The Grande is interrupted by several dams and reservoirs: in the upper Grande the river forms Furnas Reservoir, then Peixotos, and downstream, Água Vermelha.
The river plays a major role in production of electricity and, due to rapids and waterfalls, and absence of locks, is only navigable by small craft in limited stretches. However the Estrada de Ferro Oeste de Minas (a narrow gauge railway) operated a passenger and freight steam navigation service between 1889 and 1963. The EFOM met the Rio Grande at Riberao Vermelho, from where the service ran down the river for 208 km, as far as Capetina. There were six stations on the river between Riberao Vermelho and Capetinga, and the railway operated a fleet of 6 stern-wheel paddle steamers, together with barges and launches. The service was halted by the completion of the Furnas Reservoir.