Founded in 1932, by Lew Russell, Senior. He had become interested in the river transportation of industrial commodities and began renting steam-powered sternwheel ships to move customer products from port to port.
Throughout the ensuing years Lew began establishing a "framework" for Tidewater Barge Lines. Ten years later, in 1942, the Tidewater-Shaver Transportation Company was established. In 1960, Tidewater became an independent tug and barge transportation company under the name of Tidewater Barges Lines.
In 1951, Ray Hickey was hired as a deck hand onboard a Tidewater tug. After spending his first four years on the Leland James, Ray transferred to the ocean division. Where he became the chief engineer on the Tillamook. Which was Tidewater's first ocean going tug. In 1967, Ray became the operations manager of the ocean division and then was promoted to general manager in 1970, overseeing both ocean and river operations. He became president of Tidewater in 1977.
From 1974 to 1996, the company would add tugboats Captain Bob, Defiance, Invader, Outlaw, Maverick, Tidewater, Sundial, the Chief and Hurricane, while adding over twenty grain and grain/petroleum combination barges, petroleum barges Glenn, Atlas, Pioneer, Explorer, and Prospector, as well as a number of container and deck barges.
Tidewater acquired both Knappton's and Columbia Marine Lines' assets in 1984 and 1987. Adding the vessels Rebel and Challenger to the fleet, plus thirty grain barges and several general use barges.
Tidewater Terminal Company was established in the early 1950s to support the barge transportation business. Terminals at Vancouver, Washington; Umatilla, Oregon; Pasco, Washington and Clarkston, Washington were constructed to receive and deliver bulk liquid products to and from barges. Beginning in the late 1970s, additional Terminal facilities were constructed or operated by Tidewater Terminal Company at Clarkston, Washington; Pasco, Washington; Boardman, Oregon and Vancouver, Washington to handle containerized cargo and wood chips. The Snake River Terminal was rebuilt in 1995, with a new automated truck rack, additional petroleum storage and upgraded pump and piping systems.
In 1996, Ray Hickey sold Tidewater, now the largest inland tug and barge company west of the Mississippi, to an East Coast investment group. Wes Hickey served as president of Tidewater from 1996-1999. During this time the petroleum barge Tri Cities Voyager was built.
Stephen Frasher served as president from 1999-2003. Raymond Kiive served as president from 2003-2004. In 2005, members of Tidewater's management team in partnership with equity investor Endeavor Capital bought Tidewater.
Dennis McVicker has served as President, and Chief Executive Officer of Tidewater since 2005. During the period of 2005-2008, four new double-hulled petroleum barges were built: New Dawn, New Endeavor, New Vision and New Frontier.
In 2008, Tidewater acquired Foss Maritime's upper river assets which consisted of two tugs, seven grain barges and thirteen bin and flat deck barges.