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Wreck in the Red River

Part of a sternwheel in a river
Wreck of the steamboat at Clear Creek near Kiomatia River in the Red River (OHS; OU).

Before railroads cut swaths through the landscape to bring goods to settlers, steamboats on the Red River supplied everything from coffee to ammunition. And one of the oldest of steamboats —a 140 foot long side wheeler —is now a notable wreck in the Red River.

Located in the middle of the stream a few miles down from Ft. Towson, the wreck was first discovered by local landowners in 1991 after flooding exposed it. But it was only in 1999 when someone decided to notify the Oklahoma Historical Society. The OHS realized right away what a significant find this was. Not only is the wreck the first recorded Oklahoma shipwreck, it is also the earliest known wreck in western rivers. Soon, OHS, along with the Texas A&M Nautical Archeology Department, conducted an extensive survey on the site. According to Fort Towson records, the ship, built in the 1830s, probably sunk in the 1840s. The researchers have learned that the ship was named Heroine, and its mission was to bring supplies to Fort Towson. It had also stopped at nearby Jonesboro, TX before it hit a tree stump that was obscured in the river and sank. No one died in the wreck, and much of the cargo was removed before the ship hit the sandy bottom.

The Red River Wreck is a well-known archaeological site and is protected as such.

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