Quirky Attraction: Arabia Steamboat Museum

arabia steamboat museum

Arabia Steamboat Museum
Location: Kansas City, Missouri (400 Grand Blvd.)
When to visit: Open 10-5 (Mon-Sat) and 12-5 (Sun)
Cost: $14.50
Time needed to enjoy: 30-45 minutes
Website: 1856.com

In 1856, a steamboat named Arabia was traveling down the Missouri River, carrying a cargo of 200 tons of basic supplies bound for stores, when it hit a tree and sank. The cargo was lost until 1988, when it was discovered buried underneath a cornfield in Kansas. Now that cargo is on display at the Arabia Steamboat Museum in Kansas City, Missouri.

The cargo includes fancy china, clothing, housewares, and lots more, all of which is remarkably preserved. Even full bottles of food were preserved. Look, 150-year-old pickles! Who wants to taste one?


To answer the obvious question: How did cargo that sank in the Missouri River end up under dry land? That’s a question answered by multiple exhibits in the museum. Basically, the river changed course over the years, so the spot where the ship went down ended up turning into fertile farmland across the state line in Kansas.

Here’s a look at some of the sights from the Arabia Steamboat Museum. All of the items on display were recovered from the wreckage.









No lives were lost on the Arabia. Except for this poor mule, whose skeleton was recovered with the ship.


The Arabia wasn’t the only wrecked vessel discovered years later. This map shows others that have been found, as well as how the flow of the Missouri River has changed over the years.


They found so much at the Arabia site that they’re still gathering the items. This board lets visitors see the progress of items that are currently being cleaned and prepared for display.


The tree snag that sank the ship was found right along with the wreckage. It’s here on display, of course.


This place is worth checking out to catch a glimpse of American history from more than 150 years ago.

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About Quirky Travel Guy

Scott Shetler is a Seattle-based freelance writer & fan of indie rock, road trips, ice cream, squirrels on power lines, runaway shopping carts, and six-way intersections. Some posts on this site contain affiliate links, which may earn me a commission (at no extra cost to you) if you make a purchase.

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