A towboat is a boat designed for pushing barges. Towboats are characterized by a square bow with steel knees for pushing and powerful engines. They are most often seen on inland waterways and western rivers where they can push more than 50 large barges lashed together into a tow of varying shapes and sizes. Towboats that travel long distances (linehaul) include living quarters for the crew. Outside of the United States towboats are usually referred to as "push boats" or "pushers".
Towboats range in size from 600 horsepower (447 kW) up to over 12,500 horsepower (9,321 kW). Most towboats can vary in length from 35 feet (11 m) to 200 feet (61 m), and vary in width from 21 feet (6 m) to 56 feet (17 m) wide. Smaller boats are used in harbours, fleeting areas and around locks while larger boats operate in "line-haul" operations and inter-city routes. In the United States below St. Louis on the Lower Mississippi river, the river is open with no locks or impediments other than channel size and depth. So larger boats run this segment of the river with the maximum tow size of 42 barges southbound and 40+ northbound. A "box", so called due to the shape is 100 feet (30 m) x 35 feet (11 m), a "rake", so called due to the raked bow end, is 195 feet (59 m) x 35 feet (11 m). so 40 barges would be over 1,200 feet (366 m) long and occupy over 6 acres (2 ha) of area.
A riverboat is a ship designed for inland navigation. These vessels are usually less sturdy than ships built for the open seas, with limited navigational and rescue equipment, as they do not have to survive the high winds or large waves that are seen on large lakes, seas or oceans. They are limited in size by width and depth of the river as well as the height of bridges spanning the river.
While a ferryboat is often used to cross a river, a riverboat, like a barge, is used to travel along the course of the river, while carrying passengers and cargo, or both, for revenue.