Kentucky Riverports


Barge on Ohio River at McAlpine lock and dam near Louisville Kentucky 

Did you know that Kentucky has 1,662 miles of inland waterways? About 1,020 miles are commercially navigable to transport both goods and people. Kentucky's waterways are ranked 4th in the U.S. for the number of navigable inland waterway miles. Riverports are a vital part of Kentucky's transportation system connecting the waterways to our vast road and rail networks to make our state a logistical dream.

While three rivers border Kentucky – the Ohio River, Mississippi River and Big Sandy River, we also have additional rivers used to move freight (Tennessee River, Cumberland River, Green River, and Licking River). Kentucky is in a prime location at the center of a vast waterway network and at the confluence of several critical inland waterway routes.

Riverports & Waterways Image 11.23.jpg
Kentucky's waterways are supported by 10 public riverports and more than 160 private river terminals. They range in size from smaller agricultural hubs moving fertilizer and grain from local farmers to heavy manufactured goods from private businesses.​ They even support air freight. Did you know that the jet fuel that powers the US hubs for DHL, UPS, and Amazon Prime Air are all delivered by barge? Jet fuel is transported on the Ohio River to ports in Cincinnati and Louisville where pipelines then deliver the fuel to the airports. ​

Riverports are highly efficient networks to haul goods. For example, one 15-row barge tow moves the equivalent of six freight locomotives pulling 216 rail cars or 1,050 tractor-trailers. 

Ratio of barge freight to rail car freight to semi truck freight
The amount of freight moved on Kentucky's waterways in 2018 was 89 million tons – 19% of Kentucky's total freight tonnage – valued at $18 BILLION! The same tonnage moved on our roadways would require 3.5 million trucks, leading to more wear and tear on pavement, more in maintenance cost and more traffic congestion.

Supplemental Resources:

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