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Low Missouri river levels expose 130-year-old shipwreck

Published: Sep. 27, 2021 at 5:49 PM CDT
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BISMARCK, N.D. (KFYR) - River levels on the Missouri River are the lowest they’ve been in a long time. The drought and reduction in releases out of Garrison Dam have lowered the level by as much as two feet.

That’s good news for history buffs.

The low water level has given the curious a glimpse of a nearly 130-year-old shipwreck.

Abner O’Neal
Abner O’Neal(Joe Schell)

This is a kayak trip Nyk Edinger has been dreaming about for years.

“I thought that would be a fantastic thing to see,” said Edinger.

The Abner O’Neal sunk in 1892, while transporting 9,000 bushels of wheat from Washburn to Mandan. The steamboat has been submerged in the water of the Missouri river ever since. Now, 129 years later, kayakers like Edinger are getting an up-close look at the vessel.

“It’s pretty exciting being that close to it, seeing how it has maintained its shape,” he said.

Since Edinger’s adventure a little over a week ago, the water level has gone down even more, making the Abner O’Neal even more visible.

“It’s just amazing that it’s still sitting right where it sunk,” Edinger said.

It was the perfect weekend adventure for history buff Todd Sheldon and his brothers.

Abner O’Neal
Abner O’Neal(Joe Schell)

“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,” said Sheldon.

The shipwreck is only visible from the water. It’s becoming a must-see for kayakers like the Sheldons. Several other curious kayakers have made the trip, taking advantage of the low water levels to see this piece of history that hasn’t moved in nearly 130 years.

The Abner O’Neal is about 25 miles north of Bismarck, about a half mile from the Steckel boat ramp near Wilton.

The state historical society reminds you if you venture out to see it, take nothing but photos.

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