MARITIME HERITAGE CENTER
Visit the Maritime Heritage Center - it's FREE!
No admission is charged at our Carnegie Gallery or our Maritime
Heritage Center, and tours of our W.T.Preston steamboat are only a few
Anacortes Museumís Maritime Heritage Center features exhibits on our
local fishing and shipbuilding industries. Established as part of the
cityís commitment to care for the W.T. PRESTON, the Maritime Heritage
Center opened in April 2005, culminating a dream that began in 1999.
The center includes artifacts, models, graphic displays and historical
text all related to the three snagboats that maintained the areaís
navigable rivers, as well as an ADA-access ramp to the W.T. PRESTON.
PRESTON STEAMBOAT TOURS & HISTORY
Step aboard this steamboat, and step into the past. The W.T. PRESTON
was the last sternwheeler to work in Puget Sound and is one of only
two snagboats remaining in the contiguous United States. Her crews
removed navigational hazards from the bays and harbors of the Sound
and from its tributary rivers.
The first settlements in the heavily timbered areas of Washington were
located along rivers, which served as the regionís highways. On some
of these rivers, snags threatened navigation and if not removed grew
into larger logjams blocking passage of the boats. Shifting sand bars,
particularly in delta areas, also obstructed navigation. In response
to these conditions, Congress in 1882 allocated $20,000 for the
construction of a snagboat to free the rivers from navigational
The SKAGIT was the first of three steam-powered snagboats built to
maintain the rivers, serving from 1885 to1914, when she was replaced
by the SWINOMISH. In turn, the SWINOMISH was succeeded in 1929 by the
wooden-hulled W.T. PRESTON, named in honor of a distinguished civilian
engineer who worked for the Seattle District Army Corps of Engineers.
The W.T. PRESTON operated as far north as Blaine and south to Olympia
and Shelton. She worked 11 months out of the year, retrieving
thousands of snags, piles, floats and other debris, including a
damaged airplane, fish boats, derelict scows, and houseboats. In
addition to her snagging chores, she was used as a pile driver and
icebreaker, and dredged about 3500 cubic yards of material in an
By the 1960s, the PRESTONís responsibilities were changing. As more
and more freight was carried by truck and rail, the importance of
keeping the Soundís tributaries open to commercial navigation fell
off. At the same time, recreational boating increased on Puget Sound,
necessitating more maintenance of these wider waters. In these
circumstances, the W.T. PRESTON as a shallow-draft river vessel found
itself somewhat vulnerable. One noted storm with a prevailing 40-knot
wind blew the boat sideways during a hair-raising passage to Port
But the PRESTON soldiered on, until the costs to operate and maintain
the snagboat became prohibitive.
W.T. PRESTON and the City of Anacortes...
W.T. PRESTON was placed on the National Register for Historic Places
in 1979. In 1981, the Corps retired her from duty and solicited
proposals to preserve the snagboat.
Impressed with the plan offered by the city of Anacortes, the Corps
transferred title to Anacortes in March 1983. The city allocated
$40,000 to prepare a waterfront site for the PRESTON beside its old
Burlington Northern Railroad Depot.
After being towed to Anacortes, the PRESTON was taken out of the water
and on June 22, 1983, hauled overland to her new resting site. She was
designated a National Historic Landmark in 1989, serving as an
important reminder of Puget Sound maritime and riverine history.
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