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    Excursion Steamboating

    Many of us recently had a most wonderful and congenial experience in Louisville on the occasion of the Tschiggfrie Tschow at the Howard Museum. In addition to that great presentation, we also rode the BELLE OF LOUISVILLE. Many of us managed to get 4 cruises in during our stay. While excursion steamboating consists of short trips in contrast to the overnight stays on the Queens, it certainly is an enjoyable, viable, vital, and AFFORDABLE way to get your steamboat fix. My first steamboat was an excursion, the AVALON. My addiction to the river was created by my 42 DQ overnight cruises. My steamboat working experience has been on the excursion boat NATCHEZ. So I've been a part of both steamboating worlds. For those of you anguishing over the recent developments with Majestic America Line, please consider these things: 1) While you can't experience a week-long steamboating adventure on our 3 excursion steamboats, you can do some creative planning and put together several trips which will make your journey to the boat worthwhile. 2) Excursion steamboating is what reached the masses in early 20th century America, not the overnight steamboating. What we have available to us non-millionaires is truly a continuation of a common American historical entity, a steamboat ride. 3) All 3 operating steamboats are 'open' and welcoming - the engine rooms are open and visits to the pilothouse can even be arranged from time to time. You get to see a steamboat in action. 4) These 3 boats are boats, not hotels/resorts, without pretention. 5) In case you missed it earlier, trips on these excursion boats, even including travel expenses to/from, are AFFORDABLE. Now, some details about putting together some trips: I and several others rode the BELLE 4 times, which included 3 totally different types of cruises. The Thursday evening sunset cruise went from 7-9 and was just that, a cooler trip with a chance to watch the sunset. Our two daytime trips were from 12-2(Sunday the trip is 2-4). And the nicest one of all was the Friday night Moonlight, from 8-11PM. I've been riding the AVALON/BELLE for 55 years and she's more beautiful each year. If you go to Louisville, of course there are other river attractions like the Howard Museum and the Falls of the Ohio Center to visit. The JULIA BELLE SWAIN operates on the beautiful Upper Mississippi out of LaCrosse Wisconsin. Most of her trips are now long lunch or dinner cruises, but she does offer several overnight trips to Winona Minnesota and Prairie du Chien Wisconsin. You stay in a land hotel overnight. Her operating territory is truly God's Country. A visit to the Murphy Library to peruse the 45.000 steamboat photos Ralph DuPae has collected is a must on a JBS trip. I must throw in the TWILIGHT, which is diesel, not steam, but built by a steamboatman Capt. Dennis Trone. The TWILIGHT runs 3 trips a week out of LeClaire Iowa(Quad Cities). She goes up to Dubuque and back. You stay at the new Grand Harbor hotel and get admission to the River Museum as part of your cruise. And finally, of course, the NATCHEZ. Even though she is not running her usual 3 a day 7 day a week schedule, you can catch her on multiple trips. She's doing 3 a day on Friday and Saturday. The two daytimes are narrated sightseeing trips and the evening cruise is a dinner cruise with the Dukes of Dixieland, best band in the city, performing. Fridays and Sundays she's doing the two daytime trips and I believe she has one trip a day on Wednesday and Thursday. Anyway, to sum up, please don't leave steamboating completely if you can't ride the Queens anymore - there's still a wonderful convivial steamboating fraternity out there for you to enjoy: the BELLE, JBS, and NATCHEZ.

    #2
    AMEN! I, too, fervently encourage those faithful, but non-affluent travelers who will no longer be riding the DQSB Company boats to please "keep the faith" and to continue your steamboating interest whenever and wherever you possibly can! Here at Louisville, the welcome mat is ALWAYS out to you at the Howard Steamboat Museum and, as has been posted many times previously, the crew of the BELLE OF LOUISVILLE offers red carpet southern hospitality second to none as you journey back in time aboard the oldest operating Mississippi style steamboat in existence. So, come what may, always "keep up steam" and continue this joyous avocation that we all love so much called STEAMBOATING!

