Low Mississippi River levels expose sunken WWII ship

Missouri

ST. LOUIS– Low levels on the Mississippi River has exposed the USS Inaugural near downtown St. Louis. The ship was once moored at the Archgrounds but it broke free during the Flood of ’93.

The ship broke free on August 1, 1993 as the river reached its historic crest of 49.58 feet. The river was at 3.85 feet and falling when the ship was spotted Tuesday.

The ship drifted downstream before eventually turning on its side and sinking south of the Poplar Street Bridge.

The National Parks Service (NPS) says plans to salvage the wreck in one piece and restore it were not feasible. The ship has been determined to be a total loss. The NPS says it will be salvaged for scrap metal and museum exhibition purposes but that has not yet happened.

The USS Inaugural, a World War II minesweeper, used to be a National Historic Landmark and was open for tours.

NPS says during WWII, it participated in the invasion of Okinawa and served as a patrol ship in other battles in the South Pacific. After the war, it conducted minesweeping operations in the waters around Japan and Korea. By the end of its career, it cleared 82 mines and was awarded two battle stars for service.

It is no longer a National Historic Landmark because it ceased to meet the criteria for designation.

In 2012 and 2015, the river was low enough to also expose the USS Inaugural. 2012 was also when the river was low enough to expose five steamboat wrecks along the Missouri River between St. Charles and Bridgeton. One of them was the largest vessel ever to sail through the area. The Montana was longer than a football field and has been in the river for the past 137 years.

You can see the measurements of the water at our River Levels Forecast here. The National Weather Service also has a graph showing the river level decrease over this month.

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