Nautical Archaeology Maritime History
Maritime Archaeology
Sonar Survey
Underwater Archaeology

A 501.c(3) Non-Profit Organization
Founded by Ann Merriman, PhD, & Christopher Olson, MA, in July 2005 in St Paul, MN

Find the Curriculum Vitae for MHM's founders HERE


Donations to Maritime Heritage Minnesota are tax-deductible
Help Keep MHM Afloat!
Click the GiveMN link below & help MHM pay for essentials like boat maintenance, winter storage & licensing, vehicle licensing, insurance, office & mailing supplies, SCUBA equipment maintenance & purchases, phone, & internet

Keep MHM Afloat


See MHM's New White Bear Lake Nautical Archaeology 1 Project Report and
Lake Minnetonka Nautical Archaeology 3 Project Report Below!

Site Updated – 31 October 2014
E-mail MHM
Phone: 651.261.2265 or 651.202.8811

MHM's researchers are Licensed Archaeologists through the Minnesota Office of the State Archaeologist.
See our licenses here: 2014 Licenses

See MHM's yearly reports to the Office of the State Archaeologist here:
  2012  2011   2010   2009   2008

See 'Christopher's Mystery Photo' HERE

Maritime Heritage Minnesota thanks the People of the State of Minnesota for supporting the
Minnesota Historical and Cultural Heritage Grants Program.
MHM has received several
MHCH Grants, part of the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund
of the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment.

Legacy Amendment
Grant Recipient

MHM thanks
our business
TilsnerCarton Garmin

Maritime Heritage Minnesota Projects

Lake Minnetonka
Hennepin and Carver Counties

Maritime Heritage Minnesota has completed the Lake Minnetonka Nautical Archaeology 1, 2, and 3 Projects using data accumulated during two Phase 1 side and down imaging sonar surveys of the lake in 2011 and 2012. Before MHM's work began, 6 Lake Minnetonka wrecks were known, with one of them recognized as an archaeological site by the Office of the State Archaeologist. MHM archaeologists and an ethical group of volunteer SCUBA divers dove on 83 anomalies between October 2012 and November August 2014, confirming the natures of 30 new wrecks on the bottom of Lake Minnetonka (although one of the wrecks is a Woodlands Culture Dugout Canoe taken from the lake in 1934 - see the Minnesota Dugout Canoe Project below). One of these wrecks is the famed Saucy Kate. Of the known 36 wrecks on the bottom of Lake Minnetonka, 23 of them are designated as nautical archaeological sites by the Office of the State Archaeologist because of MHM's projects. MHM has also identified other submerged cultural resources in the lake as well, including a steamboat pier, a group of marine launch boilers, a pontoon raft, 1936 Plymouth Sedan, a Ford Model T Doodlebug (a car converted inot a tractor), a 1974 Chevrolet Caprice Classic Coupe, and a 1955 Mercury Monterey Four Door Sedan. To see more click the links below - including underwater video shot by MHM's volunteers during our work.

Lake Minnetonka Nautical Archaeology 1 Project

Lake Minnetonka Surveys 1 & 2 (Updated)


Correct Craft Wreck Video by Kelly Nehowig

Mercury & Motorized Ice Boat Video by Kelly Nehowig

Wayzata Bay Wreck Video by Ed Nelson

Lund Fishing Boat Wreck Video by Kelly Nehowig

Echo Bay Metal Barge Wreck Video by Kelly Nehowig

Aluma-Craft Model R Wreck Video by Ed Nelson

Terra-Marina Houseboat Wreck Video by Mark Slick

SABW & A69

MHM recorded this sonar image of the St. Albans Bay Wreck (21-HE-400) and Anomaly 69 n September 2011. Anomaly 69 is the Lund Fishing Boat Wreck that was reported stolen in July 1977.

Wayzata Bay Wreck

MHM dove on the Wayzata Bay Wreck (21-HE-401) in May 2013. This dive determined the wreck is a rare model barge that sank on September 29, 1879.

Saucy Kate Sonar

MHM dove on the Saucy Kate Wreck (21-HE-420) in September 2013. Data collected during this dive allowed MHM to determine her identity through historical documentation. The site is very dark because the wreck lies in a gully and light doesn't reach the site easily. She sank in September 1899.

