Over 100 years ago, the famous Steamboat Arabia set off down the Missouri River en route to the Wild West. She was filled with over 200 tons of supplies for the winter and nearly 130 passengers on their way to settle the frontier. Barely into the 1,000 mile journey down the treacherous river, The Arabia hit a tree snag and sunk in present-day Wyandotte County where it stayed buried for 152 years. But in 1988, an excavation team stocked with vintage maps and newspaper clippings found the wreckage and began to salvage the time capsule of 19th century life.
The excavation team - River Salvage Inc - decided to take their findings and build a museum in order to share them with the rest of the world. A visit to the Steamboat Arabia Museum will give you and your family a full dose of history and education as you learn about what life was like on the river in the 1850s. You will also have an opportunity to visit the lab in the museum where you can learn about what it takes to find sunken ships and other historical artifacts and how these items are preserved and maintained.
Things to Do
- Classroom: Before heading into the heart of the museum, children in grades 3-5 can take the chance to learn about the preservation process that goes into protecting and maintaining the items in the museum as well as the steamboat itself. Older students in grades 6-8 will be able to touch and clean real artifacts from the Arabia, and adult-education classes are available during scheduled times.
- Lab: Beyond the classroom, the museum lab is responsible for the preservation of the museum's artifacts. Conservation happens on a daily basis, so visitors will be able to see technicians re-sewing shoes, repairing fabrics and textiles, cleaning metals, and many other processes that are essential to maintaining these items.
- Deck: Get aboard the Arabia in the Deck Room of the museum! Not the actual ship but an exact replication, this display gives visitors are real-life look at what the Steamboat Arabia looked like before it sunk into the Missouri. See the steam boilers, pumps, and propellers that powered the ship, and see the actual tree trunk that caused the boat to sink over 100 years ago.
- Historic Community: The Steamboat Museum is inside the historic City Market of Kansas City. This Market is only a short walk from the Missouri River as well as many other historic landmarks, including Quality Hill which first saw Lewis and Clark climb its peak back in 1806. Enjoy a leisure, historical stroll through this area before or after your tour of the museum.
Steamboat Arabia Insider Tips
- There is free parking on site and plenty of room for motorcoaches and large tour groups.
- Tours are open for the general public, and the museum allows you to tour the museum at your own pace although there are interactive tours available for children in grades 3-8. Call ahead of time in order to get details and available times for the Elementary and Middle School tours.