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      #3
      Keith and Judy are right on. Let me give you a wonderful example which happened just last evening here in Dubuque. The steamer JULIA BELLE SWAIN, on a charter trip from LaCrosse, was southbound out of Lock 11, where she was met by the TWIIGHT, just arriving from LeClaire on her regular trip up to Dubuque. These two boats ran side-by-side for about 4 miles down to the landing near River's Edge Plaza, as they did in the days when Capt. Dennis Trone ran them in service from LeClaire to Chestnut Mountain. Already landed outside the Ice Harbor was the Moline-based m/v CELEBRATION BELLE, which had just disembarked her passengers from a day-long trip to the Quad Cities. As evening arrived and a gentle breeze blew in off the river, it was quite a sight to see three excursion vessels, including one authentic steamboat, landed together in a long line along the river wall. We steamboat enthusiasts are particular, of course, in choosing a steam vessel to ride; but my point is that wonderful occasions celebrating the health and vitality of riverboating in this country DO EXIST! What is sad is that the JULIA BELLE is running only a public dinner cruise this evening from 6-9, having cancelled two afternoon harbor trips for lack of patronage and advance ticket sales. So, we may bemoan the hardships of finding affordable trips on the DQ boats, but we absolutely MUST patronize all of the other passenger vessels which keep the history of boating alive and well on America's inland rivers. Amen!

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        #4
        Go to caddolake.com/steamboat.html to learn about yet another really fine excursion steamboat that is soooo affordable. And the scenery is well worth the trip to Texas. Lodging around us will not bankrupt you. We may be small but we're the real deal.

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          #5
          Avalon

          My parents fell in love with the idea of Steamboating when they were dating, and they heard the music of the Avalon as they walked along the banks of the Muskingum and the Ohio. They watched the W.P. Synder Jr. arrive at Marietta. Last year they finally managed to take a cruise on the Belle of Louisville.

          Did the Avalon offer overnight cruises or was it day cruises in new places?

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            #6
            Bruce,

            The AVALON was an excursion boat only - trips such as mentioned here for the NATCHEZ and BELLE OF LOUISVILLE. The AVALON "tramped", playing all the towns up and down various rivers, sometimes just running one trip out of a town, sometimes staying in the bigger cities for a week or so. No overnight accomodations for the passengers. They would deadhead from town to town at night or over a day or two depending on the distance to be covered. If you have not already done so, I highly recommend the book "Moonlight at 8:30" by Capts. "Doc" Hawley and Alan Bates.

            I had forgotten this thread, and was glad to see Lexie chimed in about Caddo Lake. She's right, it is worth the trip and is the real deal. All too often we also forget the Str. CHAUTAUQUA BELLE in Mayville, NY, designed by our own Alan Bates. It, too, is the "real deal", and is in another area full of stuff to see and do. They run a pretty short season, but if you're headed up to NY state or Pennsylvania, I definitely recommend the CHAUTAUQUA BELLE (even if they do refer to it as a 'ship').

            Comment


              #7
              Better check before anyone makes a special trip just to ride the CHAUTAUQUA BELLE. She's up for sale and did not operate last year.

              If she does come out this year, a trip to the Maysville, New York area is a wonderful treat. The non-profit Chautauqua Institute's season runs six weeks during July and August, and its educational, political, religious, and cultural programs are world renowned.

              Comment


                #8
                My parents rode the Str. AVALON for the 1949 New Albany (Indiana) High School prom. The yearbook has a dandy nightime picture of the boat all decked out in lights at the New Albany wharf, which was still intact until the floodwall was built in 1952. Also in the yearbook are photos of students on the boat and just about all the young men are wearing STEAMER AVALON caps. I once asked my parents "Why didn't you get ME one???" They had no idea at the time they'd have a steamboat fanatic son someday! Thanks to EBAY I have one of those caps!

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