By Gary McKechnie
In rural Florida, before there were cars, there were steamboats. And before highways, there were waterways.
One of those steamboats was called the City of Hawkinsville and one of those waterways was the Suwannee River. And like a car that’s broken down and left on the side of the road, the old sunken steamboat still rests at the bottom of the Suwannee River near Old Town and Fanning Springs, easily visible to anyone who wants to take a look.
Built in Georgia in 1896, the two-deck ship was 141 feet long and she steamed to Florida to lend a hand during the lumber boom around 1900. As she worked, she traveled to Branford, Clay's Landing, Old Town, and Cedar Key.
Legend has it that the City of Hawkinsville helped carry the supplies needed to build the rail bridge at Old Town – a task that moved people and products to the railroads and left steamboats high and dry. She sailed until 1922, when the captain abandoned the vessel in the river and sent her to the bottom.
Nearly a century later, the City of Hawkinsville remains where she was left. Surprisingly intact, she is still in the shallow waters of the Suwannee River near Old Town. To see an historic example of the steamboating age of Florida, you can swim above her or take a virtual underwater tour.