The Story of a "Drawboat" in Port Henry

COLCHESTER, Vt. - You may have heard of a drawbridge, but have you ever heard of a “drawboat”? 

Lake Champlain is home to this one of a kind boat preserved from the late 1800’s. It was discovered in 1999, in Port Henry, New York at Bulwagga Bay. 

The story of the drawboat begins with the iron ore industry. In 1970 iron ore hit its boom. Port Henry became a shipping hub for thousands of tons of ore being drilled out of the surrounding Adirondack foothills. But with the boom came the problem of finding an efficient way to move the ore to the furnaces in Crown Point, New York. 

“It was very inefficient to build a railway that went all the way around the bay, but they couldn't just build a trestle across the bay because then the boats couldn't get in and out,” Eric Lamontagne of Lake Champlain International explained. 

The answer ended up being a drawboat. It was a type of early style drawbridge that connected two sections of trestle. The barge would stay in place most of the time, so regularly scheduled trains could pass on their normal routes. But when a large boat did need to pass through, the barge was unbolted and pulled out of the way. 

The drawboat worked perfectly through one full season, but then it was closed for the winter because of ice. But in the spring, when engineers went to reopen it, they discovered that ice had lifted and shifted the trestle itself. Left with no choice, they were forced to dismantle it and they ended up sinking the barge. 

In 1999, Arthur Cohn, the Director of the Lake Champlain maritime Museum, was out running radar along the lake, and he picked up the shape of a boat. The ship wreck was found and is now one of the most well-preserved wrecks along Lake Champlain. 

Today, this attraction is one of many water wrecks that you can explore while scuba diving.

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