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Steamboat Bertrand Anniversary Program April 6 at DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge


April 3rd, 2024 by Ric Hanson

(Missouri Valley, Iowa) –  Officials with the DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge invite you to join them this ​Saturday, April 6th, to learn about the passengers and cargo of the steamboat Bertrand, which sank April 1st, 1865, after the vessel struck a submerged log at around 3-p.m. on the Missouri River, 25-miles north of Omaha. The stern-driven paddle-wheel boat was headed to the gold fields of Montana Territory when the accident occurred.  After initial salvage efforts, she was quickly submerged beneath the water and silt. Her cargo was written off as complete loss.

Just over a century later, the wreck was found and its cargo recovered. Since 1981, the cargo has been on display at the visitor center at DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge. To commemorate the 159th anniversary of the sinking of the Bertrand, DeSoto NWR will host an afternoon of special events, beginning at 1 p.m., Saturday, at the DeSoto Visitor Center.

At 1-p.m., the refuge will host two special guest presenters from the Gerald R. Ford Conservation Center. The Ford Center is located in Omaha, NE and offers “services to private individuals, museums and libraries, corporations, and state and federal agencies”, including “examination and treatment of three-dimensional objects, paintings, and works on paper”. Ford Center staff has performed extensive conservation work on thousands of Bertrand artifacts, particularly metal items like tin cans, brass lamp fittings, and steel tools. In their presentation, the conservators will share the work they perform, highlighting some of the conservation techniques used on artifacts like rare Goodyear-patent rubber rain slickers and canned foods.

Living history re-enactors will be present throughout the visitor center from 2 p.m. until 3 p.m., giving a sense of what life and travel may have been like for the travelers, salesmen, crew, and others aboard the Bertrand on their way to new opportunities in the Montana Territory.

There will also be activities for children and adults between 2 and 3 p.m., including stenciling and a cargo scavenger hunt. To wrap-up the event, join the Bertrand Curator for a presentation at 3 pm. This talk will focus on some of the passengers of the Bertrand and what we can learn about them through the belongings they left behind.

The event will conclude at 4:00 p.m. The refuge Visitor Center will be open from 8:30 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. the day of the event.