Searching for Buried Steam Boats

On the evening of April 25,1840, the Bedford, a relatively small side wheel steamboat, was descending the Missouri River near its mouth, bound for St Louis, when she struck a snag and sank in less than five minutes in deep water. Over the ensuing decades, the Missouri River channel has shifted to the south so much that the site of the Bedford's wreck is now beneath dry land. During June 2007, under the auspices of the Army Corps of Engineers, St. Louis District, an Illinois State Geological Survey geophysicist conducted a magnetometer survey looking for the Bedford and two other wrecks. The iron boilers and engines from the old steamboats should produce a large magnetic anomaly even if the wrecks are buried 30 to 40 feet below ground. After a week of trekking through corn fields, sloughs, and cottonwood saplings with a magnetometer and GPS mounted on his back, the geologist located a telltale anomaly not far from the reported location of the Bedford wreck. Unfortunately, the other wreck sites could not be located. The large magnetic anomaly was found in a swale on the "back side" of what once was Mobile Island. This swale could have been a short cut channel near the mouth of the Missouri. The magnetic anomaly is consistent with 8 to 12 tons of iron buried at a depth of 35 to 40 feet. The site is located within Missouri Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Confluence Point State Park. Archeologists from the Missouri DNR are developing a plan to collect drill core from the site to determine whether the Bedford has finally been found.