The United States inland waterway transportation system is reviewed in terms of the waterway upon which the carriers operate, the carriers and their equipment, and government regulation of the system. A historical review of the system prior to 1940 is presented. Initially, various states made necessary improvements on rivers and harbors, but in 1818 Congress determined the federal government had the power and responsibility to pursue waterway development. The prime government policy governing our domestic waterways was that they remain free common highways accessible to all without tax or toll. In 1940 part III of the Interstate Commerce Act was added, further regulating water transportation by the federal government.Since 1940 inland water carriers increased their operational capacity through use of more powerful vessels, larger barges, and development of navigational aides, permitting around-the-clock operation.Some future innovations attracting attention are containerization, LASH containership cargo handling, hovercraft, and hydrofoil vessels.