Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by stephanie. stephanie Wonders, “how do barges float” Thanks for WONDERing with us, stephanie!

Do you love boats? There are lots of fun boats you can enjoy on a lake, such as paddleboats, canoes, and kayaks. It can also be a lot of fun to stay on a houseboat during vacation or to water ski behind a speedboat.

Some boats have mainly work uses, though. Have you ever seen those long, flat boats that carry large loads slowly down the river? Those are called barges, and they perform an important function in moving many types of goods from one place to another.

A long time ago, before there were roads and cars, people used rivers as their main highways. The flowing water helped them travel and move things around easily. But as time went on, when railroads were built, people started using trains more and boats like barges became less popular.

Large, flat-bottomed boats move large, heavy loads of supplies. Today, some barges have engines that propel them up and down rivers, while tow boats—most people call them tugboats—must push or pull others.

When you see a tugboat moving a barge, it will usually push a group of connected barges. Together, the set of barges is called “the tow”. For example, the average barge tow contains 15 barges and can carry as much freight as a freight train three miles long or a line of semi-trucks 35 miles long! By using barges, there is less traffic on our roads.

The cost of hauling goods by barge is very low, especially when compared to hauling by truck or airplane. A typical barge can carry up to 1,500 tons of cargo. Sixty percent of the U.S. grain exports travel on barges.

Today, most barges carry heavy or bulky items that would be hard to move any other way. Some items you may find on barges include coal, grain, oil, chemicals, and trash. They also haul recyclable materials, sand, gravel, timber, iron ore, and other minerals. Each year, over 655 million tons of cargo travel on barges in the U.S.

Using a barge for transportation is also good for the environment. Barges make less pollution and they use less energy to move. They also don’t harm the land much because they travel on waterways that are already there. The government also keeps a close watch on barges, which makes them safer, compared to trains and trucks

Even with many different ways to transport goods nowadays, barges are still very important. In the United States, there are more than 33,000 barges on the water. They carry more than $123 billion worth of goods every year, and experts think this number will grow. This industry also provides over 270,000 jobs for people in the United States.

Have you ever seen a barge? What do you think it was carrying? Can you guess where it was coming from or going?

Standards: CCRA.R.1, CCRA.R.2, CCRA.R.4, CCRA.R.8, CCRA.R.10, CCRA.L.3, CCRA.L.4, CCRA.L.5, CCRA.L.6, CCRA.SL.4, CCRA.W.3, SMP.5

Wonder What's Next?

Join us in Wonderopolis today for a closer look inside what some might call a warm canine!