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First tow reaches St. Paul, signaling start to navigation season

The Motor Vessel Michael Poindexter locks through the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, St. Paul District’s Lock and Dam 2, near Hastings, April 11, 2018. The vessel was the first to break through the ice in Lake Pepin. Photo courtesy U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

The Motor Vessel Michael Poindexter, pushing 12 barges en route to St. Paul, locked through Lock and Dam 2 near Hastings around 1:30 p.m. April 11, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, St. Paul District. The Corps considers the first tow to arrive at Lock and Dam 2 as the unofficial start of the navigation season, because it means all of its locks are accessible to commercial and recreational vessels.

The earliest date for an up-bound tow to reach Lock and Dam 2 was March 4 in 1983, 1984 and 2000. The average start date of the navigation season is March 22. The latest arrival date unrelated to flooding was April 8, 2013. Historic flooding in 2001 delayed the arrival of the first tow until May 11.

The Corps remind boaters to "share the road." Commercial towboats with barges are less maneuverable and take longer to stop than recreation boats. Before getting underway, boaters should also know their boat and know the rules of the road:

• Take a safe boating course and check your boat for all required safety equipment

• Consider the size of the boat, the number of passengers and the amount of extra equipment you have

• Wear your life jacket, don't just carry it on board — events can happen quickly

• Leave alcohol behind to increase your safety and decrease your risk

• Check the weather forecast

• File a float plan with a friend or family member