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Show Me The State: Sunken Steamboats Of The Missouri River

James T. Thorp Scrapbooks, 1840-1955, The State Historical Society of Missouri
The De Smet, pictured at Fort Benton, Montana, was built for Captain LaBarge in 1871 after he sold his steamboat Emilie LaBarge. The De Smet was 188.4 feet long and 34 feet wide. It later burned near Newport, Arkansas, on June 12, 1886.

In the steamboat’s glory days right before the Civil War, there would be on average, 60 boats traveling through different ports along the Missouri River each day. Cargo of agricultural products, furs and settlers would move up and down the river. From St. Louis to Montana.

But, the river was turbulent and unpredictable back then. Many steamboats sank on the trip, yet companies kept putting more boats back on the river.

Today, many of the steamboats that once sank in the waters of the Missouri River over 150 years ago are no longer in the water. They’re actually buried under ground, some under farmland a mile away from where the river is or was.

In this episode, we try to figure out what made so many steamboats sink and why are the wrecks so far away from the water.

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