GRAND HAVEN, Mich. (WZZM) - While record low water levels continue to threaten Michigan's boating industry, it's proving to be a gold mine for historians.
WZZM 13 is now learning about three new shipwrecks that have been exposed in just the past few months along the Grand River in Grand Haven.
As steam rises from the coal power plant in Grand Haven, a hidden gem is emerging from the water just below. The L.L. Barth has been underwater for almost 90 years.
"It might just be the bones of the ship, but it's history come alive," says Valerie van Heest.
For historians like van Heest, the shipwreck discover was a package deal. "One ship has been pushed inside the remains of another ship," says van Heest.
There's also a piece of a long-lost tug boat.
"We believe this (the tug boat) to be the Liberty, which was used on a number of occasions to tow the L.L. Barth," says van Heest.
Starting in the early 1900s, van Heest says the L.L. Barth was used for many purposes, including for hauling stones from Grand Haven to Chicago in the construction industry. However, it was abandoned leading up to the Great Depression.
Van Heest says based on historic records, she knew the shipwreck was somewhere in the Grand River in Grand Haven, but it wasn't until seeing satellite images, that she found it.
Van Heest and a crew of experts measured the length and width of the ship. "The dimensions matched perfectly," says van Heest.
It's the latest discovery made possible because of low water levels. In December, van Heest showed WZZM 13 the Aurora, one of five shipwrecks in public view on the Grand River.
"For the environment this is a very difficult thing," says van Heest. "But for those of us who study history, this gives us an incredible opportunity to see in the light of day and above the water, those maritime treasures."
van Heest says eight shipwrecks have been identified on the Grand River, but she says there are two others still missing. For anyone interested, van Heest will hold a special presentation about the shipwrecks at the Knickerbocker Theater in Holland on April 20.