If you own a drone and are going to be in Bismarck, North Dakota, anytime soon, you may want to consider making a trip to the Steckel boat ramp near Wilton. Drought conditions and low water levels on the Missouri River have revealed a nearly 130-year-old shipwreck some 25 miles north of Bismarck, and you should be able to capture stunning aerial footage of the same.
The Abner O’Neal was a steamboat that was built in 1884 for transporting freight and passengers. According to the State Historical Society of North Dakota, the Abner O’Neal was transporting 9,000 bushels of wheat on July 17, 1892, when it struck a submerged rock and began to sink. The crew attempted to patch the hole, but the damage was too extensive and the steamboat quickly went down in 8-to-10 feet of water.
The wreck of the Abner O’Neal was salvaged after the sinking, with the superstructure and paddle wheel removed. But much of the hull of the wreck has remained intact since.
The shipwreck was seen during the Missouri River flood in 2011, and it also became partially visible in October 2020 (video below) when the water levels in the region began to decline.
But now, extreme drought conditions and a reduction in releases out of Garrison Dam have lowered the water levels on the Missouri River by as much as two feet, making the shipwreck all the more visible.
Drone video of Abner O’Neal shipwreck in North Dakota (2020)
History buffs and curious kayakers have been thronging the area recently, with one visitor telling a local news outlet:
It was kind of cool to see a piece of history that has remained there for almost 130 years. You could lay it out and see where the boat was and what side it had rolled onto.
The State Historical Society notes:
The Abner O’Neal is within the boundaries of state-sovereign lands managed by North Dakota. Several federal and state regulations protect the site and prohibit the collection of artifacts from the location. Boaters and other interested parties are encouraged to avoid the wreck as a navigational obstacle and reminded to take only pictures.
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