Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The Last Paddlewheeler on the Apalachicola River

There are many today who remember the last of the real paddlewheel riverboats on the Apalachicola River.

It was only 27 years ago in 1982 that the U.S. Snagboat Montgomery made its final voyage. The beautiful old paddlewheel boat was a spectacular sight as it churned its way up and down the Apalachicola, removing snags and other debris to keep the channel open for navigation.

Built in 1926 in Charleston, South Carolina, the Montgomery was 178 feet long with a maximum width of 34 feet. With a draft of only 6 feet, she was ideally suited for work on the shallow rivers of the Deep South. During the first thirty years of her career, the paddlewheel boat worked on the Alabama, Coosa, Tallapoosa, Black Warrior and Tombigbee Rivers, but in 1959 she was moved from Alabama to Panama City, Florida, and put to work maintaining the channel of the Apalachicola, Chattahoochee and Flint River system.

In one of her remarkable duties, the triple-decked steamboat raised the stern section of the Confederate warship C.S.S. Chattahoochee from its resting place on the bottom of the Chattahoochee River. The Chattahoochee is now a permanent exhibit at the National Civil War Naval Museum in Columbus, Georgia.

The Montgomery was a common sight and on Lake Seminole during the last 20 years of her career. She was retired by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in 1982.

The boat, remarkably, still survives. Now located at the Corps' Tom Bevill Visitor Center in Pickensville, Alabama, the Montgomery is now a National Historic Landmark and is open to the public. To learn more, please click here to visit the boat's outstanding website.

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