Here’s the scoop on the Delta Queen.

Delta Queen Steamboat to be Floating Hotel in Chattanooga

Updated: Jan 27, 2009 06:43 PM CST


CHATTANOOGA (WRCB) – The historic Delta Queen riverboat will call Chattanooga home for a while, as a floating hotel. The leader of a grassroots organization to save the Delta Queen, Vicki Webster, emailed the Channel 3 Eyewitness Newsroom on Tuesday afternoon.

Ambassadors International, Inc. has announced that they have chartered the boat to a company in Chattanooga for use as a hotel.

In a message sent to the boat’s supporters, Webster said, “Our mission is to make sure that indeed, this is a temporary move and the Delta Queen will soon be back in operation, plying the entire Mississippi River system as she has done proudly and safely for 60 years.””

The Delta Queen has been nominated for the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s 2009 list of the 11 Most Endangered Historic Places in America. The final selections will be announced in April.

Webster said, “There is only one remaining example of the hundreds of steamboats that once traversed our heartland, weaving our nation together in the process. There is only one example of the steamboats that inspired the work of creative giants like Mark Twain, Jerome Kern, Louis Armstrong, Edna Ferber, and Walker Evans. To stand idly by and watch the destruction of the Delta Queen would not only be a betrayal of the Trust’s mission. It would also be an act of pure treachery to our culture, to the pioneers who came before us, and to future generations who deserve the chance to travel on this quintessentially American treasure.””



Barges Working Through Ice near St. Louis, Missouri

Recent winter weather means the Mississippi River is frozen solid as far south as Alton, Illinois. These two barges are helping one another through the ice. You can learn more about how towboat pilots help one another through unexpected ice in Capt. Norman Hillman’s book, ONE MAN and the MIGHTY MISSISSIPPI, available at .

Crewing a boat on the Mississippi River

Had a request recently from a young adult interested in “hopping” a boat down the Mississippi River. In the fall, owners of many larger yachts are moving boats south to warmer climates. Some few will take the Mississippi River all the way to the Gulf of Mexico. Most will detour through the Tom-Bigby Waterway. But sometimes these yachts do need crew for the journey. We’ve added a “CREW” category to our Travel Directory. So if you are interested in crewing or looking for crew, have a look. Good luck!

Capt. Norman Hillman lived as a professional on Americas rivers for over 60 years. In his book he shares his pilot house perspectives on the dangers and suprises of life on the river.

Capt. Norman Hillman lived as a professional on America's rivers for over 60 years. In his book he shares his pilot house perspectives on the dangers and suprises of life on the river.

If you are interested in the world of commercial towboat crew, have a look at ONE MAN AND THE MIGHTY MISSISSIPPI by Capt. Norman Hillman. He shares 60 years of commercial river experiences. Newly reprinted and available at our online shopping cart. I might also recommend THE RIVER COMPANION which is a primer in brown water navigation. The DISCOVER! AMERICA’s GREAT RIVER ROAD guidebooks will introduce you to life and culture of the Mississippi River.

I also just rediscovered a contribution in our feature story section with specific advice for finding a job on a barge crew. Visit http:// a tow job.htm

New Guidebook to the Upper River now Available!

Limestone bluff and backwater at Goose Island provides a natural easel for Fall Color along the Mississippi River, St. Paul, Minnesota, to Dubuque, Iowa. Photo by Richard Middleton, La Crosse. Graphic work by Tall Tree Photo and Graffolio.

Limestone bluff and backwater at Goose Island provides a natural easel for Fall Color along the Mississippi River, St. Paul, Minnesota, to Dubuque, Iowa. Photo by Richard Middleton, La Crosse. Graphic work by Tall Tree Photo and Graffolio.

Good folks, I’ve been absent for some time as I worked diligently this summer to meet fall deadlines for publication and distribution of our BRAND NEW Volume 1 of DISCOVER! AMERICA’s GREAT RIVER ROAD. It’s DONE, completely reformated, revisited, and expanded… and it’s ready now for purchase in time for the whole Fall Color and Christmas gift season.

I’m very proud to expanded both the Minnesota and Iowa sections and added many little tidbits that I’ve learned to love in the past 20 years… eagle watching, archaeology, and discovering just who else loves this river… and why!

You can order our newest guidebook right on the home page of or visiting our online store for more detail…

Also available from most bookstores. Enjoy!!  ~ Pat

Wisconsin Travel Update: BIKE TRAILS and more

The Mississippi River crested last week just over flood stage at around 16.3 feet at Prairie du Chien. The river dropped to about 13.5 feet this week and is forecast to steadily decline to around 12 feet by this upcoming weekend.

The Wisconsin Journal has reported the following park openings as milder weather allows for needed repairs:

Both campground at Devil’s Lake State Park in Baraboo and the Elroy-Sparta State Bike Trail have been reopened.  Wildcat Mountain State Park is scheduled to reopen July 3.

