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Lake City, MN (KROC-AM News) - The 2021 commercial shipping season is now officially underway on the upper Mississippi River.

The US Army Corps of Engineers says the Motor Vessel R. Clayton McWhorter pushed 12 barges through the remaining ice on Lake Pepin this morning before passing through Lock and Dam 3 near Welch this afternoon to mark the unofficial opening of the navigation season.

In a sure sign of the arrival of spring, the river tow was the first commercial vessel to pass through Lake Pepin since the end of the commercial shipping season last fall. The shipping season last year opened one day earlier but in 2019 it was late April before the first vessel made it through Lake Pepin.

The latest start for the navigation season was May 11th in 2011 and the earliest start is March 4, which occurred in 1983, 1984, and 2000. The average start date is March 22nd.

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