ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) -- The first Mississippi River towboat has marked the unofficial start of the 2021 navigation season.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers officials say the Motor Vehicle R. Clayton McWhorter passed through Lock and Dam 3 near Welch on Friday afternoon.

Reports say the tow originated in the Quad Cities of Iowa and Illinois and was pushing 12 barges en route to St. Paul. It had earlier passed through Lake Pepin, which borders Minnesota and Wisconsin.

The lake is the last major barrier to spring navigation because its ice is the last part of the river to break up. The Corps says a 15-barge tow can move as many bulk commodities as 1,050 semis or more than 200 rail cars.

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