Access and Download MHM's Lake Minnetonka Reports

LMNA-3 Project Report

LMNA-2 Project Report


  Lake Minnetonka Survey 2 Report

Lake Minnetonka Survey Report

Dig On This
MHM's Lake Minnetonka Projects: In the Media
Lake Minnetonka Nautical Archaeology 1 Project

KSTP Minnesota Today-MPR News Lake Minnetonka Patch

Lake Minnetonka Survey 1 and 2 Projects

KMSP9 Around the Lake: Maritime Heritage Minnesota Lakeshore Weekly News
StarTribune KSTP Channel 5 Lakeshore Weekly News Knight Errant

White Bear Lake

  Ramsey and Washington Counties

Maritime Heritage Minnesota conducted a side and down imaging sonar survey of White Bear Lake in August 2012. MHM identified dozens of anomalies on the lake bottom and in August and September 2014, investigated 26 of them. MHM identified 4 wrecks: Judge's Boat Wreck (21-WA-113), Steel Boat Wreck 1 (21-WA-114), Steel Boat Wreck 2 (21-WA-115), and the Aluminum Square Stern Canoe (Anomaly 12). Four submerged cultural resources were also idenfied: a Pontoon (Anomaly 22), Mast and Sail (Anomaly 28), a Boat Lift (Anomaly 46), and an Ice Fishing House (Anomaly 14). MHM  will continue investigating anomalies in White Bear Lake in the future as funds become available. Click the links below for more.

White Bear Lake Survey

White Bear Lake Nautical Archaeology 1 Project

Judge's Boat Wreck
  A sonar image of the Judge's Boat Wreck (21-WA-113).

Judge's Boat Wreck PHoto

The Judge's Boat Wreck (21-WA-113) as she looked during her working life (courtesy James Warner through the White Bear Area Historical Society).

Access & Download MHM's White Bear Lake Reports

WBLNA-1 Report Cover

WBL Survey Report
MHM's White Bear Lake Projects: In the Media


Star Tribune East Metro

Star Tribune

Minnesota Dugout Canoe Project
  Aitkin, Chippewa, Dodge/Steele, Hennepin, McLeod, Meeker, & Wright Counties

Maritime Heritage Minnesota has completed the Minnesota Dugout Canoe Project. MHM located 8 dugout canoes in Minnesota museums and historical societies, receiving permission from these institutions to document the artifacts and take a small wood sample for radiocarbon testing using Accelerated Mass Spectrometry. The dugout canoes dated from AD 1025-1933, spanning nearly 1,000 years of Minnesota maritime history. MHM was able to establish where the exact locations where two of the dugout canoes were found and they have been recognized as archaeological sites by the Office of the State Archaeologist. MHM plans to build upon this project since two more Native American dugout canoes have been located in the state after the project had begun. These artifacts, along with any others that are located, will be documented and radiocarbon tested. To see more click the link below.

Minnesota Dugout Canoe Project


This wood sample was taken from the Minnesota River Dugout Canoe for 14C dating using Accelerated Mass Spectrometry and dates to
AD 1626-1679.


The Lake Minnetonka North Arm Dugout Canoe (21-HE-438) housed at the Western Hennepin County Pioneers Association. This artifact dates to AD 1025-1165 and was constructed and used by people of the Woodlands Culture.


The Chippewa River Dugout Canoe dates to  AD 1436-1522 and was constructed and used by the people of the Plains Village Tradition.
It is held by the Chippewa County Historical Society.

Access and Download MHM's Minnesota Dugout Canoe Project Report


MHM's Minnesota Dugout Canoe Project: In the Media


Reuter's US Dugout Canoe

Aitkin Age

Headwaters Mississippi River
Aitkin County

Maritime Heritage Minnesota has been documenting wrecks in the Headwaters Mississippi River in Aitkin since 2008: Andy Gibson (21-AK-109), Swan (21-AK-84), and since 2012 the Red Mill Wreck (21-AK-122) after her discovery by MHM. The Andy Gibson, Swan, and the Red Mill Wreck are significant to Minnesota's - and America's - maritime history since they are located hundreds of miles above Minneapolis, the point that has been commonly accepted as the 'head of navigation' of the 'Upper Mississippi' River. The true Head of Navigation is the Headwaters Mississippi River region, where 12 steamboats plied the river between Aitkin, Sandy Lake, and Grand Rapids from 1870-1921. In 2012 and 2013, MHM began documetning the Red Mill Wreck and between 2008 and 2012, Maritime Heritage Minnesota has documented about 50% of the Andy Gibson Wreck Site and MHM successfully nominated her to the National Register of Historic Places.

