One of the more unusual stories of the Missouri River flooding is the effort to keep a sunken riverboat from being damaged by floodwaters.

That’s what’s happening at the Desoto National Wildlife Refuge visitor center on the Iowa/Nebraska border north of Council Bluffs near Blair, Nebraska.

Visitor center spokesperson, Ashley Berkler,  says the visitor center is home to a lot of wildlife exhibits, but they are really known for the Steamboat Bertrand collection, which is 500,000 artifacts recovered from the boat which sank 1865. The Bertrand sank after hitting a sunken log, and remained lost until it was discovered at the refuge and excavated in 1968.

 Now Berkler says they’re trying to protect the remains of the Bertrand from becoming a victim of the Missouri River a second time. Berkler says the exhibit includes a lot of different kinds of items like clothing, metal and wood and those items need very specific humidity and temperature controls to prevent them from rotting or getting moldy.

She says they are concerned they may lose utilities to the visitor center from the flooding and don’t want to lose their ability to control the climate for the exhibit. Berkler says lots of people have chipped in to help move the Bertrand items to a secure storage facility.

She says they have staff and volunteers, other Fish and Wildlife Service workers from the region, as well as volunteers from Pottawattamie County, the Iowa D.N.R., the Washington County Historical Society, and Blair Nebraska teachers. Berkler says they aren’t sure what the water will do to the refuge at this point.

Berkler says they have a temporary levy that is providing some relief and extra time to evacuate to them as the waters of the Missouri River rises. She says a portion of their road has already been closed by flooding and they have closed the visitor center for any public use. There is a lot of wildlife in and around the refuge, but Berkler doesn’t anticipate any problems for the animals.

Berkler says the animals usually have a pretty good sense of what is going on and are able to move to higher ground, so they haven’t seen any impact on the animals from the flooding. She says the refuge is in a flood plain area, so the animals have adapted to handle such situations.

For more information and the latest updates on refuge operations you can check the DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge website at: