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Illinois State Profile

IL L&D with 2011 traffic

Illinois is the 5th largest state by population with a total of 12.9 million residents.  Sixty-four percent of the population is located in collar counties around the city of Chicago.  The major inland waterways bordering the state are the Mississippi River and Ohio River, while the Illinois Waterway cuts diagonally through the heartland of the state from Grafton to Chicago.  The importance of the waterway system to the local population is best captured by the population that lives within 100 miles of these portions of the Mississippi, Illinois, and Ohio River inland waterway system.  Approximately 17.5 million people live within a 100 miles of these major waterways.  Of that total , the state of Illinois contains a majority of that population or approximately 12.3 million.

The inland navigation system bordering the State of Illinois utilizes fifteen locks on the Upper Mississippi River and three locks on the Ohio River, one lock on the Kaskaskia River, seven locks on the Illinois River, and two locks located in Chicago near Lake Michigan.

Three deep draft harbors (Waukegan, Chicago, and Calumet) provide access to domestic and international markets via the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Seaway.

The State of Illinois borders or contains over 1000 miles of the inland waterway system. The state's western border is defined by 580 miles of the upper Mississippi River. The Illinois Waterway flows for more than 300 miles, from Lake Michigan diagonally across the state to the upper Mississippi which it joins at river mile 217. The Kaskaskia River is also a part of the Mississippi River system; it is navigable for 36 miles and flows into the upper Mississippi River at river mile 117.

The Ohio River forms 133 miles of the southern border of Illinois from river mile 848 at the Indiana border through river mile 981 at the Mississippi River.

Coal, grain, petroleum, and aggregates make up the majority of the commodities moving along the inland waterway system.  The state of Illinois also has the ability to move commodities via the Great Lakes.  Coal, petroleum and, ores/minerals are the top commodities moving on the Great Lakes system to and from the state of Illinois.  The vast majority of the commodity movements are shipments to locations outside of the state to destinations in Louisiana, Indiana, Tennessee, Ohio, and Kentucky via the inland waterway.

The inland navigation system in Illinois provides an all waterway route for commodities that supply industries such as power generation, construction, and agriculture.  In total there are approximately 317 manufacturing facilities, terminals, and docks on the inland navigation system in Illinois.

View of Chicago on Lake Michigan

Chicago, IL on the shore of Lake Michigan


In 2011 the predominate commodity being shipped from the state of Illinois was coal at 37 million tons.  Grains shipments for domestic consumption were a close second at  24 million tons.  A distance third were the petroleum related commodities at 8 million tons.

Commodities that were moved within, shipments and receipts within the Illinois inland waterway system, totaled a little over 10 million tons.  The predominate  commodity was once again coal at 5.7 million tons with aggregates a close second at 3.2 million tons.


Illinois received 5 million tons of chemical commodities from ports outside of the state.  The remaining 9 million tons of commodities are distributed among coal, petroleum, ores/minerals, iron/steel, and a catchall category of others.

IL 2011 Domestic River Traffic
Illinois 2011 Domestic River Traffic
Commodities Moved To, From and Within the State
(tons in thousands; values in millions of dollars)
Commodity Shipped Received Within Total Value
Coal 37,162.8 1,802.3 5,695.0 44,660.1 $1,626
Petroleum 4,640.3 1,508.6 803.6 6,952.5 $4,552
Crude Petroleum 3,203.9 ** ** 3,239.1 $3,423
Aggregates 2,271.5 565.9 3,259.5 6,096.9 $58
Grains 24,500.8 379.1 141.5 25,021.4 $4,770
Chemicals 2,020.2 5,157.7 256.8 7,434.7 $5,263
Ores/Minerals 26.7 1,497.7 204.7 1,729.1 $325
Iron/Steel 820.8 2,166.0 19.6 3,006.4 $977
Others 1484.5 1,460.5 33.5 2,978.5 $282
TOTAL 76,131.5 14,537.8 10,414.2 101,118.7 $21,275
**Insufficient barge operators to release this tonnage.
Also includes intraport movements that were made on inland waterways.
Source: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Waterborne Commerce Statistics

Commodity movement differ between the inland system and the Great Lakes system.  Shipments and receipts were balanced for ports located in Illinois.  Due to the limited number of operators located at ports on the Great Lakes in the state of Illinois specific commodity data cannot be released.


IL 2011 Great Lakes Traffic
Illinois 2011 Great Lakes
Commodities Moved To, From and Within the State
(tons in thousands; values in millions of dollars)
Commodity Shipped Received Within Total Value
Coal 2,891.5 41.9 0.0 2,933.4 $99
Petroleum ** ** 0.0 1,332.8 $1,114
Aggregates 114.8 623.4 0.0 738.2 $7
Grains 13.8 0.0 0.0 13.8 $3
Chemicals 0.0 ** ** 9.1 $3
Ores/Minerals 0.0 ** ** 1,592.9 $120
Iron/Steel 153.6 ** ** 711.7 $42
Others ** 806.6 ** 1,212.1 $118
TOTAL 4,409.4 4,106.8 26.3 8,544.0 $1,505
**Insufficient barge operators to release this tonnage.
Includes Foreign movements made on the Great Lakes.
Source: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Waterborne Commerce Statistics

