July 2018

Day-Tour of Tulsa
Port of Catoosa for
NRWA Source Water

day trip to the Tulsa Port of

Catoosa, the largest ice-free

inland port in the United States,

was part of the annual National Rural

Water Association (NRWA) in-service

training in Tulsa, Oklahoma in early

June. KRWA’s Source Water Protection

Specialists, Doug Helmke and Ken

Kopp, took part. 

The port and its lock and dam system

are located on the Verdigris River,

northwest of the city of Tulsa, in an

area formerly referred to as the Rascal

Flatts. The headwaters for the Veridgris

River are in Kansas. Its confluence

with the Arkansas River is a short

distance downstream from the port,

which allows water transport from the

Tulsa area, along the McClellan-Kerr

waterway, to the Mississippi River and

the Gulf of Mexico. Dry

and liquid manufactured

goods are shipped to and

from the facility, year-

round. Dry products include

grains and fertilizers. Liquid

products include refined

petroleum products and

molasses. Due to the greater

controls on streamflows through

upstream locks dams along the

Verdigris and Arkansas Rivers, the

Tulsa Port of Catoosa is often more

desirable for shipping than the

Missouri River. During 2013, the port

handled 2.7 million tons of cargo. The

coast guard is responsible for

emergency response with close

coordination with Rogers County

Emergency Management. With the

large amount of cargo transported

through the port, some of which can be

toxic or explosive, numerous

protections have been put in place to

deal with accidents and spills. The port

authority not only plans for industrial

accidents, but also for bomb threats

and terrorist attacks. As an example,

nearly 100 people were treated in 2001

after being exposed to highly toxic

arsine gas that escaped when a steel

cylinder blew a valve at a chemical

plant at the port. 

The history of Tulsa's Port of

Catoosa can be traced back to major

flooding along the Arkansas River in

the early twentieth century. Tulsa

experienced rapid growth and there

was an income expansion during an oil

boom in the 1920s. Much of the

sprawling new development was

poorly located in the floodplain of the

Arkansas River. In 1923, a flood

displaced 4,000 people and inundated

the Tulsa Waterworks, causing

$400,000 in damages. While this

resulted in a push for a city flood-plan

that included changes in land-use, it

was not enough. Another flood in 1943

again displaced 4,000 people and

threatened area oil refineries.

Moreover, 21 people were killed and

23 were injured. 


Barges docked at the

Tulsa Port of Catoosa

during the NRWA

tour on June 6, 2018.

This image from Google Earth shows the layout of the

2,500-acre Tulsa Port of Catoosa. The Verdigris River is

located just to the east of the man-made shipping channel.