"Single Hulled Iron Snag Boat"
"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. Here are two designs for single hull iron snag boats.

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