The state of Illinois ships out of the state nearly 4 tons for every ton the state receives.  The largest trading partner is the state of Louisiana.  In 2011, the state of Illinois shipped almost half of all its outbound commodities to the state of Louisiana of which sixty percent of that tonnage was grain.  Shipments from Louisiana represented nearly half

of all the receipts for the state of Illinois.  Coal is the predominate commodity that Illinois ships to the remaining major state trading partners.  Over two-thirds of the coal shipped out of Illinois is received by these four states.
Illinois 2011 Commodities
Shipped to and from Other States
(tonnage in thousands)
Tons Top Commodity
(% of Total)
Tons Top Commodity
(% of Total)
Louisiana 39,028.9 Grains (60%) Louisiana 8,802.3 Chemicals (44%)
Indiana 12,041.9 Coal (99%) Missouri 1,091.0 Others (68%)
Tennessee 8,815.8 Coal (81%) Michigan 1,027.0 Others (72%)
Ohio 5,520.8 Coal (94%) West Virginia 886.5 Coal (97%)
Kentucky 2,529.4 Coal (75%) Indiana 870.8 Petroleum (61%)
Source: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Waterborne Commerce Statistics

The vessel and commodity movement information collected and compiled is designed to meet the data requirements of the Department of the Army in connection with the duties assigned by Congress.  The major ports shown below are not necessarily point specific port locations but are general an agglomeration of docks within a designated region for purpose of meeting data requirement in connection with  the duties assigned by Congress.

 Chicago Harbor, IL - This port locality is portion of the Chicago downtown area bounded by Oak Street to the north, Rush Street to the west, and Roosevelt Road  to the south.   The locality contains approximately seven dock or anchorage locations.

 Chicago, IL - This port locality is defined by docks and anchorages located in the Chicago Area Waterway, Lake Calumet, and Calumet Harbor and River.  The Chicago Area Waterway includes: Chicago Harbor, Chicago River, Main and North Branch, Chicago River, South Branch, Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal, Calumet-Sag Channel and Lake Calumet, IL, Calumet Harbor and River, IL and IN. Project Depth: See Chicago Harbor, and Chicago River.  The locality contains approximately 188 docks, 1 anchorages, and 4 fleeting areas.

St. Louis, MO and IL- This port locality stretches 57 miles south of the city of St. Louis to approximately 14 miles north of the city.  The locality has approximately 155 docks and 13 fleeting areas.

The tonnages represent the port commodity movements along these critical locations within the state of Illinois.  Totals for each port represents the total tonnage moved at each dock location in that port designation.  Only a nominal amount of commodities were moved in the narrowly defined Chicago Harbor.  Chicago and St. Louis are larger port regions moved nearly equivalent tonnages.

Illinois 2011 Major Ports
(tons in thousands)
Port Tons
Chicago, IL                  20,351.3
St. Louis, MO and IL                  19,389.1
Chicago Harbor, IL                            2.4
Source: USACE Waterborne Commerce Statistics

Illinois is situated at the confluence of two great rivers the Mississippi and the Ohio.  The 356 miles of the Mississippi that borders the state of Illinois has over 200 port related facilities located in the state.  Port facilities along the short 130 mile stretch of the Ohio river numbers in the low sixties.  The Illinois River is wholly within the state and has nearly two hundred port related facilities located along its nearly 273 miles.

Tonnage movement along the Mississippi River exceeds tonnage moved along the shorter stretch of the Illinois River.  The value of the commodities moving along the Illinois River is of a much higher value on a per ton basis.  The Illinois Waterway is a combination of the Illinois River and the navigable portions of the Chicago Area Waterway.  The Calumet Harbor and River, the Chicago Sanitary and Shipping Canal, Cal-Sag, and the Chicago River make-up the Chicago Area Waterway System (CAWS).  In 2011 the CAWS moved approximately 13 million tons with a market worth of 2.4 billion dollars.

Illinois 2011 Major Waterways
(tons in thousands; values in millions of dollars)
Port Tons Value
Mississippi River                  37,393.9  $                     9,203
Ohio River                  28,922.0  $                     1,664
Illinois River, IL                  25,079.3  $                     7,853
Calumet Harbor and River, IL and IN                  11,740.0  $                     2,345
Chicago River, South Branch, IL                        883.4  $                          48
Kaskaskia River, IL                        792.8  $                        140
Chicago River (Main and North Branch), IL                        649.1  $                          18
Source: USACE Waterborne Commerce Statistics

Twenty-eight locks and dams operate along the inland waterways of the state of Illinois.  Three locks are located along the 130 mile stretch of the Ohio River.  Eight locks are located along the Illinois waterway.  Fifteen are located along the Mississippi River which is the western border of the state.  The remaining lock is located at the confluence of the Chicago River and Lake Michigan.

