By 1882, Puget Sound's rivers were served by hundreds of steam paddlewheelers with such shallow drafts people joked they could "float on a heavy dew." Because their flat-bottomed hulls were easily punctured by submerged stumps and debris, Congress allocated $20,000 for a snagboat and, under the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, three steam-powered sternwheelers kept the region's tributaries cleared for 97 years - the Skagit (launched in 1885), the Swinomish (1914) and finally the W.T. Preston (1929 and 1939).
The Preston used a 70-foot boom and a 1?-cubic yard clamshell dredging bucket. Fore and aft steel "spuds" were lowered through the hull to anchor her to the bottom. Crews located submerged hazards by sweeping riverbeds with cable suspended between two skiffs.
W.T. Preston Snagboat
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers operated steam-powered sternwheeler "snagboats" in rivers from Blaine to Olympia, to keep the region's tributaries clear of navigational hazards. The W.T. Preston was the last of the sternwheelers.
[Image captions read]
[Top left] Small obstructions were grappled & hoisted aboard; large ones were sometimes dynamited. Above, Norman Hamburg overseas as a large strump is lifted with the boom in 1958.
[Top center] This diagram detailing snagboat anatomy is from Ronald R. Burke's book "Heritage of a Snagboat: Story of the W.T. Preston"
[Top right] The 1,100 cubic yards of debris collected by the W.T. Preston each year was burned on a barge or deposited ashore. Above, logs and debris are seen from the sternwheelers bow.
Photos courtesy of the Anacortes Museum
[For more information, visit] http://museum.cityofanacortes.org