Do you ever wonder what it’s like to travel down the Mississippi River? Along the way, there 29 different Lock and Dams, 7 located in Minnesota alone. A lock is basically a stairstep along the river.
At each point, a boat enters the lock, the attendant raises or lowers the water inside and opens it up at the other side. This has made river travel much safer and allows for bigger boats to travel.
Have you ever wanted to see the Mississippi River Lock & Dam Number 2 in action?
In Minnesota, we have seven of the 29 Mississippi River Lock & Dams, but only six are in operation. The Upper St Anthony Falls in downtown Minneapolis was closed to prevent the migration of Asian Carp.
The rest are all in operation. Last winter, during a drive-by Spring Lake Park Reserve in Hastings I stumbled upon Lock & Dam Number 2. I knew I had to come back when they were open in the spring.
Mississippi River Lock & Dam Number 2
The dam is situated on river mile marker 815.2 of the upper Mississippi River, just upstream of Hastings Minnesota. Constructed in 1930, the lock walls settled and required it to be redone in 1948.
The dam consists of concrete structures 722 feet long with 19 tainter gates, 30 feet long.
The Dam is owned and operated by the city of Hastings and produces over 4.4 megawatts of power. The lock is 110 feet wide by 600 feet long and run by the Army Corp of Engineers.
Visiting Mississippi River Lock and Dam Number 2
What to see for yourself? Visiting the Mississippi River Lock and Dam Number 2 is a lot of fun. Located in Hastings, you’ll travel on an inlet separating Lake Rebecca and the Mississippi River as far as the road goes to the parking lot.
Stop at the kiosk and check out just how expansive the entire Mississippi River Lock and Dam system is. The locks go from MPLS to St Louis.
The watercraft will collect more barges on its way downstream until it can collect a max of 15 barges.
The first thing you’ll notices it the heightened level of security. Walking up to it, you’ll notice a lot of high fences and barbed wire.
The Mississippi River Lock and Dams are such an important part of our transportation, similar to airports, they need to be secure. They leave a section for you to get to their viewing platform.
You only have access to the observation deck. You’ll have a bird’s eye view of the operation, including inside the lock. It’s one of the coolest views of the Mississippi River.
Navigation season started this year in mid-March with a vessel pushing 12 barges downstream.
How to Use the Lock and Dam
Every size watercraft can use the lock and dam, ranging from big Barges to Canoes and Kayaks. The locks are open 24/7. Before getting to the dam, there is a stop sign.
The signal chain usually found in a ladder recess on the lock wall or use the Marine Radio channel 14.
This will signal the attendant to get the lock ready for you. Then you can enter the lock chamber and wait for the water level to change. When you get the green light on the stoplight, go on in.
When they are finished raising or lifting you, you’ll hear a horn blast.
Fun fact, the lock operators like to track your progress as you make it downstream. With that knowledge, they have a good idea of what barges are on their way down.
Also, consider dropping a line in while you wait for your lock to finish, as some fish often get trapped inside.
Canoeing or Kayaking down the Mississippi River from start to finish has always been a dream of mine. The more I see of the river, especially downstream, I start to second guess it. The river gets big!
One thing that fascinated me is that only about 6 Canoes a year take the trip from Itasca to New Orleans. I’ve been reading a story about one man that did the trip in the Memoir Mississipp Solo by Eddy Harris.
It follows one man’s journey on the river-facing Barge waves, wild dogs, and racial challenges as he travels south. It’s an interesting read.
Would I go back to the Mississippi River Lock and Dam Number 2?
Yes, and I actually did pass by the Lock a few more times on my adventure. I was a little disappointed that we were unable to see it in operation. Unfortunately, there were no boats coming through.
On our bike ride through Hasting, we passed by the Lock and Dam again and heard the sounds of the horn indicating someone was leaving. We just missed them! Oh well.
It is still one of the nicest views of the river. They also had a lot of green space and picnic areas to chill at.
That bike path also connects to Spring Lake Park Reserve. I highly recommend you check it out for yourself and check out the other fun things to do in Hastings.