The Arabia Steamboat Museum: Where Amazing Artifacts Await

Arabia Steamboat Museum

This summer, travel back in time at the Arabia Steamboat Museum. An amazing story of sunken treasure and pioneer life awaits you at this fantastic attraction just minutes from your home in Kansas City.

Arabia Steamboat Museum

Located in the heart of Kansas City’s historic City Market, the Arabia Steamboat Museum is a delightful display of exciting American history. This unique museum boasts a collection of artifacts from the sunken Steamboat Arabia. These artifacts transport visitors back to pioneer days, painting a picture of what life was like on the American frontier.

History of the Arabia

The Steamboat Arabia delivered cargo to frontier towns all along the Missouri River, until one fateful day, the fully-loaded boat sank and was buried for more than 100 years.

The Arabia was built in 1853 and was an average-sized steamboat in those days. It frequently traveled on the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers until 1855, when it began to churn along the muddy waters of the Missouri River. The Missouri River was infamous for difficult navigation due to perilous hazards that could not be seen through the murky haze of the water.

In 1856, the Arabia continued to deliver cargo up and down the Missouri, making 14 trips to numerous Midwest towns. However, in April 1856, the Arabia encountered one of the rivers most common hazards—a “snag”. Snags were fallen trees that sat right under the surface of the river, completely disguised by the cloudy surface.

The Arabia’s hull was pierced by the thick, sharp spear of a fallen walnut tree. Unfortunately, the violent impact ripped the boat open, allowing water to rush in and sinking the vessel in just minutes.

Luckily, the crew and passengers were rescued, but the 200 tons of cargo sank to the river floor and was buried.


Due to the Missouri River’s shifting channel over the course of a century, the original site of the Arabia’s demise ended up underneath a Kansas farm. This location was half a mile from the present-day Missouri River and buried 45 feet deep.

After many attempts by numerous treasure hunters, the sunken ship was finally discovered in 1987. The entire excavation project took 20 years and resulted in the largest collection of pre-Civil War American artifacts in the entire world.

Hull Room

Tours begin in the Hull Room, where visitors can catch a glimpse of the inner workings of the mighty steamboat. In fact, the Arabia’s stern, rudder, tiller arm, and cargo storage areas are all on display in the Hull Room.

Treasure Room

In the Treasure Room, you’ll find incredible foreign cargo that reached America over the open oceans. The star of this collection is the stunning French perfume. The smell was preserved over a century underground, and visitors are invited to give it a try.

Cargo Gallery

As you might guess, the Cargo Gallery is home to all of the unique cargo that went down with the ship. The gallery is full of historic artifacts, from dishware to tools to firearms. These items were remarkably preserved because of the lack of oxygen deep underground.

General Store

The museum’s General Store is reminiscent of an authentic store on the American frontier. Items such as jarred fruits and vegetables, matches, inkwells, and keys can be viewed in the General Store.

The Deck

The 171-foot long replicated deck makes visitors feel like they’re climbing aboard a genuine steamboat. The original boilers, engine, and anchor are on display on the deck.

The Lab

Visitors can watch lab technicians as they go about the challenging task of cleaning and preserving artifacts. In fact, you’ll find them meticulously cleaning a variety of items from umbrellas to shoes in preparation for freeze-drying. The friendly technicians work daily in the lab and are happy to explain the processes to visitors.

The Arabia Steamboat Museum is a world-class museum that provides an intimate look at life on the frontier. It’s an amazing experience to delve into the history of this sunken treasure. The museum is also close to our community at City Place at Westport.

So please feel free to contact us to learn about more exciting attractions or to schedule a tour of our apartment homes. We would love to show you around!

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