Longing for a fresh start, a generation of brave men and women traveled westward by the tens of thousands. Some traveled overland by foot, wagon, and horseback. Many, however, chose to ride the river. With their twin stacks belching clouds of smoke and ash, the Western-style steamboats churned their way upstream, brimming with passengers and supplies.
Although trade by steamboat was lucrative, navigating the Missouri was a difficult and dangerous business. A variety of perils awaited the steamboat pilot as he carefully guided his craft along the river’s uncertain course.
The most treacherous of the many river hazards were fallen trees lying hidden from sight just under the river’s surface. These “snags” crippled and sank hundreds of steamboats, some even on their first trip up the river. Of the estimated 400 steamboats lost to the river, about 300 were “snagged.” The Arabia was one of those victims.