Low Water Event of Summer, 2005

A prolonged period of below normal rainfall that began after the January, 2005 flooding brought river elevations to some of their lowest levels in recent years. Both the Mississippi and Lower Ohio Rivers were low enough to affect river transportation.

Barge passes sandbars on the Ohio River near Paducah, KYA barge passes by sandbars in the Ohio River near Paducah, KY in mid August. Photo taken from Fort Massac State Park in Metropolis, Illinois. The Interstate 24 bridge is visible upriver.

  • River transportation was negatively impacted. During early and mid August, there were intermittent closures of the lower Ohio River  (near Cairo, IL) to most barge traffic. Interrupted deliveries of fuel and other commodities were common.
  • Emergency dredging operations improved channel depth on both the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers, and helped limit the duration of the closure.
  • Below is a graphic presentation of the Ohio River level at Cairo, IL from July 15 to August 12. Flood stage at Cairo is 40 feet. 
  • The level dipped to about 7 feet on August 9.
  • Graphic of river levels at Cairo, IL

Comparison of this Ohio River low water event with the 2000 event:

Lowest readings during July 15 to August 10 period...

Smithland, KY Lock and Dam (tailwater):

Lowest: 11.3 on 8/2/2005

Normal pool is 12 feet.

Lowest level in 2000: 11.3 on 1/31 and 6/6

Paducah, KY

Lowest: 14.41 on 8/1/2005

Lowest level in 2000: 13.1 on 2/15

Brookport, IL Lock and Dam (headwater)

Lowest: 17.6 on 8/2/2005

Normal pool is 18.7 feet.

Lowest level in 2000: 15.8 feet on 2/15

Grand Chain, IL Lock and Dam (headwater)

Lowest: 13.5 feet on 7/30/05

Normal pool is 16.9 feet

Lowest in 2000: 14.3 feet on 1/26

Cairo, IL

Lowest: 7.2 feet on 8/8/2005

Lowest in 2000: 9.1 feet on 2/12





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