The Steamer Niagara: The Fiery End

Photographed July 13, 2014
Belgium, Ozaukee County, Wisconsin
 (A) 43.497424,-87.810904
(entrance to Harrington Beach State Park)
(B) 43.496702,-87.794688
(park at the Welcome Center)

The Steamer Niagara: The Fiery End
Her Saloon is superbly fitted and furnished and the accommodations for steerage passengers on the main deck are unsurpassed.
Milwaukee Sentinel
May 20, 1846
Between 1844-1857, “palace steamers” ruled Great Lakes transportation. About half of European immigrants bound for Wisconsin travelled by steamer. Large and luxurious, palace steamers carried passengers between major Great Lakes ports, and stopped at many Wisconsin coastal towns.

Built in 1846, the 245-foot Niagara embodied the cutting edge of maritime engineering. Capable of speeds up to 15 miles per hour, the Niagara could carry several hundred passengers and large cargos.

As larger, faster steamers eclipsed the Niagara, the ship was transferred to less prestigious routes.

The Niagrara spent its final season travelling between Collingwood, Ontario and Chicago.

At 2:30 pm, September 23, 1856, Niagara left Sheboygan for Port Washington. At 4:00 pm, fire broke out and moments later, the engine stopped, leaving the ship stranded. Facing smoke and flames, the passengers panicked.

Despite rescue efforts, at least 60 people died, most from drowning while frantically boarding lifeboats.

The Niagara fire remains one of Wisconsin’s worst transportation disasters.

Today, the Niagara offers divers an underwater museum of mid-19th century maritime technology including the huge iron engine, boilers and hull. This 3,000 pound anchor came from the Niagara and was placed here prior to laws that now protect underwater sites.

The Niagara is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Ship wreck artifacts in Wisconsin are protected by law.
The marker is located deep inside Harrington Beach State Park, on the Lake Michigan shoreline. Use the above GPS coordinates to (A) arrive at the park entrance, (B) park your vehicle at the Welcome Center, and begin the 18-marker journey through the park, to the shores of Lake Michigan, and around Quarry Lake. The address to the entrance to Harrington State Beach Park is 531 County Road D, Belgium, Wisconsin 53004.

NOTE: You will need a Wisconsin State Park annual pass or day pass to access the marker; the marker is inside a fee-to-enter area.


Harrington Beach State Park Map showing locations of markers (download the PDF)

The "You Are Here" (the red dot) Map.

A drawing of the Palace Steamer Niagara.
This media file is in the public domain.

Anchor from the Steamship Niagara, located next to the marker.

The view of Lake Michigan, very close to the marker location.

 Access to the markers begins near the Welcome Center.

The markers are along the scenic trail, which begins
adjacent to the parking lot for the Welcome Center.

Go past this gate to access the markers.

 There is plenty of parking adjacent to the Welcome Center.

The Welcome Center . . .

The marker is located at Harrington Beach State Park.

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