Steamboats once again plying the Mississippi River

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, May 30, 2012



VACHERIE – Old-fashioned riverboat cruises have recently returned to the Mississippi River, and various locations in the River Parishes could see an influx of tourists as a result.

The Memphis-based Great American Steamboat Co. has reintroduced the American Queen, the largest paddlewheel steamboat, bringing passengers up and down the river to various cities and small towns throughout the South.

Excursions between New Orleans and Baton Rouge include docking time near Oak Alley Plantation in Vacherie, allowing passengers to explore plantation homes and other tourism spots throughout the region. The inaugural docking in April brought nearly 400 passengers to the region.

“It is truly a sign of stability and good times for tourism along the Great River Road,” said Oak Alley Executive Director Zeb Mayhew.

An assortments of tours, most originating in Memphis, include stops in Baton Rouge, New Orleans and Vicksburg, Miss., as part of the lower Mississippi group. Other tours will take passengers as far as Minneapolis/St. Paul on upper Mississippi excursions.

Jay Tusa, executive director of the River Parishes Tourism Commission, said the riverboat cruises will be a boon for various tourism spots as the region continues to rebound from Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

“We continue to see an increase in our visitor numbers each quarter for all our stakeholders throughout the region,” Tusa said. “Our commission works diligently identifying key opportunities to continue to build on the impact that tourism has on all our stakeholders.”

A recent docking at Oak Alley last week prompted a collection of River Road travelers to stop and take pictures of the boats departure toward Baton Rouge. A calliope player aboard the ship sounded the departure.

“We started our Memorial Day weekend really early,” said Chase Long from Ohio, who spent the afternoon touring plantations with his wife Janice. “We had no idea riverboats were making tours like this again. It is something we will look into because we love coming out this way.”

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