March 1, 1851. Contracts were also made for nine additional dams and locks. The estimated cost of the first three dams, four locks and work in the river between them, was $201,633. It was estimated that thirteen locks and dams would be required to render the river navigable to Ottumwa, the cost of which was estimated at $477,357.
General Curtis was of the opinion that when the system was completed to the Raccoon Fork, freight could be carried from St. Louis via Keokuk and the Des Moines River, and thence by wagon to Council Bluffs, at a saving of nine-two cents per hundred pounds over the cost by steamer up the Missouri River. He further says:
“It is mathematically certain (except in times of high water in the Missouri) that the trade of Council Bluffs will incline to follow down this improvement. We enter the great valley of the Nebraska and all branches of the Missouri and offer to the commerce of these valleys the cheapest and most expeditious route for their products. A country of a thousand miles extent, capable of furnishing vast agricultural and mineral products, may by wise and discreet energy in the prosecution of this work, become tributary to the improvements now in progress on the Des Moines River.”
Such were the expectations entertained by the people of Iowa at this time, of the importance and feasibility of the Des Moines River improvements inaugurated. General Curtis was probably the ablest civil engineer in the West. He had been engaged in a somewhat similar work on the Muskingum River, was familiar with the general system of internal improvements of the country and his opinion of this enterprise had great influence with Iowa people. He even expressed the belief, in his enthusiastic report, that the making the Des Moines River navigable to the Raccoon Fork could be accomplished at less than half the cost per mile of a good railroad, and he adds:
“Most of the heavy agricultural and mineral products will float down the channels of our rivers when railroads have intersected them with a thousand lines.”