Low river a gateway to the past - FOX13 News, WHBQ FOX 13

Low river a gateway to the past

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (FOX13) -

Isaac has come and gone. While the rain did help ease the drought here in the Mid-South, the Mississippi River is still well below normal.

Last year, the story on the river was the record flooding. This year, the Mississippi is telling a very different tale.

William Lozier grew up on the river.  The third generation riverboat captain has seen almost everything, until last month.

"It started popping up about three weeks ago," he says.

The lower the water got, the more he saw, and he wasn't finding the usual license plates, car parts, and garbage.

"We found rudders…I saw something that looks like a boiler."

He was stumbling upon history.

"All the sins of the past come out."

What looked like the roof of house turned out to be more than just river trash. It turned out to be the old train river ferry The McPherson, which met its fate in 1892 right after the Frisco Bridge opened.

"Right when the bridge was finished, they parked it up here on the bank, waiting on their next assignment," says Lozier. "The stories I've heard said the captain and the crew got drunk that night, fell asleep and woke up the next morning to find the boat hard aground."

About 15 miles up river, there was another discovery. The big black piles that dot the now dry river bed are huge chunks of coal, drowned for a century.

The Steamboat Sprague, the most powerful steam tow ever built had a mishap in the early part of the 20th century.

Lozier explains, "Around Shelby Forrest area, he was coming down river.  He rang for "full ahead".  And the engineer thought he rang for "full astern."  And when he threw it in full reverse, it ripped the backs off all the barges.  So we have coal from Shelby Forrest all the way down to right here at the old channel."

"It's very dangerous, especially when you walk along one of these long shoots that goes out and it falls out from under you. You can feasibly drown pretty easily."

So, no matter how big your sense of adventure is, or how much of a treasure hunter you might be, no piece of history is worth making you history. Leave that to the captain.

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