The stretch of the Ohio River that forms the southwestern border of Illinois is situated in one of the busiest sections of the inland system.  Only a small fraction of the millions of tons moved along this short stretch of the system was destined for ports in Illinois.  Three locks (Lock 52, 53, and Smithland) moved between 70 and 90 million tons of commodity in 2011.

Lock and Dam 12, on the Mississippi River, creates the first navigation pool in the State of Illinois.  Commodity movement, in tons,  moving north of the Mississippi is fairly balanced with the tons moving south on the Mississippi River.   As you travel down the Mississippi river the amount of tons moving down the Mississippi doubles relative to the tonnage moving up the Mississippi.  This trend holds for the remainder of the Mississippi river from Quincy to Cairo.

The Illinois waterway pool is created by the Lagrange Lock and Dam south of Peoria and the Lockport Lock and Dam just south of Chicago.  The bulk of the commodity movement is between the Mississippi River inland system and the locks and dams south of Lockport.  Over 25 million tons of commodities are moved along the Illinois waterway of which the Lagrange and Peoria Lock and Dam system assist the passage of most of this traffic.

Illinois 2011 Lock Tonnage
(tonnage in thousands)
Lock River Upbound Downbound Total
Ohio River L&D 52 Ohio 44,466.5 46,501.4 90,967.9
Ohio River L&D 53 Ohio 34,737.5 46,438.5 81,176.0
Smithland L&D Ohio 38,757.1 38,950.7 77,707.8
Mississippi L&D 27 Mississippi 20,851.4 38,207.6 59,059.0
Melvin Price L&D Mississippi 19,961.1 31,626.8 51,587.9
Lagrange L&D Illinois 9,977.8 15,377.3 25,355.1
Mississippi L&D 25 Mississippi 8,072.4 14,960.7 23,033.1
Mississippi L&D 24 Mississippi 7,960.6 14,966.7 22,927.3
Peoria L&D Illinois 10,532.2 12,240.9 22,773.1
Mississippi L&D 22 Mississippi 7,885.4 14,590.4 22,475.8
Mississippi L&D 21 Mississippi 8,066.2 14,154.4 22,220.6
Mississippi L&D 20 Mississippi 7,546.9 13,281.5 20,828.4
Mississippi L&D 19 Mississippi 7,561.0 12,960.8 20,521.8
Mississippi L&D 18 Mississippi 8,368.0 11,482.2 19,850.2
Mississippi L&D 17 Mississippi 8,360.6 10,557.4 18,918.0
Mississippi L&D 16 Mississippi 7,750.1 10,335.4 18,085.5
Mississippi L&D 15 Mississippi 7,807.0 9,443.1 17,250.1
Mississippi L&D 14 Mississippi 7,588.8 9,423.8 17,012.6
Starved Rock L&D Illinois 8,519.5 7,893.5 16,413.0
Mississippi L&D 13 Mississippi 6,522.4 8,022.9 14,545.3
Marseilles L&D Illinois 8,091.1 6,451.7 14,542.8
Mississippi L&D 12 Mississippi 6,496.6 7,829.9 14,326.5
Dresden Island L&D Illinois 7,716.3 5,701.6 13,417.9
Brandon Road L&D Illinois 7,082.5 3,678.1 10,760.6
Lockport L&D Illinois 6,997.3 3,555.5 10,552.8
Thomas J O'Brien L&D Illinois 3,985.0 2,470.6 6,455.6
Kaskaskia L&D Kaskaskia 103.7 722.8 826.5
Chicago Lock Chicago 41.5 50.5 92.0
Source: US Army Corps of Engineers Lock Performance Monitoring System
Illinois 2011
Domestic and Foreign Commodities
(tonnage in thousands)
Commodity Total Tons Domestic Tons Imports Exports
Coal 47,593.5 47,354.0 41.9 197.6
Petroleum 8,285.3 7,519.0 43.9 722.4
Crude Petroleum 3,239.0 3,239.0 0.0 0.0
Aggregates 6,835.1 6,528.9 251.1 55.1
Grains 25,035.2 25,021.4 0.0 13.8
Chemicals 7,443.7 7,443.7 0.0 0.0
Ores/Minerals 3,322.0 1,845.1 1,476.9 0.0
Iron/Steel 3,718.1 3,135.1 549.7 33.3
Others 4,190.6 4,039.2 64.5 86.9
TOTAL 109,662.5 106,125.4 2,428.0 1,109.1
Source: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Waterborne Commerce Statistics

The advantage of the Illinois Waterway is the possibility of two potential import/export avenues.  To the north, the state of Illinois has the Illinois International Port.  To the south, the state of Illinois has access to the Port of New Orleans.   Only a small percentage, about 4 percent, of the total U.S. exports were sent abroad via Illinois.  Imports coming into the US via Illinois only represent a small fraction of the U.S. import totals.

Waterborne foreign trade account mirrors the larger economy in both size and direction of trade.  Foreign trade via the state of Illinois shows a imbalance of imports to exports. 



  -  All commodity values are based off the 2007 NDSU Commodity Valuation Analysis for the Great Lakes, Mississippi-Ohio and Columbia-Snake Waterway Systems.

  -  US Census Bureau Foreign Trade Statistics 2011