"Single Hulled Iron Snag Boat"
By Capt. Charles R. Suter, 1872
Lithograph printed in black ink
25 1/4" x 50 1/2" National Archives and Records Administration, Records of the Office
of the Chief of Engineers
Iron Snag Boats During the 19th century, snags, tree trunks, and
large limbs in river channels frequently caused steamboat accidents. Massive
snags could be 50 to 75 feet long and weigh several tons. Snags floating
below the surface often could not be seen and avoided by river pilots.
They caused damage by catching in the paddle and stern wheels or by puncturing
the hulls of steamboats. This endangered crews and passengers, sometimes
resulting in a loss of life. Keeping the inland waterways free of snags
became the task of the Federal Government. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
patrolled the rivers in snag boats, each of which was specially equipped
with a winch and hooks to lift tree trunks and other hazardous debris
out of the water.