The memorial was built in 2002 to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Saluda disaster of April 19, 1852 - the worst steamboat disaster on the Missouri River.
The Saluda's boiler exploded, killing about 75 passengers and crew, many of them Latter Day Saints (Mormons) from Europe en route to Utah. Many were buried in Machpelah Cemetery.
The Saluda Memorial honors the victims and heroes of the disaster. More information is available at the Lexington Historical Museum across the street from Heritage Park.