The cold fresh water of Minnesota's lakes and rivers have preserved an important part of
our history - in shipwrecks! Each one is a unique and integral part of the
fabric of America's maritime heritage. Together, they provide physical contact
with and offer an exciting opportunity to explore the past. Because they
represent a valuable but finite and nonrenewable resource, we must provide
for their protection and preservation. If we don't, the first generation to have
ready access to shipwrecks will be the last to enjoy them.
In the interest of preserving Minnesota's Lake Superior shipwrecks and other underwater archaeological sites in Minnesota's lakes and rivers, the State Historic Preservation Office of the
Minnesota Historical Society has initiated a program of submerged cultural
resource management. The Society hopes you will join its effort to preserve
our maritime heritage.
Tip: Click on the ship's image or name below for an online exhibit of text and photos. Most of the photos have full size versions, click on the photo to view it.
Funding for this project was approved by the Minnesota Legislature (1996-97; ML 1995 Chapter 220, Sec. 19 Sudb. 12 (f); 1992-93, ML 91, Chapter 254, Art. I, Sec. 14 Subd. 3(h), and 1990-91 ML 89, Chapter 335, Art. 1, Sec. 23, Subd. 9(f))as recommended by the Legislative Commission on Minnesota Resources from the Minnesota Future Resources Fund.
Minnesota's Lake Superior Shipwrecks
- The steel whaleback steamer Thomas Wilson sank in a collision outside of Duluth harbor on June 9, 1902. With holds still full of Mesabi ore, the steamer lies in 70 feet of water. Photos
- The Madeira, a schooner-barge built in 1900, was one of 20 ships wrecked in a violent storm near Split Rock in 1905. Photos
- The log rafting tug Niagara, built in 1872, sank off Knife Island in 1904. Remains of the Niagara include a large section of the bow and a section of the side lying in 80 to 100 feet of water. Photos
- In 1915, the first iron-built bulk freighter on the Great Lakes, the Onoko sank about six miles east of Knife River. The Onoko lies upside down in 200 feet of water. Photos
- The wooden freighter Hesper, battered in a storm, sank on May 3, 1905, en route to Two Harbors. The well-preserved remains of the hull lie in shallow water near the Silver Bay breakwater. Photos
- The USS Essex, a navy gunboat that burned and sank in shallow water near Duluth, was one of the last vessels built by Donald McKay, the master builder of clipper ships. Photos
- The Amboy (Photos), a wooden schooner-barge, sank during the famous Mataafa Storm south of Taconite Harbor. An archaeological survey there has located the remains of the George Spencer (Photos), the vessel that had been towing the Amboy.
- The wooden schooner, the Samuel P. Ely, was wrecked on October 29, 1896 when she broke from a tug at Two Harbors, Minnesota in a gale, and then blew across the harbor into the stone breakwater then under construction. Photos
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