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Steamboat Bertrand

Steamboat Bertrand Museum

The Steamboat Bertrand museum is located inside the visitor center at DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge and can be viewed daily during the normal business hours of 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. except certain federal holidays.

For visitor center hours and general information, which includes individuals or groups being able to enter the visitor center and see the museum collection and exhibits please call 712-388-4800.

For museum collection, research purposes, and other museum related information please contact the curator, Dean Knudsen at:



Passengers of the Steamboat Bertrand: Fannie and Annie Campbell

Passengers of the Steamboat Bertrand: The Atchison Family 

Almost Lost A Second Time: The Rescue of the Steamboat Bertrand Collection From the Missouri River Flood Event of 2011, a presentation about the evacuation of the collection.  LARGE FILE, 6 MB.   The museum collection has been returned to the visitor center and is currently on display.  THIS IS AN ARCHIVE P-RESENTATION ABOUT THE 2011 FLOOD EVENT




DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge, located near Missouri Valley, Iowa, is home to a premier archeological collection of over 250,000 artifacts excavated from the buried wreck of the Steamboat Bertrand. On April 1, 1865, the sternwheeler hit a submerged log, thirty miles north of Omaha, Nebraska. Bound for the newly discovered goldfields of Montana from St. Louis, Missouri, the Bertrand sank into the depths of the Missouri River; and after initial salvage efforts, her cargo was written off as complete loss.

Using historical documents and a flux gate magnetometer, modern treasurer hunters, Sam Corbino and Jesse Pursell located the wreck on DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge in 1968. As the boat was on federal property, the salvors agreed under the requirements of the American Antiquities Preservation Act of 1906, to turn over all recovered artifacts to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for permanent exhibition and preservation in a public museum.

By 1969, the vessel's cargo was completely excavated from its thirty feet deep, mud tomb. Unfortunately for the salvors, the treasure they sought had eluded them. Insurance company divers had apparently removed most of the mercury and other valuables soon after the ship sank. However, what had been left was a diversity of tools, clothing, and food items. The Bertrand's cargo was remarkably well preserved and the refuge's collection is a unique time capsule for researchers and visitors interested in America's 19th century material culture.
Last Updated: Jun 29, 2015
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