LITTLE ROCK, Arkansas — We can all appreciate the beauty of the Arkansas River.
It stretches over 4 states and 1,400 miles. It's one of the major reasons we're called the natural state, but the river is more than just a scenic wonder.
It's also a crucial part of our economy.
Barges carry millions of our economic goods and products every day.
"That barge probably has 500 18-wheelers worth of chemicals on it right now," said Jay Townsend with the Army Corps of Engineers.
The large boats can carry large rocks, chemicals, and other goods.
One barge carries up to what 800 semis can… That's 11 miles long of trucks that could have been using our highways.
As barges travel along the river, they have to go through locks. There are 13 locks in Arkansas, and it's a part of the McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System (MKARNS).
MKARNS connects 12 states to the river system as far north as Montana all the way south to the Gulf.
"When a barge comes in we are able to lift that barge to the next level," said Colonel Eric Noe with the Army Corps of Engineers. "Then we put it in the flood pool behind it or the navigation pool behind it and allow it to continue upstream."
The gates to pass through the locks are operated with big sector gears. The gear turns to allow the gates to open and close for boat traffic to move through.
The water levels need to be just right for the boats to move through.
The several locks that span from one side of the riverbank to the other help keep the river levels stable so barges can pass through and the river doesn't get too high or too low.
Making rolling on the river easier to roll in the dough.