A diver swims near two cylindrical structures stacked on one another
A diver approaches Montana’s boiler and steam drum, with the base of the steam engine visible in the foreground.

Vessel Type: Motor: wooden steam barge

GPS Location(bow mooring buoy): N44° 59.025’ W83° 16.013’

GPS Location(stern mooring buoy): N44° 59.046’ W83°16.083’

Depth: 63 feet

Wreck Length: 236 feet

Beam: 36 feet

Gross Tonnage: 1536

Cargo: None

Launched: 1872 by Muir and Livingston at Port Huron, Michigan

Wrecked: September 6, 1914

Mooring Buoy Data


Captain Burns seemed to hate to leave the boat and was the last man over the side. He stood on the deck after all the rest of us had left, with the flames just a few feet distant, and counted the men in the boat several times to make sure that none was left on that floating furnace.” - James St. Andre, Montana assistant engineer

A diver swims near a pillar-like structure from a  shipwreck
Montana’s massive steam engine looms as a scuba diver takes video of the wreckage.

Built for speed, the 236-foot steam package freighter Montana initially carried all types of freight. A typical trip found the Montana carrying a diverse cargo of 6,000 barrels of flour, 40 tons of copper, 250,000 shingles, 100 boxes of salmon, and some passengers. Unlike sailing craft that depended on often unpredictable wind, Montana offered speed and reliability.

After 30 years of carrying passengers and packages, age and a changing economy forced Montana to enter the lumber trade. Once retrofitted, the cavernous steamer could carry one million board feet of lumber, enough to stretch nearly 200 miles if placed end to end. For more than 40 years, Montana survived the dangers of the Great Lakes.

On September 6, 1914, its luck ran out. As it passed Thunder Bay at dusk, fire broke out in its bow and spread rapidly. Years of paint, coal dust, and lubricants turned the ship into a floating furnace. Montana burned to the waterline and slipped into the chilly depths of Lake Huron just after 2:00 a.m. The entire crew of 14 escaped in a lifeboat.

Today, the Montana rests in 66 feet of water and is an excellent dive site. The steamer’s impressive power train is intact, complete with massive boiler, three-story-tall steam engine, drive shaft, and propeller. While Montana’s bow is broken open, much of the ship’s 236-foot wooden hull is preserved as are its windlass, capstan, and rudder.

Great Lakes Maritime Collection digital archive:

The propeller of a shipwreck
A diver swims forward of the Montana’s huge propeller, still secured to the stern.
A scuba diver swims over the intact boiler that powered the wooden vessel Montana.
Montana’s massive steam engine looms as a scuba diver takes video of the wreckage.