She is a National Historic Landmark because of the significant role she served with other vessels along the Missouri River. As a dredge boat used by the Army Corps of Engineers, she helped control the flow of water making the route for shipping navigable and safe. Our internal waterways that helped build the national economy through trade and commerce would not be possible without vessels like the Black.

Open Boarding Hours

Open from Memorial Day to November
(weather permitting past Labor Day)

10 AM – 3:30 PM Boarding

The vessel closes at 4 PM

Admission is included in a general ticket with guides on board to help interpret.  

The Black is a dustpan dredge meaning that she uses a sweeping motion to scrape up silt and sand. It behaves like an underwater vacuum with the sediment traveling out a pipe to relocate or remove it. She launched in September 1934 with three sister ships of the same kind. Only the Black remains today as a historic vessel that shows visitors what it felt to be crew working on the river.

Fun Fact

The paddlewheel in front of the Mississippi River Center is from the Black.

Historic photo of the William M. Black Dredge Boat


About the Boat

  • 85 ft wide and 
227 ft long

  • 40,000 gallons of fuel
  • Up to 100,000 cubic yards of sediment are moved daily 

The Black In Operation

Check out this footage of the William M. Black in operation from 1952! It was graciously provided to the Museum & Aquarium courtesy of the Growney Family.


The Black and the Tavern

Floating alongside the Black is the dredge tender named Tavern. She was built in 1944 and served with the Black during her active duty. A tender is a type of towboat that helps larger craft turn left and right in hard-to-maneuver areas. She’s a small but mighty tool along the river. The Tavern is not accessible for boarding.

About the Tavern

  • 12.5 ft wide
 and 43 ft long
336 horsepower diesel engine

Learn More About Dredging