to open on March 15th, next Wednesday. Bardole says the lock and dam at the Quad Cities should see traffic moving through a few days after that. He says the first traffic will be tugs pushing empty barges, headed upstream to be filled with grain. Bardole says there is often a large group of barges that come through right away, as they’ve been waiting in line for while to get to their destinations.

He says that will likely be the case this year as there’s no ice at Davenport, which is the usual limiting factor at this time of year. He says there’s been limited river traffic already, things like sand, gravel and coal, but the huge loads of corn will start moving downriver within days, headed for New Orleans and then to points around the world.