A large steamboat that burned and sank in Morehouse Parish over a century ago has been recorded as an archaeological site with the state of Louisiana.
For decades the subject of local legends, the sunken boat is now designated as “Big Horn Steamboat Wreck,” Archaeological Site No. 16MO185.
The “MO” stands for Morehouse, and the “185” means this is the 185th archaeological site reported in the parish.
Dennis Jones with the state Division of Archaeology and marine archaeologist Allen Saltus Jr. with Archaeological Research Inc. conducted the first formal study of the wreck last month.
Field notes and subsequent historical research are included in the site record, which states the boat may have research potential as an example of a vessel that “was part of riverine commerce and transportation before the advent of railroads.”
Although the boat is in poor condition, further research could make it eligible for the National Register of Historic Places. Jones explains:
“Having the site listed and recommended as eligible for the National Register will mean that if there are any future projects on this part of Bayou Bartholomew -- by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, for example -- then this site would have to be taken into account and the project’s impact considered.”
In addition, he said, the site “is within a navigable waterway of Louisiana and is thereby legally protected as state property. Anyone looting or damaging archaeological sites on state property would be committing a crime.”