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Flooded legend: the William S. Mitchell dredger in Missouri

William S. Mitchell dredge (1938)

Posted on January 8, 2024

The William S. Mitchell dredge used to be located at 2 Grand Avenue in Kansas City (Grand Avenue and the Missouri River). On October 9, 1985, it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places, but in the summer of 1993, it was damaged by a flood.

The William S. Mitchell dredge was built in 1934 by the Marietta Manufacturing Company in Point Pleasant, West Virginia. This dredge operated on the Missouri River between Kansas City, Missouri, Sioux City, Iowa, and St. Louis. It was retired in 1979.

The dredge was named after William S. Mitchell who was the Chief Engineer for the Kansas City District of the Army Corps of Engineers in 1905. This dredge helped to maintain the navigation channel of the river and removed sandbars.

The hull and main deck had a metal superstructure. The pilot house and upper deck were made of wood.

The upper deck house

There were a dozen staterooms that housed the officers of the boat. The captain’s and chief engineer’s cabins had built-in berths (sleeping areas) and secretary-bureaus made of varnished oak.

The second level contained an office, the galley, a dryroom, a laundry room, and a recreation area.

The William S. Mitchell was permanently anchored at the end of Grand Avenue. At the time, projects were going on to help revitalize Kansas City’s riverfront. When it was nominated for the National Register, it contained original equipment and machinery.

All of the equipment and machinery were described as being original. It wasn’t the design of the dredge itself that was important; it was the design of the 34-inch dustpan dredge that was significant.

There were proposals of what could be done from an educational standpoint to save or make use of this dredger boat. For example, the galley could have been modernized into a restaurant.

The Kansas City District of Army Corps of Engineers designed the William S. Mitchell. The process of dredging helps to make passage on a river easier. The current was always changing on the Missouri River. Sometimes a tree would get in a boat’s path.

Improving the Missouri River

In 1832, the improvement of the Missouri River began. Congress provided funds for snag removal. In 1907, the Kansas City District of the Army Corps of Engineers was created to control the river. The bottom of the river needed to be shifted.

In 1929, a man by the name of C. W. Sturtevant was sent to the Missouri River by the Chief of Engineers to study the river. He also helped in designing a dredge that would work on the River.

Because the river started to maintain a nine-foot depth and began to stabilize itself, dredging started to be lessened in the mid-1960s. By 1973, it was believed only one dredge was needed which was the William S. Mitchell dredge.

In 1979, the Mitchell dredge was retired to the Army Corps of Engineers harbor in Gasconade. When it was docked in Kansas City, the hope was that it could become a river history museum.

However, the flood of 1993 engulfed this vessel. It broke loose from its moorings and crashed into several bridges. The William S. Mitchell was taken out of the river and tied up at Wood River, Illinois.

The dredge was advertised for sale and BB Riverboats of Cincinnati eventually acquired it. It was converted into a haunted house called USS Nightmare.


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