America's Ports: Gateways to Global Trade
Seaports are gateways to domestic and international trade, connecting the United States to the world. Because of the nation's port system, food grown by Iowa farmers reaches tables in Japan and Russia. Manufacturers in Texas can sell goods and services profitably to foreign countries. And Appalachian and Midwest coal moves through inland waterways and coastal ports to power plants domestically and around the world, providing the fuel to heat and light homes, businesses and cities.
North America's history has been shaped by its ports on the seacoasts, rivers and the Great Lakes. From the late 1400s, the sheltered harbors provided safe refuge for early explorers and settlers. Cities depended on docks and shipping terminals as their communications and commerce lifeline to the rest of the world. As port cities prospered and grew, the bustling wharfs and big ships became less visible, but no less important, as major highways and tall buildings dominated the waterfront.