In 1819, the U.S. Army’s Western Engineer became the first steamboat to navigate the shallow, shifting Missouri. On its voyage, the vessel encountered a number of problems that delayed its upstream passage, including sunken trees, sandbars, and mud (which found its way into the boiler). Although, steamboat navigation did not have an auspicious beginning on the Mighty Mo, regular steamer traffic emerged along the Lower Missouri between St. Louis and Kansas City in the 1820s.
In 1831, the first steamboat traveled to the Upper Missouri (the river reach north and west of the Platte River confluence). In the 1840s, steamboats replaced the slower, more cumbersome, keelboats along the entire length of the river. By the 1850s, dozens of boats worked the Missouri between St. Louis and the head of navigation at Fort Benton, Montana Territory. The 1850s witnessed the peak of Missouri river steamboat traffic. Continue Reading »