Paddling Mississippi River in Quad Cities, Iowa/Illinois


Next summer, I’d like to paddle the Mississippi River in the Quad Cities in IA/IL, say, from Two Rivers Ymca Rowing Center, Moline, to George Skafidas Park, Rock Island. Will I be able to pass through the Locks & Dam 15 at the Arsenal Bridge? If yes, what are the rules?



When in doubt, ask the internet:

You can see that it’s a pretty simple process. However, waiting in line may be a bit much for you, since it can take well over an hour for the operator to lock-through a set of barges. Just to help you see that this is true, the towboat crew has to break the string into two pieces and that makes the process slow, and passing through in the downstream direction is especially slow because in that case, the non-powered half of the string is moved out of the lock only by a feeble current (I don’t know why they never use the winches for a downstream lock-through, because it would be a lot faster. Maybe they just want to avoid the danger, since without winching, the string will get where it’s going, eventually). Anyway, I seem to remember that it takes a good 1.5 hours to complete the whole process for a downstream lock-through, and maybe 1 hour for doing it upstream (upstream is faster because they move the non-powered half of the string out of the lock with winches).

As you can imagine, recreational boaters can have a pretty long wait for their turn, especially if two sets of barges are ahead of you. You might be lucky and be able to pass through right away, but I think it would be wise to be prepared to portage around. I haven’t seen the lock and dam in question, but I’ve seen a few up this way, and none of them are portage-friendly setups. Still faced with hours of waiting, even a long portage is probably a better option.

Hi Guideboatguy,

Thanks a lot for providing such great info! It helps a lot.

Merry Christmas,


I just looked at an online air photo of the site. There’s a pair of locks there, with one lock appearing to be about 100 feet too short for typical barge traffic. Maybe they use it for local barge traffic (smaller tows), but perhaps it also means that sometimes they can accommodate recreational boaters in the shorter lock while the longer lock is busy taking care of barges. It might be worth checking to see how they do things there, if you live in the area. The locks generally have a raised observation area that’s open to the public.

Thanks for checking it out and the tip. I live in west suburban Chicago area. I will see if I can make a trip there beforehand to observe.

If you search the Corps website you can usually find a phone number for each lock. a phone call a couple hours ahead of time can let you know if they have a lot of traffic scheduled and what wait times to expect. The Lockmasters seem to appreciate a heads up too. If you have a VHF radio it makes communication easier, they are usually on ch 12 or 14. Also listening to the lingo used before will help you use the right terms and know what to expect. The Chicago locks are far more used to kayak traffic and may be a good practice run.
Enjoy, it’s a unique experience1

Thanks a lot Randy. I will.

I was wondering if I want to buy a VHF radio. Per your comments, I will buy one. I’m posting another message for it.

Just saw a YouTube video on locking through Lock & Dam 15 in the Quad Cities: