The shore and the land along Lake Oahe are relatively devoid of trees in the 20 mile stretch that I have sailed for two decades. But those who remember the river before the dam was built in the ’40s and ’50s will tell you that there were many trees.

And then, when the water filled the massive reservoir, the trees died and ultimately floated to the surface. One local told me that when he sailed the lake in the early days, floating logs and beached driftwood were plentiful.

A half century later, there is still evidence of what the Missouri River used to be, including this massive, ancient cottonwood. The tree is bleached white from thousands of sunny days and I can only guess at its story. Was it a sappling in 1804 when Lewis and Clark led their expedition through the newly acquired Louisiana Purchase? Who knows? The tree isn’t talking. . .

The title is figurative, of course. As far as I know, there are no real shipwrecks on Lake Oahe.

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