A shipwreck has emerged along the banks of the Mississippi River in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, as water levels threaten to reach record lows in some areas. The ship, which archaeologists believe to be a ferry that sunk in the late 1800s to early 1900s, was spotted by a Baton Rouge resident walking along the shore earlier this month, per the AP. The discovery is the latest to surface from ebbing waters caused by drought. During the summer, receding waters in the Lake Mead National Recreation Area in Nevada and Arizona revealed several skeletal remains, countless desiccated fish, a graveyard of forgotten boats, and even a sunken World War II-era craft that once surveyed the lake.
“Eventually the river will come back up and (the ship) will go back underwater,” said Chip McGimsey, the Louisiana state archeologist, who has been surveying the wreck during the past two weeks. “That’s part of the reason for making the big effort to document it this time—because she may not be there the next time.” McGimsey believes the ship may be the Brookhill Ferry, which likely carried people and horse-drawn wagons from one side of the river to the other before major bridges spanned the mighty Mississippi. Newspaper archives indicate that the ship sank in 1915 during a major storm. Roughly a third of the 95-foot vessel is visible on the muddy shoreline near downtown Baton Rouge.
McGimsey expects more discoveries as water levels continue to fall, having already received calls about two more possible shipwrecks. But the unusually low water level in the lower Mississippi River, where there has been below-normal rainfall since late August, has also led to chaos—causing barges to get stuck in mud and sand, leading to waterway restrictions from the Coast Guard, and disrupting river travel for shippers, recreational boaters, and passengers on a cruise line. In Baton Rouge, the river depth is about 5 feet, its lowest level since 2012, according to the National Weather Service. Water levels are projected to drop even more in the weeks ahead, dampening the region’s economic activity and potentially threatening jobs. (Read more Mississippi River stories.)