While traveling south on I-29, along the Iowa and Nebraska border, as we crossed US-30 we noticed a sign that simply stated “Steamboat Exhibit”. Well, we were distracted again. I thought that we would get to walk out on an old steamboat but instead we ended up on the DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge.
“The Steamboat Bertrand sank April 1, 1865 loaded with cargo headed for the goldfields of Montana. The steamboat hit a snag and struggled to make it to shallow waters where it sank north of Omaha, Nebraska. Although it sank on the Nebraska side of the Missouri River, the river subsequently meandered and was rechanneled, leaving the wreck deeply buried in silt well east of the Missouri. It was excavated in 1968, funded largely by a private partnership attempting to recover large amounts of mercury that were believed to be on board; however only small amounts of mercury were recovered, and the remainder of the cargo became the property of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Its cargo is now on display at the DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge in Iowa, and contains the largest intact collection of Civil War-era artifacts in the United States, including mining equipment, clothing, Indian trade items, military ammunition, plows, and tens of thousands of household goods, including candles, canned goods and preserves, dishes, knives, other housewares, matches, pipes, and liquor. This collection provides an unrivaled glimpse into daily frontier life in the 1860s. Canned foods from the Bertrand were analyzed and found to still be nutritious in 1982.”
We didn’t get to see a steamboat but the collection of goods recovered from this vessel was amazing.