City of Hawkinsville
The paddlewheel steamboat
operated on the Suwannee
River for 22 years. Her wreck
is now a state underwater
archaeological preserve.
Florida State Archives - Wreck of the City of Hawkinsville, Florida - Wreck of the City of Hawkinsville, Florida
City of Hawkinsville
The steamboat, shown here in her glory days, now
rests on the bottom of Florida's Suwannee River.
(Florida State Archives)
Suwannee River
The wreck of the City of
Hawkinsville lies upriver
beyond the bend seen here
from Fort Fanning Historic
Site of Steamboat's Wreck
The wreck of the City of
Hawkinsville rests 100 yards
below the railroad bridge at
Old Town, Florida.
USGS Photograph
City of Hawkinsville Preserve - Suwannee River, Florida
Historic Wreck in the Suwannee
If you spend any time at all roaming along
Florida's famed Suwannee River, it does not
take long to begin hearing stories of the
of Hawkinsville
. The boat's wreck lies in the
middle of the river just above the U.S. 90
Bridge in Dixie County.

Some say the
City of Hawkinsville was a
Union gunboat that invaded the Suwannee
River only to be sunk by Confederate fire from
old Fort Fanning at Fanning Springs. Other
say that she was a Confederate blockade
runner, destroyed by her own captain to keep
her from being captured by the U.S. Navy.

The latter story appears to confuse the boat
with another wreck downstream, but the
gunboat tale is nothing more than legend.

In fact, the
City of Hawkinsville was a
paddlewheel steamboat abandoned by her
captain in 1922 during the dying days of the
riverboat era in Florida. Built in 1886, the 141-
foot long, 30-foot wide sternwheeler had
served a remarkably long career (38 years)
for a steamboat. Few could boast of service
anywhere near that long and the earliest
ones to ply Florida's rivers and creeks rarely
lasted longer than four or five years.

Originally built for the Hawkinsville
Deepwater Boat Lines in Georgia, hence her
name, the paddlewheel boat was sold to
Tampa's Gulf Transportation Company in
1900. For the next 22 years, she moved
commerce along Florida's coast and was a
familiar sight on the Suwannee River, where
she carried cargoes of lumber, naval stores
and other products.

It is reported that the
City of Hawkinsville
provided vital assistance in building the
railroad bridge or trestle across the river at
Old Town, greatly expanding railroad
commerce in the area and essentially ending
the usefulness of the last of the Suwannee
River steamboats, of which she was one.

The river had been bridged at the now
vanished town of Columbus (Suwannee
River State Park) before the Civil War, but that
crossing was so far upstream that the boats
remained important means of transportation
on the river. The completion of the Old Town
bridge, however, opened the lower river valley
and coastal areas for railroad transportation.

His boat aging and no longer commercially
viable, the captain of the
City of Hawkinsville
abandoned her in the middle of the
Suwannee River just 100 yards below the
Old Town railroad bridge.
The wreck of the steamboat is still there
today, now preserved as a Florida Under-
water Archaeological Preserve. The wreck
lies on a steep slope, with her port side only
three feet down from surface when the river
is at normal levels. The starboard side is
under 20 feet of water. Much of the hull of the
vessel is still intact and even the planks of
her deck can still be seen. A bronze plaque
has been placed in the remains of the boiler
room. (
Please click here for an underwater
tour of the wreck.)

The wreck can only be reached by boat, but
divers are allowed to explore the wreck. For
safety reasons, no one is allowed into the
hull and please remember that it is illegal to
remove artifacts.
To learn more, please click
here to visit the State of Florida's outstanding
Museums in the Sea website.
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Copyright 2011 by Dale Cox
All rights reserved.