The View from the Pilot House – Challenges and Opportunities in Missouri River Navigation

Published: July 14, 2015


Three eras of river boats seen in one frame. A modern tugboat (Capitol Sand) pushes the closed Harrah’s Casino, a replica riverboat that once operated on the Missouri River in Sioux City, downstream to it’s final resting place in Wood River, Illinois. In the foreground is a diesel powered sternwheeler built in the 1937 as a gambling boat on the Ohio River.

Presentation by Captain Steve Engemann, towboat pilot and President of Hermann Sand and Gravel

Original Presentation, July 14, 2015 at Les Bourgeois Vineyards Bistro in Rocheport, MO

The Missouri River has always had a reputation for being the most difficult of our western rivers to navigate. “Steamboat Bill” Heckman, a legendary steamboat pilot from Hermann, MO, supplied us with this great quote – “The mouth of the Missouri separated the men from the boys in the old days,” Heckman claimed. “The boys went up the Mississippi, and the men headed up the Big Muddy.”

Captain Steve Engemann

Since the days when Heckman navigated the river, the river has been channelized, turning a wild, braided stream into a more predictable channel for navigation. But the river still remains tricky, and very few transportation companies utilize that channel to move freight on the river. One of the most experienced pilots is Captain Steve Engemann, President of Hermann Sand and Gravel. An operator of two long-distance Missouri River towboats, Engemann is part of the movement to restart a viable navigation industry on the Missouri. He shared a bit of Missouri River navigation history, as well as stories of his own Big Muddy challenges and triumphs.

The Big Muddy Speaker Series in Rocheport

is hosted by these wonderful partners.

Click here for a list of upcoming presentations»

Special thanks to Les Bourgeois Vineyards for giving us the opportunity to use their beautiful space overlooking the Missouri River. All speakers are presenting for free! Thank you all for sharing your knowledge with us!

The Big Muddy Speaker Series also takes place monthly in Kansas City and St. Charles.

The Big Muddy Speaker Series is partially funded by the Columbia Ecological Services Field Office (USFWS) and the Mo. Dept. of Conservation.

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