Skip to main content
Former President Richard Nixon dedicated the McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System on June 5, 1971.

MKARNS marks 50th anniversary

The McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System (MKARNS) will mark 50 years of service to Oklahoma this summer. The navigation system generates billions in economic impact to the state while providing a national and international outlet for Oklahoma commodities and products.

The MKARNS is a 445-mile waterway that includes the Verdigris, Arkansas and White rivers and connects Oklahoma from the Tulsa Port of Catoosa to the Gulf of Mexico.  MKARNS officially was dedicated June 5, 1971, by former President Richard Nixon.  Check out his speech from that historic day at this link.

Oklahoma kicked off its 50th anniversary celebrations Feb. 19 with a virtual event. This date ties in to an important anniversary for the Tulsa Port of Catoosa, which was dedicated Feb. 20, 1971. The state will highlight the MKARNS system through a variety of means leading up to the 50th anniversary date in June. Starting Feb. 22, ODOT will begin a series of social media posts called “MKARNS Mondays” on its Twitter and Facebook Channels, @OKDOT, which will provide fun facts and photos of the system.

Check back for updates on how to celebrate this significant infrastructure milestone.

The first barge to the Port of Catoosa in 1971 delivered newsprint.

MKARNS Fast Facts:

  • The waterway is managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and works through a series of 18 locks and dams, five in Oklahoma that allow barges to manage the 420-foot change in elevation over the system.
  • The MKARNS serves a 12-state region and is designated as Marine Highway 40 by the U.S. Department of Transportation.
  • The MKARNS is the most westerly inland river system in the country, providing an ice-free shipping channel all year.
  • There are two public ports in Oklahoma: the Tulsa Port of Catoosa and the Port of Muskogee, along with other private ports on the system.
  • Ports in Oklahoma process more than six million tons of cargo each year, support more than 11,000 jobs and directly contribute $1.6 billon to the state’s economy.
  • In terms of tonnage, the most shipped goods on the MKARNS in a given year fall into the categories of sand, gravel and rock; chemical fertilizer; iron and steel; and soybeans.
  • The overall system also helps generate clean energy through hydropower plants, provides flood control and includes key recreational areas for visitors.
A map of the McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System in Oklahoma. This marine highway flows from the Tulsa Port of Catoosa and through eastern Oklahoma and Arkansas for 445 miles before connecting to the Mississippi River and the Gulf of Mexico.
New signs to designate the McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System will be going up at eleven highway and turnpike crossings ahead of the 50th Anniversary of the system in June 2021. These will feature the Marine Highway designation and also a special commemoration for the anniversary.
Last Modified on Apr 28, 2021
Back to Top