A Great Tragedy on a Great Lake

The Niagara was a 245 foot luxury, wooden steamer that sank on September 23,1856, following a fire that engulfed the center portion of the ship. The ship was transporting more than 150 people and cargo from Sheboygan to Port Washington. More than 60 people lost their lives in this disaster, making the sinking of the Niagara one of the worst transportation accidents in Wisconsin state history and one of the worst accidents based on loss of life in the Great Lakes.

Today the Niagara lies in about 50 feet of water 7 miles north of Port Washington. The wreckage lies almost directly off the shore of Harrington Beach State Park. A mooring buoy installed by the State Historical Society of Wisconsin marks the location of the wreck. For divers, the 90-foot section of the ship’s hull, along with the boilers, are key points of interest. The paddlewheel, once a remarkable feature of the wreck, has collapsed.

Due to the modest depth, the wreck is within the skill level of most divers. Locating the boilers, however, can be difficult as they lie more than 200 feet to the north of the main wreckage. This is because the boilers dropped to the bottom as the ship burned. The rest of the ship continued to float away until sinking well away from the boilers.

Maximum Depth: 52 feet
Distance to deck: 40 feet
Dimensions: 245' x 33'6" x 14'
Skill level: Beginner to Intermediate