Researchers move from Minnetonka to other lakes to scan for wrecks

By Tom Meersman - The Star Tribune

Two researchers who scrutinized the bottom of Lake Minnetonka for possible shipwrecks are turning their underwater sights on Lake Waconia in Carver County and White Bear Lake in Ramsey County.

Ann Merriman and her husband, Chris Olson, are archaeologists who together founded the nonprofit Maritime Heritage Minnesota in 2005.

Their quest is history, not treasure, since the steamboats, barges, sailboats and other objects they've identified were usually stripped of anything valuable and intentionally sunk when they became outdated.

The couple use inexpensive but high-quality sonar equipment to scan the bottom of lakes and rivers methodically, searching for possible archaeological sites.

Merriman said she received an acceptance letter last week for a $7,000 grant from the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund -- part of the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment -- to survey Lake Waconia and White Bear Lake, two of the metro area's largest lakes behind Minnetonka. She said the work could be done in late summer or early fall, and will take about a week.

Waconia and White Bear have much in common with Lake Minnetonka, Merriman said.

"These three lakes had the same kinds of vessels on them," she said, and sometimes a boat built on one lake was sold and shipped to another.

Both White Bear Lake and Lake Minnetonka had yacht clubs, Merriman said.

Minnetonka and White Bear Lake were also connected by the streetcar system, she said, and each had an amusement park.

Like Lake Minnetonka and its Big Island, Lake Waconia also developed a resort area with hotels and steamboats that took visitors to amusements on Coney Island.

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