WABASHA — The Motor Vessel Mississippi will visit three cities on the Upper Mississippi River as part of a low-water inspection tour starting Aug. 12 in La Crosse, Wis., then continuing on successive days to Wabasha and Red Wing.

Patrick Moes, a spokesman with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, St. Paul District, said the MV Mississippi makes its way to the Upper Mississippi every three years or so. The Corps' open houses include tours of the working river towboat, information about efforts to maintain the navigation channel in the river and learn how the Corps helps maintain the river ecosystem.

Members of the presidentially appointed Mississippi River Commission are expected to be on hand, and visitors – 50 at a time -- will be able to board the boat. COVID-19 and security restrictions will be in place, but the public can talk with the crew members about the vessel.

Moes said the inspection comes at a time when the river is lower than normal after a dry winter followed by more dry conditions through the spring and summer.

"We're at about 3,000 cubic feet per second in Pool 2," Moes said. "Historically at we've been at 9,000 cubic feet per second. The elevation difference from St. Paul to Hastings is an inch and a half. It really demonstrates the value of the lock and dam system to continue navigation in these drought conditions."

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The rain that has fallen this year has generally not made a positive impact on the river levels, Moes said.

"It’s being sucked up because the soils are so dry," he said, cautioning that the last thing anyone wants is to have a rainfall event that makes up for the low water all at once.

In the meantime, barge traffic has been mostly unaffected by the low water. However, recreational boat traffic, which tends to veer out of the navigation channel, occasionally finds low spots. Moes said boaters should avoid the wing dams on the river, which tend to

The MV Mississippi will be at Riverside Park in La Crossed from 5 to 7 p.m. Aug. 12; at 50 Pembroke Ave. in Wabasha from 5-7 p.m. aug. 13; and at Levee Park in Red Wing from 10 a.m. to noon at Aug. 14.

Backpacks will not be allowed on the MV Mississippi, and handbags or purses may be subject to searches. Face masks will be required. The MV Mississippi has limited handicapped accessibility.