While the park and campgrounds at Devil’s Lake are open to visitors, a number of trails and facilities will remain closed due to flooding and storm damage, including both the North and South Shore boat landings; most hiking trails; portions of picnic areas; and the South Shore bathrooms. Portable toilets will be available for visitors using the South Shore picnic area. The park’s beach is underwater, but it has tested as safe, and swimming will be allowed. Most hiking trails are closed.

The 400 State BIKE Trail and portions of the Military Ridge State Trail remain closed. Military Ridge is closed in two locations because of standing water under the second box culvert approximately 2 miles west of Verona and approximately one-half mile east of Klevenville on a section of blacktopped trail.

Check the State Parks current conditions page of the DNR Web site for more information.

The Lower Wisconsin River has dropped considerably in the past week and is approaching near normal seasonal flows. Some sandbars are returning but people considering any paddling this weekend need to be aware there is much more debris and more contaminants in the river than normal due to the flooding. The Kickapoo River has also dropped considerably, but is still well above seasonal normal flows.

Rain amounts in the north have finally filled many lakes for the first time in a number of years, although some lakes are still considerably below normal water levels. Northern river systems like the Flambeau and Chippewa are currently at good seasonal levels for paddling.

Though the Wisconsin River has dropped back down to a normal flow level, Lower Wisconsin and Wisconsin River users are staying away due to DNR warnings of contaminated water. All of the streams in Southwestern Wisconsin have been affected by the flooding, causing wide and braided channels.

The floods have scoured silt-laden places and deposited sediment and rock in other. Streams that have been constricted by bridges and culverts have completely blown out or have created large pools downstream.  Be aware that in many areas banks have eroded and may give way underfoot. Strong currents in rivers and streams pose an additional threat.

Fishing on the Mississippi River has been getting better as the water recedes, with channel catfish moving to find nests and being very catchable. Fishing for sauger and walleye also picked up a little late in the week.

While rains have diminished and floodwaters are receding, along with the damage they’ve left in their aftermath, mosquitoes are out in hoards, so don’t forget the bug repellant when venturing out this week.

Landing a giant catfish, Turtle Man, and SHANTY BOATS!

OK, folks, I have just found the best You Tube pieces on fishing for river cats (including a GIANT) and catching snapping turtles!! Here they are! First watch the TURTLE MAN catching snappers by hand. Play it through and then you have a choice of several more at the bottom. Try the GIANT CATFISH in film #6. Whew! Finally, if you have a little time, join the “Moron Brothers” in the SHANTY BOAT! A little pickin’ and grinnin’ and fishing! Then check out our weekly fishing updates from Pool 8.  Or read a first hand story of a young man’s shanty boat adventure on the Mississippi River in the 1930s.

The truth about Rafting “a la Huck Finn”

I recently visited a blog that included a comment we hear quite often at… 

“I want a lazy trip down the river like Tom Sawyer took. I checked out the Iowa Tourism flier, but it didn’t give me any ideas. Maybe I should just find me some sticks and branches and strap them together to build my own raft.”

We are often consulted about preparations for trips by reporters and adventurers and will periodically post recommended resources on our bulletin boards and this Mississippi River Blog.

 Photo by Rich Middleton, a replica of the Nina docked near La Crosse, WI
Some very basic advisories… the Upper Mississippi, from Prescott, Wisconsin to St. Louis, Missouri, is great for your first excursion. The river is divided into “pools” that slow the current, the main channel is easy to follow, friendly small towns with every amenitiy are located about every 8 miles on the river’s edge. Camping is allowed on the abundant river islands. Wildlife and waterfowl are abundant, the bluffs are beautifully impressive, and the river is wide and scenic. We see all kinds of goofy craft come down the river, from bathtubs to voyager canoes, kayaks, rafts, Viking boats, and even the Nina! But it is still a big river, with swells, dangerously fickle weather, and the ever-present barges. Sticks wouldn’t cut it, even up here.

The lower river is quite a different matter. South of St. Louis, there are no “pools” to break up the current. I’m normally “steamboatin'” when I’m down there. This portion of the river roars, boils, mutters, and growls. It swallows small boats in whirlpools.

The Coast Guard will require that you have a good working motor on a good working boat. You must have a marine radio, and you must have a harbor and amenities guide. Small towns are often up to 20 miles from the river. Not every marina carries fuel for pleasure boats. Official river charts are a good idea. Sandbars are not always as solid as they appear. Overnighting on the river will often be lonesome.

So please, don’t even think of “sticks” or a lazy float. Any portion of the river requires a good vessel, a good motor, and first rate planning. Don’t look for boating resources in a tourism bulletin. We can help you with that here on

Thanks for listening!