New Orleans (1838)

a painting of a white steam ship with a wheel
Artistic rendering of the sidewheeler New Orleans underway. Image: Robert McGreevy

Vessel Type: Motor: wooden side wheel steamboat

GPS Location: N45° 02.579’ W83° 14.425’

Depth: 15 feet

Wreck Length: 130 feet

Beam: 27 feet

Gross Tonnage: 610

Cargo: Passengers and freight

Launched: 1838 by B.F. Goodsell at Detroit, Michigan

Wrecked: June 14, 1849

Mooring Buoy Data

Description: Sidewheel steamboats dominated the Great Lakes at the beginning of the “shipwreck century.” Before railroads, these fast ships proved the best way to travel. Tens of thousands of immigrants, ambitious entrepreneurs, and adventure-seeking tourists first explored the Midwest on these steamers.

The sidewheeler Vermillion entered service in 1838. In 1842, the 151-foot steamer burned to the waterline, and several people died. A year later, the owners rebuilt the Vermillion, adding over 30 feet to its length. The ship steamed back into service in September 1844 as the 185-foot New Orleans.

Before daylight on the foggy morning of June 13, 1849, New Orleans grounded on a reef between North Point and Sugar Island. Local fishermen rescued all of the passengers and crew. Today, large sections of the hull are preserved by Lake Huron’s cold, fresh water. A shallow 15-foot depth and crystal-clear water make New Orleans an ideal place for paddlers, snorkelers, and divers to explore.

Great Lakes Maritime Collection digital archive:

360 Virtual Dive:

a snorkeler floats above wood planks from a shipwreck
A snorkeler peers from the surface through the clear water to the wreckage of New Orleans
a diver inspects a shipwreck
A scuba diver investigates the keelson structure of the shallow New Orleans wreck site.
a snorkeler swims above wood from a shipwreck
A snorkeler explores the flattened wreckage of New Orleans.
a shipwreck with a diver in the distance
Wooden timbers extend from flattened hull remains as a diver explores the site of New Orleans.