Farmers and industry send their goods to the world from the Hickman Riverport on the Mississippi River.
The harbor is 6,000 feet long and about 450 feet wide, according to Keleia McCloud, assistant director of the Hickman-Fulton County Riverport Authority.
“Being the only stillwater harbor on the Mississippi River definitely has its advantages as far as loading and unloading barges,” she said. “We don’t have to deal with the current that comes off the main Mississippi River channel at all.”
It’s a family business for Terry Roncali, harbor master of Wepfer Marine, which offers towing and tugboat services. His boat is named for his wife, Marilyn. His son now runs the boat that he trained on at age 16. “That’s where I cut my teeth, on this boat. So it goes back a long ways,” he said.
McCloud said the riverport is a big engine for the local agricultural economy. She and director Greg Curlin talk frequently with congressional leaders to secure funding for dredging of the harbor. “There’s times that we have been shut down due to no dredging,” she said. “When that happens of course it’s a big economic downfall on all the businesses here locally.”
Roncali said the harbor is vital to Fulton County. “Without this harbor, I don’t imagine there’d be a Hickman,” he said.
Hickman is a busy site during harvest months, McCloud said. “In a day’s time you will see probably over 400 to 1,000 trucks a day go through here. This is a very busy time of year. The farmers will bring in their corn, beans, wheat, and other agricultural products down here.”
The Hickman Ferry transports cars as well as farm trucks between Kentucky and Missouri. “There is a not a bridge that goes directly from Hickman, Kentucky, into this area,” said McCloud. The ferry saves 90 minutes over the drive, she said.