Visiting the Captain Meriwether Lewis

Published: Oct. 17, 2018 at 11:55 AM CDT
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Step aboard the Captain Meriwether Lewis to experience some Missouri river history.

This boat is located on the banks of the Missouri River, and serves as a museum now. "Congress back in the 1920's decided the Missouri River should be navigable by barges, so they told the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to make it so," Captain Meriwether Lewis curator and guide Merlin Wright said. "The Corps of Engineers said, 'give us money. We need four boats'. And so this boat and three others were made," Wright said.

The Captain Meriwether Lewis was used to dredge the bottom of the Missouri river to make it deeper. At the time, it was about 4 feet deep, and needed to be 9 feet deep. From 1932 to 1965, the boat worked along the east edge of Nebraska. The boat was burning so much petroleum, it became extremely expensive to use, and that was one of the reasons why it was taken out of service. Two paddle wheels propelled the boat in the water. "There's a paddle wheel on each side, and each paddle wheel had its own steam engine," Wright said. "The pump that was used to suck the mud off the bottom of the river had a three cylinder engine. The mud was pushed through a pipe in the back of the boat, and through a 1,000-foot long floating pipeline, to carry the mud over to the edge of the river," Wright said. "I used to tell people that they put the mud on the bank of the river, but a person who used to work on the boat told me they actually put the mud back in the river in the slow water where they hoped it would settle out."

When the boat was being used, it had 50 to 60 men on it. They worked around the clock in three eight-hour shifts. Workers lived on the boat, and there was a kitchen with cooks. There were also sleeping quarters which you can see during a visit to the Meriwether Lewis.

The boat is open Saturdays and Sundays for tours from 1 to 5 p.m. This is from mid-May through mid-October.