Minnesota's Historic Shipwrecks
Lake Superior wave
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.

Minnesota's Lake Superior Shipwrecks Map
Shipwreck Map

Shipwreck Exhibit
Thomas Wilson
Samuel P. Ely
George Spencer
U.S.S. Essex

Minnesota Lake Superior Shipwreck Exhibit
Thomas Wilson, Hesper, Onoko, Madeira, Samuel P. Ely,
Amboy, George Spencer, U.S.S. Essex, Niagara

Minnesota Lake Superior History

*History of Minnesota's Lake Superior (31 Pages)

Exploration and Fur Trade (1650-1840)
Settlement & Fishing on Lake Superior (1854-1930)
Minnesota's Iron Ore Industry (1880s-1945)
Northern Minnesota Lumbering (1870-1930s)
Railroads and Agricultural Development (1870-1940)
North Shore Tourism and Recreation (1870-1945)
*History and Development of Great Lakes Water Craft (17 pages)

Sailing Craft
Passenger and Package Freight Steamers
Bulk Freight Steamers
Small Craft
*Vessel Types on the Great Lakes (4 pages)
Sailing Craft
Passenger and Package Freight Steamers
Bulk Freight Steamers
Small Craft
*Lake Superior Shipwrecks (3 pages)
Sailing Craft
Passenger and Package Freight Steamers
Bulk Freight Steamers
Small Craft
*Major Bibliographic References

*Lake Superior History Photos

*Lake Superior Shipwrecks Map

*List of Lake Superior Shipwrecks

Shipwrecks of Minnesota's Inland Lakes and Rivers

*History of Inland Water Transportation in Minnesota (10 pages)
Exploration and Fur Trade (1650-1840)
St. Croix Triangle Lumbering (1830s-1900s)
Early Agriculture and River Settlement (1840-1870)
Northern Minnesota Lumbering (1870-1930s)
Tourism and Recreation in the Lake Region (1870-1945)
*Vessel Types on Minnesota's Inland Waters (6 pages)
*Major Bibliographic References

Minnesota's Shipwreck Preservation Plan
*A Management Philosophy
*Beneath Minnesota Waters (34 pages)
The Need for a Plan
Legislative Overview
Pre-contact and Contact Periods Site Background
Preservation Issues for Pre-contact and Contact Periods Sites
Post-contact Period Sites Background
Preservation Issues for Post-contact Period Sites
Other Issues Concerning Submerged Resources
Agency Responsibilities
Public Comment on the Plan
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.

Thomas WilsonThe 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

MadeiraThe Madeira, a schooner-barge built in 1900, was one of 20 ships wrecked in a violent storm near Split Rock in 1905. Photos

NiagaraThe 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

OnokoIn 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

HesperThe 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

USS EssexThe 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

Amboy & SpencerThe 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.

Samuel P. ElyThe 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
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
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