Note: I originally published these photographs as the wreckage of an old steamboat, but my readers have helpfully pointed out my mistake! The wood structure actually prevents erosion, and was placed there on purpose. I left the original, incorrect text below for reference.
Chris Naffziger, August 29, 2014
Searching up and down the Missouri River, my father and I finally located the remains of the Steamboat Montana, and its surprisingly well preserved hull.
You can get a sense of the scale of the boat, which measured 283 feet long and was a last-ditch attempt for riverboats competing against the vastly more efficient railroads that had already crisscrossed America when the Montana was built in 1879.
A large portion of the of the limestone ballast lies in a huge pile inside of the wreck, with support beams of the upriver’s side of the ship’s hull in better shape than the downriver’s.
The wood beams, weathered by a hundred years of lying below water in the river, have returned to their original round shapes, as the corners were worn off.
The river is at an historic low, so the riverboat is viewable along the banks of the Missouri River in between St. Charles and St. Louis Counties.
Above, the rusted remnants of iron tie rods and ropes are still visible; the site has been thoroughly picked clean of any other souvenirs. Below, these rows of lined up timbers must have been the hull of the ship.
Ironically, other pieces of driftwood have lodged themselves on the wreck, blurring the line between man-made and nature.