The first towboat to pass through the Upper St.Anthony Falls (SAF) Lock was the old Twin City Barge & Towing Savage, back in September 1963. On June 9, 2015, at about 2:30 p.m., the Becky Sue locked downstream with two loads of scrap metal, making it the last towboat to ever use the lock. A few hours earlier the Aggragate Industries’ towboat the Patrick Gannaway locked through with two empty sand barges.
Congress told the Army Corps of Engineers to close the lock by June 10 to keep Asian carp from spreading above the falls.
The Gannaway’s captain, Kelsey Rohr, invited me to ride along on his final trip. This was also deckhand Glen Carlson’s last day before he retired.
I drove down to catch them at Lock 1 as they were locking up. Former Aggregate Industries marine superintendent John Halter was already waiting, and we boarded together. This was an important day for Twin Cities river workers, filled with bittersweet memories and storytelling. By the time we arrived northbound at Upper SAF the lockmen at Lock 1 and the Lower SAF Lock had taken dozens of photos.
At Yard D in Minneapolis several former Aggregate Industries employees boarded the boat for the last trip. Greg Genz, a life-long river rat now active with the Friends of Pool 2, clambered aboard as we sat in the lock chamber ready to drop out for the last time.
We all recalled our first trip through these locks. Mine was in 1975 on the old Mike Harris, captained by the world famous Larry Hetrick. Greg had me beat by two years, as his first trip was in 1973 on the Pawnee.
It was a sad event, but we were also celebrating Glen’s last day.
This lock had made Minneapolis the head of navigation for the Mississippi River. Now St. Paul wears that crown again!