In 2010 MHM conducted a Phase 1 side and down imaging sonar survey of the Mississippi River in Aitkin County, a distance of 104 miles. Beyond the known sites of Andy Gibson and Swan, MHM identified three maritime sites near Jacobson (Mississippi Landing Railroad Spur & Bridge Remians [21-AK-115], Mississippi Landing Logging Pier, [21-AK-116]) and at the confluence of the Sandy and Mississippi Rivers (Sandy River Steamboat Crib, 21-AK-117). MHM conducted the Aitkin County Shipwrecks Project in September and October 2012 with funds provided by a Minnesota Historical and Cultural Heritage Grant, and located two additional maritime sites in Aitkin (Burton & Anderson/Hodgeden & McDonald Mill and Landing, 21-AK-124) and south of Palisade (Tripp Landing, 21-AK-123). The Aitkin County Shipwrecks Project page also includes information on the Andy Gibson wreck site. To see more click the links below.

Andy Gibson Documentation

Aitkin County Shipwrecks Project

Mississippi River Aitkin County Survey
Andy Gibson

Andy Gibson moored at a landing on the Headwaters Mississippi River (Itasca County Historical Society).


The steamer Fawn moored near a wanigan on the Headwaters Mississippi River, with Andy Gibson steaming up in the background (Minnesota Historical Society, digitized by MHM).


An early morning on the Headwaters Mississippi River near the Red Mill Wreck.

Access and Download MHM's Headwaters Mississippi River Reports

Red Mill Wreck 2013

Andy Gibson Tree Removal


Andy Gibson Gunwale Excavation
Andy Gibson NRHP Report

MRACS Andy Gibson & Swan MHM
MHM's Headwaters Mississippi River Projects: In the Media
National Register of Historic Places Property: Andy Gibson Wreck Documentation and Preservation

Tree Mitigation Project

Aitkin Age
NRHP Documentation

Aitkin Age
Starboard Gunwale & Deck

Aitkin Age
Dry Nautical Excavation
& Initial Documentation

USS Essex Shipwreck

Lake Superior, Duluth, St. Louis County

Maritime Heritage Minnesota conducts yearly condition assessments of North America's premier clipper ship builder Donald McKay's USS Essex (21-SL-1030). The Essex wreck is the only example of McKay's craftsmanship confirmed to exist and is on the National Register of Historic Places. The wreck is nationally significant in terms of Naval Architecture and Naval History. Unfortunately, the site is in danger from ice damage, sand erosion, and humans - looting and vandalism - and she has suffered from all of these harmful activities over the decades. Using three grants awarded through the Minnesota Historical and Cultural Heritage Grants Program, MHM has produced a plan to preserve the USS Essex, digitized the ship's known 62 log books, and begun the transcription and editing of the books for free internet access. To see more click the link below.

USS Essex Investigations
USS Essex

Donald McKay's last ship, the sloop-of-war USS Essex, under sail (Naval Historical Center, digitized by MHM).

Access and Download MHM's USS Essex Reports and Log Books

Essex Assessment 2013

USS Essex Shipwreck Assessment 2011

USS Essex Log Books
 Essex Plan
Digitization Pilot Project

Lake Waconia

  Carver County

Maritime Heritage Minnesota conducted side and down imaging sonar survey of Lake Waconia in August 2012. MHM identified 46 anomalies that require further research. In September 2013 MHM investigated 10 anomalies in Lake Waconia and none of them were submerged cultural resources. MHM will re-prioritize the anomalies recorded by sonar in an attempt to identify wrecks and other resources in the lake. See MHM's reports on Lake Waconia below.

Lake Waconia Survey
Emile & Sailboat

The gasoline launch Emile and one of the sail boats from the Lake View Hotel’s fleet. Note Emile’s torpedo stern, indicating she was designed and built by the Moore Boat Works of Wayzata (GV3.61r76, Minnesota Historical Society, digitized by MHM).

Access & Download MHM's Lake Waconia Reports

Lake Wacoina Nautical Archaeology 1 Project

Lake Waconia Survey Report
MHM's Lake Waconia Projects: In the Media

Star Tribune East Metro

Star Tribune

Minnesota River

Hennepin, Dakota, Scott, Carver, Sibley, & Le Sueur Counties

Maritime Heritage Minnesota has conducted a side and down imaging sonar survey of the Minnesota River from its confluence with the Mississippi River to past Belle Plaine, with terrestrial surveys taking place in Shakopee, Chaska, near Jordan, Blakely, and Henderson. Several maritime sites were recorded and researched, with 1 maritime archaeological site designated - the Belle Plain Levee and Bridge Remains (21-SC-098, 21-SB-027). MHM recorded 2 anomalies that may be watercraft wrecks that require futher investigation. To see more, click the link below.

Minnesota River Survey
Chaska Ferry

The Chaska Ferry on the Minnesota River in the 1890s
(Minnesota Historical Society, digitized by MHM).

Access and Download MHM's Minnesota River Survey Report

Minnesota Surve 1 Report

MHM's Minnesota River Survey: In the Media

Chaska Herald

MHM at Archaeology Fairs and Conferences
Every year Maritime Heritage Minnesota participates in Minnesota Archaeology Week activities at Fort Snelling State Park. The Archaeology Fair is staged from the Thomas C. Savage Center and every year more people visit the fair. To see more, click the links below.

Archaeology Fair

Every year Maritime Heritage Minnesota travels to Mille Lacs Kathio State Park for Archaeology Day  activities. To see more, click the links below (due to technical difficulties, photos from the 2011 Kathio Archaeology Day are not available).

2013 Kathio Archaeology Day

2012 Kathio Archaeology Day

Kathio 2012

MHM presented a talk at the Gales of November Conference in Duluth in 2011 on our on-going USS Essex assessments and the log book digitization, editing, and transcription project. We also brought our static exhibit to further inform conference goers about our other work. To see more, click the link below.

2011 Gales of November Conference

Gales 2011

MHM presented at the Council for Minnesota Archaeology Conference at Inver Hills Community College in February 2011. The theme was "Farmsteads, Factories, Forts and Frontiers" and MHM talked about the Mississippi River Aitkin County Survey results. MHM will also be participating in the conference in February 2013. To see more, click the link below.


Other Publications by MHM Archaeologists
MHM in East Carolina
University's Stem to Stern

Minnesota Navy &
Maritime Memorials
Stem to Stern 2014

Minnesota Preservationist
Maritime Heritage Minnesota
Titles at Amazon Kindle

Title Available at
Various Booksellers
Egyptian Book
A Statement From MHM: Shipwrecks are not commodities. Every artifact, be it a shipwreck, solitary anchor, or bottle tells a story. Removing or otherwise disturbing artifacts can obliterate that story. Nautical archaeological sites – wrecks – and maritime archaeological sites – piers and other objects – are finite and significant submerged cultural resources – otherwise known as underwater archaeological sites. Nautical, maritime, underwater, maritime terrestrial – MHM deals with all of these types of sites throughout the State of Minnesota. MHM's mission is to document, conserve, preserve, and when necessary, excavate these finite cultural resources where the welfare of the artifact is paramount. MHM is concerned with protecting our underwater and maritime sites – our shared Maritime History – for their own benefit in order for all Minnesotans to gain the knowledge that can be obtained through their study. MHM's study of wrecks does not include the removal of artifacts or damaging the sites in any way. MHM does not raise wrecks or 'hunt' for 'treasure'. Submerged archaeological sites in Minnesota are subject to the same State statutes as terrestrial sites: the Minnesota Field Archaeology Act (1963), Minnesota Historic Sites Act (1965), the Minnesota Historic District Act (1971), and the Minnesota Private Cemeteries Act (1976) if human remains are associated with a submerged site. Further, the case of State v. Bollenbach (1954) and the Federal Abandoned Shipwrecks Act of 1987 provide additional jurisdictional considerations when determining State oversight and "ownership" of resources defined by law as archaeological sites. Therefore, just like terrestrial archaeologists working for the State or with contract firms, underwater archaeologists are required to have the necessary education, appropriate credentials, and hold valid licenses from the Office of the State Archaeologist.